Since January, KMAC Educators have reached 887 students through twelve different artist residencies where KMAC educators go into the schools to lead arts programming. Each year KMAC education programs inspire 30,000 students through memorable art making experiences when they otherwise might have had none.
On February 26, Kat Lewis, a KMAC board member, retired art teacher, and practicing artist joined Liz Richter, one of KMAC’s Museum Educators at Indian Trail Elementary where she assisted during the last day of a three-day artist-in-residence program. Here is what Kat had to say about her experience:
“The residency was for the 75 second graders who were to design African clay masks relating to their current studies. I was assisting in the final step, which was glazing the masks. The children in the first group filed in from lunch and took their seats excitedly. They were extremely polite and respectful and were eager to show me their creations. Liz Richter, our amazing art educator, calmly went to the SMART Board and demonstrated how to glaze their pieces. Choosing colors, holding the brush properly, layering glaze, and mixing colors in the palette were among the vastly important concepts conveyed in the few minutes allotted for instruction.
Then we were off! We passed out brushes, water buckets, paper towels and glaze palettes. We answered questions and steadied brushes while admiring the wonderful nose on one mask, the incredible hair on another, and the craftsmanship and careful brushstrokes on yet another. Then, of course, the hour was up too soon. The children reluctantly put down their brushes, and we put the masks on the shelves to dry. Brushes were quickly washed and glaze palettes refilled as we moved to the next room of 25 excited second graders to repeat the process. And so it went until the third class was finished. We then carefully bagged all 75 masks and packed them up to take to KMAC for firing.
Yes, I wish we had had more time to allow the children to explore all the possibilities of clay, to have time to look at each mask and discuss with each little artist the creative choices he or she made. I wish there were a large airy art room complete with a full-time art teacher and a kiln in each public school, but this is why KMAC is so vitally important! Due to the reality of time and budget constraints, many schools cannot provide an arts education. KMAC offers, through its residencies and field trips, rich art experiences to as many eager children as possible. Our art educators are smart, creative, tireless, patient and superbly organized. Through their lesson plans, complete with vocabulary, “I can” statements, and ideas for connections to other content areas, our arts educators offer the classroom teacher a complete and meaningful experience. I am proud to be associated with an organization that transforms our community so positively on a daily basis.” –Kat Lewis
Artists from 16 countries currently fill our two main galleries with over two-dozen loom woven works. Shown in conjunction with the traveling exhibit The New Art of the Loom: Contemporary International Tapestry, KMAC has organized Looming Local as a response to some of the issues raised by the international artists. The works on view range in size and content from the large 8 ½ x 11 foot tapestry Porter with Bicycle: Espagne et Portugal by South African artist William Kentridge to the small, intricate and colorful weavings by Kentucky artist Tori Kleinert.
The New Art of the Loom consists of contemporary tapestries that connect with the large, ambitious, narrative works that dominated artistic production in early Modern Europe. These early tapestries functioned as a decorative way to display a coat of arms, relay a familiar story or to illustrate scenes of victorious battles, but they also provided warmth, covering the walls of large drafty castles. After falling out of favor due to growing feminine and domestic undertones the tapestry was revived by British art activist William Morris in the late 19th century, making weaving fundamental to a burgeoning international design movement that promoted artisanship and hand-made activity.
Looming Local takes a peek at the immediate surroundings of the museum to show how four artists are exploring similar issues as their international counterparts and taking the weaving tradition into the more creative, expressionistic contemporary art form that it is today. Both exhibits combined communicate a broad range of materials, methods and multiple weaving processes. The four artists represented in the local show, though rooted in a loom based practice, are markedly different from their peers in technique and composition.
Dobree Adams creates loom woven works that capture the landscape in a manner intended to evoke the intermediate or transitional states that are associated with Tibetan Buddhism. The spiritual and meditative qualities that imbue her work connect well with other artists on show in the museum who deal similarly with nature, particularly with the tapestry “Without Notice” by the Japanese artist Miyuki Tatsumi. Adams and Tatsumi are both drawn to the calmness of nature, but also to its power to change and dominate our lives in mysterious ways and without warning.
Tori Kleinert’s small format works, though diminutive in size, are big in meaning and content. They pack in loads of bold color and act as deeply personal explorations of ideas and emotions often connected to the history of female craft activity. She refers to the figures in her work as ancestors or semblances, an evocation of the spirits who live on informing the work of contemporary tapestry artists from around the world. Kleinert’s Terroristic Semblance from 2003/2004 commemorates the lives that were lost on September 11, 2001.
