Tag Archives: visual arts

My Neighbor the Artist

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.

Art of Celebrity on KMAC Radio

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:

Gene Spatz,
Gene Spatz, A Little Night Music at Studio 54. 3/6/1978
Richard Hamilton, Swingeing London 67, 1968-69
Richard Hamilton, Swingeing London 67, 1968-69
Photo from the Daily Telegraph UK
Photo from the Daily Telegraph UK
Gene Spatz, Andy Warhol and Mick Jagger at the reopening of the Copacabana club. 10/14/76
Gene Spatz, Andy Warhol and Mick Jagger at the reopening of the Copacabana club.
Andy Warhol, LizaMinelli, 1979, polaroid and painting,  courtesy Andy Warhol Museum
Andy Warhol, LizaMinelli, 1979, polaroid and painting, courtesy Andy Warhol Museum
Elizabeth Peyton, Arsenal (Prince Harry), 1997
Elizabeth Peyton, Arsenal (Prince Harry), 1997

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, courtesy of Life Magazine 1954
Jesse Stuart, courtesy of Life Magazine 1954

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.

Harlan Hubbard, Campbell County Hill Farm, 1933
Harlan Hubbard, Campbell County Hill Farm, 1933

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

Natural Wonder

Image: Claire Sherman, Cave and Trees, 2011, oil on canvas, 96″ x 78″

By Mary Wallace

Born in Oberlin, OH, Claire Sherman began painting in high school, studying under a local artist and then went on to attend the Art Institute of Chicago. Recently Sherman has developed a style of landscape painting which employs the use of manipulation and abstraction to create her scenes. Often drawing from composite images of various environmental elements, she distorts the scene, forcing the viewer to make sense of the work. Her paintings push past the limits of the perceivable, natural environment and delve into a world broken down into its elemental forms. Sherman’s settings are often constructed by piecing together images of many different locations, thereby creating her own environment, rooted in reality and yet stepping into another world. Her work has represented not only the different seasons, but also a variety of geological locations. From a snow-laden forest to the dark, rocky interior of caves, to the sparse vegetation of the desert, her subject matter is immensely varied and yet her expressive style unites it all. She examines the basic elements of nature and promotes a sense of the pure wilderness; untouched and untamed by the work of humankind. One piece currently on display during The  7 Borders exhibit unites both the cave environment as well as the summer forest in full bloom. Cave and Trees (pictured above) is rendered from one of the many openings to the worlds longest cave system: Mammoth Cave, located near Bowling Green, Kentucky. Currently Mammoth Cave has been mapped at 346 miles long and has been in use for nearly 4,000 years since its discovery by early Native Americans. Although this cave system offers a vast interior, Sherman has chosen to represent its opening—as if one is coming out of a long journey through the cold underground, into a bright and inviting Kentucky forest.

The 7 Borders is Front Page News

KMAC’s The 7 Borders exhibit made front page news of the Courier-Journal’s Arts section this past Sunday. Arts writer Elizabeth Kramer came and interviewed Associate Curator Joey Yates and published a video to the C-J site to further explain the why to this exhibit at KMAC. Kentucky is the ONLY state in the nation that borders seven other states- Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, and even West Virginia. (Feel free to use this little known trivia fact to impress your friends.) The 7 Borders delves into the various ways that artists from the Midwest region are currently communicating the landscape with Kentucky being the epicenter of these artistic connections.


Taking the “s” Out of Craft – The Symposium Edition

On Saturday February 23rd KMAC hosted the Aegis 3rd Biennial Symposium on Art History an Visual Culture. Inspired by the collaboration between the museum and Aegis, the association of graduate students from the Hite Art Institute at the University of Louisville, the title set to this year’s theme was Taking the ‘s’ Out of Craft. The symposium featured six emerging scholars from graduate and doctoral programs throughout the country presenting papers on projects from different periods in history and places around the world that employ the use of craft in the creation of artwork.

The students in Aegis provided a dynamic schedule of events on Saturday and they are to be commended for their work. Aegis president Tracey Ekersley and Vice President Eileen Yanoviak selected the presenters from a national call for papers and spent countless hours organizing Saturday’s schedule of events, including the keynote presentation by Lydia Matthews, Professor of Visual Culture, School of Art, Media, and Technology at Parsons The New School for Design.

We also want to acknowledge Slade Stumbo, Taylor Crush and Nick Hartman, each from the Critical and Curatorial Studies program at U of L, who organized the accompanying exhibition. When Tracey Eckersley and I were talking one evening about a potential collaboration between KMAC and U of L it seemed a perfect time to take the past year’s efforts of our director Aldy Milliken to expand the definition of craft as it is presented at this institution and frame that in the academic excellence and thorough research methods of Aegis and the like minded, forward thinking presenters that they have consistently delivered to this symposium. Within the mission of this museum there are many avenues and topics available for the type of discourse we heard on Saturday, but it seemed the right opportunity to summarize the changes that have occurred here in the last year and punctuate that with a discussion from scholars around the country on the wider shift in views on the nature of craft in the 21st century. At the root of this change is reclamation of the word craft by young artists as a fundamental strength in the making of their work rather than as a negative distinction for objects that are void of a conceptual basis. The symposium and the Taking the ‘s’ Out of Craft exhibition are a part of a succession of programs here at KMAC that have been expanding the discussion for how we define art and craft. This was fully explored in our exhibition Storytelling As Craft from last Fall where craft was presented as an idea that reaches beyond the physical nature of objects and into the realm of the spoken word as well as sound, music, and performance. We also hosted a lecture by writer Glenn Adamson on November 5, 2012 on the subject of craft and the need to separate the term from associations to the rural and to objects created solely from traditional methods.