A sharp use of color adds intensity to her subject matter and relates to New Art of the Loom artist Christine Altona’s work, also from 2004. Based on an article in the Boston Globe about alleged child abuse, Altona created this particular tapestry as a tribute to the children who have been abused in the Roman Catholic Church. Several red cardinal hats are placed at the top of the work above a knotted red circle, suggesting the strong and powerful looking down on the weak bound together in struggle. The blue represents the earth and the prevalence of this transgression around the world.
Arturo Sandoval is an art professor at the University of Kentucky and a well-known weaver from the region. His sole work in the show is part of a long running series that looks at American democracy and one of the most potent symbols of our culture, the American flag. Sandoval conceived the State of the Union series in order to work through personal issues related to his time serving in the Vietnam War. His desire to create a political art series was to commemorate the sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers who lost their lives in battle. The newspaper headlines and magazine images that are woven into this series were initially collected from 1980-1984. He has since continued the series as way to further express his feelings toward the recent war in Iraq.
The most divergent work away from any form of traditional tapestry seen in either the local or international exhibit comes from Looming Local artist Philis Alvic from Lexington, KY. Her recent work consists of assembling remnants of older tapestries into fabric constructions, which she refers to as Portals. In this ongoing series of works, suggestive of windows, doors, and curtains, she intends to communicate the ideas of transition, passage, and change. Through the technique of fabric collage and drapery these works move into the more three-dimensional space of wall sculpture.
As Alvic digs through her own personal archive incorporating material from previous work she evokes the idea of the artist entering a metaphorical portal, passing from one era of creativity and production into another. In this particular series of works Alvic is weaving together remnants as well as personal histories. There are a number of transitional concepts related to creative growth and change that could be applied to this series. The idea of the portal as a signifier for moving from one period of life into another is an important factor in the life of every artist. It can often be a struggle to shift focus and enter new unknown territory, but it can also be a time when an individual artist develops greater clarity and confidence in their work.
Denise Furnish and Walter Early: Color Stories Installation View
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.
Folk art and folk music are kindred spirits. Though different in medium, they each tell the personal and expressive stories of the self-taught artist.
The upcoming exhibit at the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft will feature the folk artist and one of the most important American wood carvers of the twentieth century, Elijah Pierce. The exhibition The Essential Elijah Pierce was organized by the Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio and will open to the public on February 1st, which is also the beginning of Black History Month.
Pierce was a renowned African-American wood carver, lay minster and barber whose work was, as Pierce believed, directed by God and his pieces were used to tell various stories of the Bible to all who entered his barber shop.
Pierce also carved secular subjects that were historical in theme. Pictured above is his work, Martin Luther King Jr. and the Kennedy Brothers (1977). This piece was purposely chosen today in recognition of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Huddie William Ledbetter (d.1949) or Lead Belly from Mooringsport, Louisiana was an American folk and blues musician, and multi-instrumentalist, notable for his strong vocals, his twelve-string guitar, and for introducing the songbook of folk standards.
Featured Lead Belly songs: Where Did You Sleep Last Night? Jim Crow Blues
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 turns 50 this year. The Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. The passage of the Act ended the application of the racial segregation laws or “Jim Crow” laws that were enacted between 1876 and 1965 in the United States.
The Civil Rights Act was championed by John Kennedy and signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson after JFK’s assassination. JFK’s brother, Robert Kennedy was also a strong supporter of civil rights. On May 25, 1961, Robert F. Kennedy delivered an idealistic radio broadcast for Voice of America, defending America’s record on race relations to the rest of the world, insisting that “there is no reason that in the near or the foreseeable future, a Negro could [not] become President of the United States.”
Alan Lomax (1915 – 2002) was one of the great American field collectors of folk music of the 20th century. During the New Deal, he and his father, famed folklorist and collector John A. Lomax recorded thousands of songs and interviews for the Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress on aluminum and acetate discs.
African-American Ballads and Folk Songs
Sonny Terry (1911-1986)was a blind American harmonica blues musician from North Carolina. He was known for his energetic blues harmonica style, which frequently included vocal whoops and hollers.
In November, the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft Donor’s Circle visited the magnificent art collection of Lexington Mayor Jim Gray. Mayor Gray’s home is situated in the Gratz Park Historic District, one of the most beautiful areas of Lexington, Kentucky.
Lexington Artist Louis Zoellar Bickett offered us a tour through Mayor Gray’s well-appointed rooms, several of which feature Bickett’s assemblages and containers. In the entrance hall, we admired a large black-and-white piece entitled Welsh Oaks (#3) (1998) by Vancouver School photographer Rodney Graham.
Our group especially enjoyed becoming acquainted with the work of Lexington-area artist Mark Goodlett, who assembles ornate picture-boxes out of wadded paper while lying in bed.
Mayor Gray’s residence houses work by many world-renowned contemporary artists, such as Joseph Kosuth, Yinka Shonibare, Kara Walker, Richard Long, Vik Muniz , Claes Oldenburg, Yayoi Kusama, Robert Mapplethorpe, Gerhard Richter, and Fred Tomaselli. Bickett informed us that Mayor Gray regularly rotates pieces in the house with others from his vast collection.
Great favorites amongst this art loving group were two pieces by English artist and Turner Prize winner Rachel Whiteread. While viewers may be familiar with Whiteread’s plaster casts of vacant/negative spaces, the sculpture Untitled (Trafalgar Square Plinth) (1999) surprises with its use of resin to create a ghostly double.
Another of Whiteread’s works, “Switch” (1994), creates a more subtle, playful effect.
On that perfect fall day, the group ventured on to galleries around town. We are grateful to Mayor Gray and to Bickett for their hospitality. Please join us on a future trip!
KMAC Board Member photos courtesy of Jody Howard
Tune in Mondays to KMAC Radio on ArtxFM from 11am to 12p where we use radio as a vehicle for exploring art, music, and social ideas. It’s simple to listen: Go to artxfm.com and click PLAY on the embedded player located in the upper left corner of the website. Monday’s show will be hosted by KMAC’s Communications Director Julie Gross and she’ll be discussing Photo as Document. Documentary photography can serve as a historical marker in time or spur social and political change. The captured images are painstakingly raw and equally beautiful in their candor, which is testament to the artful eye of the photographer. Photographer Bob Hower and Artist Todd Smith will participate in an in-studio interview to talk further about this topic. They are both part of the Louisville Photo Biennial happening this month and are exhibiting at Swanson Contemporary (Hower) and Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest (Smith). This topic was derived from KMAC’s current exhibit of Gene Spatz photographs that document the celebrity social life of 70s New York. The artwork discussed on today’s radio hour will be:
Tune in Mondays to KMAC Radio on ArtxFM from 11am to 12p where we use radio as a vehicle for exploring art, music, and social ideas. Go to artxfm.com and click PLAY on the embedded player located in the upper left corner of the website.
Today’s show is hosted by KMAC’s Communications Director Julie Gross and we’ll be discussing the Art of Celebrity (or art that is inspired by a person’s celebrity status). This topic was derived from KMAC’s current exhibit Gene Spatz: The Art of a Paparazzo. The artwork discussed on today’s radio hour will be:
Special Guest Louisville Composer Daniel Gilliam will also be on the show discussing his newest work Jesse Stuart Songs that will be performed by bass-baritone Nathan Wilson and Andrew Fleischmann on Thursday, October 10, 2013 at 7pm at the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft. This performance is free and open to the public.
Jesse Stuart was the 1954 Kentucky poet laureate and an American writer known for his short stories and poetry about Southern Appalachia. Jesse Stuart Songs consists of five sonnets from Stuart’s largest collection of poetry, Man with a Bull-Tongue Plow.
Songs and poems featured on the show:
Spring in Kentucky Hills
Spring in Kentucky hills will soon awaken;
The sap will run every vein of tree.
Green will come to the land bleak and forsaken;
Warm silver wind will catch the honey bee.
Blood-root will whiten on the barren hill;
Wind-flowers will grow beneath the oaks and nod
To silver April wind against their will.
Bitterns will break the silence of the hills
And meadow’s grass sup dew under the moons,
Pastures will green and bring back whippoorwills
And butterflies that break from stout cocoons.
Spring in Kentucky hills and I shall be
A free soil-man to walk beneath the trees
And listen to the wind among the leaves
And count the stars and do as I damn please.
Oh Don’t You See
Oh, don’t you see the willow leaves this Spring
And bright green finger needles on the fir?
Birds choose to light among their boughs and sing;
It’s where the summer jar-flies choose to churr.
And don’t you love the silver maple leaves
Upturned by silver winds to skies deep blue.
And don’t you love the leaves on white oak trees
And beech tree leaves when winds are blowing through?
And don’t you love green whispering corn blades
And wild fern leaf where placid waters lie
Beneath a tranquil lazy summer sky.
And don’t you love the smooth-fan poplar leaves
A-wavin’ in a silver summer breeze.
I ask these questions and I don’t know why.
Music Playlist: Spring in Kentucky Hills – Dan Gilliam composer, Performed by Nathan Wilson (Jesse Stuart author) Oh Don’t You See – Dan Gilliam composer, Performed by Nathan Wilson (Jesse Stuart author) Itchin’ On A Photograph – Grouplove New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down – LCD Soundsystem Sympathy for the Devil – The Rolling Stones Fine Dining – Cube Head and Mr. Smiles