With the title Taking the ‘s’ out of Craft we are referencing two main points. Firstly, there is the expansion of the former definition of craft from the pursuits of 19th and 2oth century arts and crafts groups who made a distinction between physical objects with an historical basis in functionality to what now points to the limitless methods of labor that are at work in the creation of art and culture.  The title also references our institutions own change in change in name from the Kentucky Museum of Arts and Crafts to the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft. This has indeed been an ideological shift from thinking of craft as a hermetic field of traditional object making to an idea that encompasses this and countless other practices that are employed by artists working today. I cannot speak more highly of the symposium and for its continued success.

The presentations began with Traversing Boundaries: Cultural Philanthropy and the Craft of Mary Seton Watts by Kate Tuft. The paper explored Watts’ work as an artist and her non conventional approach to navigating the limitations of the 19th century woman.

Justina Lee presented her research on the Bilum the “head bag” from Papua New Guinee as a cultural bridge or artefact linked to the past and its current relevant contemporary manifestations in the paper Traditional and Modern Bilum in Papua New Guinea: A Shift from Bodily Extension to Cultural Bridge

Why Clay by Elizabeth di Donna illustrated several examples of contemporary craft artists commenting on conceptual practice and how Theaster Gates is giving meanings to materials and labor.

Chad Alligood spoke about an influential artist from Cranbrook in Wallace Mitchell and the Challenge of Craft. He charted the artist’s transition from abstract painting to several large commissioned rugs in the more collaborative atmospheres of architecture and design.

Haptic Rainbow: Installing Craft in the Work of Gabriel Dawe by Zoë Samels discussed the artist’s reactions to gender bias in his native Mexico. The use of installation art or a series of objects within objects questions the idea of craft as an object. She also notes concepts surrounding process and labor for the artists.

Sara Christensen Blair’s research in More is Less: The Domestic Sublime in Liza Lou’s Kitchen looked at the 3 year project of artist Liza Lou to bead and entire kitchen, the central nerve center of modernity, as an example of philosopher Jean-François Lyotard’s definition of the sublime.

Lydia Matthews, the keynote speaker, delivered an engaging talk titled Craft Matters: Exchanging Knowledge in the Wake of Globalization, which navigated both the concepts and traditions of craft practice.  Through international teaching, curating, and publishing, she consistently explores how artists, artisans, designers, scholars and students can work together to foster democratic debates in the public sphere, and focuses on critical craft practices that inspire intimate community interactions. As a 2012 Fulbright Fellow, she co-curated various socially-engaged projects in Greece, Turkey and the Republic of Georgia, highlighting and catalyzing local responses to social and ecological crises resulting from globalization.

Lydia Matthews is Professor of Visual Culture and Director of the Curatorial Design Research Lab at Parsons The New School for Design in New York City, where she served as Dean of Academic Programs from 2006-2011. Trained as a contemporary art historian at UC, Berkeley and the University of London’s Courtauld Institute, she worked as a cultural activist in the San Francisco Bay Area for over 20 years, founding the graduate program in Visual Critical Studies and co-directing the MFA Fine Arts program at California College of the Arts.

Photo from left to right: Sara Christensen Blair, PhD Candidate, Institute of Doctoral Studies in Visual Arts
Chad Alligood, PhD Student, Art History, Graduate Center of the City University of New York
Zoë Samels, MA Student, Art History, Williams College, Williamstown, MA
Elizabeth Di Donna, MFA Student, Florida State University
Justina Yee, MA Student, Indiana University (Bloomington)
Katie Tuft, PhD Student, University of Washington
and Aegis President, Tracey Eckersley, PhD Candidate, Byzantine Art and Archaeology at Hite Art Institute, University of Louisville

Return to Materiality, Louisville Kentucky 2012

The New York Times recently ran a story entitled A Return to the Artisan in the Art World by Alice Pfeiffer in which the author suggested that there was more “artisan” in art now than at any time in the past 25 years. Ceramics, woodcarving, glass blowing, drawing, textiles, and other craft oriented practices have been added to the language of a new generation of contemporary artists. Craft theorists are well versed in the art world and have been debating on how to contextualize local artisans with internationally recognized fine arts names like Andrea Zittel, Josiah McElheny, Tracy Emin, Sterling Ruby, and Simon Starling.

My first show at Kmac Into the Mix, will be an excellent example of the return to Materiality for 10 artists that have a relationship to the Caribbean. By default, these artists are engaging in a debate of cultural stereotypes because they are often defined by a region instead of the large human issues of their practice such as politics, gender inequality, and cultural identity. Further discussions around these topics will be included in the exhibition program.

Kentucky is an interesting place for a curator to engage in a discussion that question what is arts & crafts. Traditional craft workers are still held in high esteem in the region but for the most part have yet to formulate themselves in an international context. One exceptional example is the recently deceased Marvin Finn. Stay tuned.