Josie Lewis: Studio Visit


“How did you make that?”

Josie Lewis hears this a lot. At first glance, her work is a large, glossy mosaic of colors and abstract shapes. Coming closer, it reveals itself to be a series of layers – clipped images that combine to create something that might be found under a microscope (intricate and lifelike) or perhaps a telescope (celestial and expanding). And suddenly we are lost in wonder.

This ponderous moment, suspended in thought like pieces of paper in resin, is the result of both a meticulous process and an intuitive hunt and response. On her studio’s table, stacks of magazines stand in the midst of small pieces of “found treasures” through which she digs, looking for the right color, image, or pattern—anything that inspires her.

She starts, typically, by looking in Vogue Magazine, not because of the content but the quality of the pages. The paper from these and National Geographic holds up the best throughout the creation of her work. The fair unknown originates in the former, 12 copies of the same issue from 2013. Within a wooden and aluminum mold, she pours black ink, a layer of resin, and waits 24 hours. Then a layer of magazine forms, a layer of resin, and wait… repeating this layer by layer until a patchwork form emerges over the course of 8 – 15 layers. Sometimes an idea is clear from the beginning, while other times the piece works itself out as she goes.

With a drawer full of scissors and another of Elmer’s glue sticks, Lewis thinks of this process as “reordering something that already exists,” cataloging Vogue through another perspective. Through the destructive act of cutting, the magazine is demolished and revived, transforming it into something redeeming and life-giving.

To those watching as she works, the process is clearly meditative. Small bits from an ocean of glossy pages carefully congregate, sit, and move around the composition, coming together to create a greater whole.


Lewis started out painting at the University of Minnesota. Gifted with a knack for technical skill but frustrated by a lack of voice in her work, she began cutting her work apart. Discovering an interest in the surface of the paint, she created collages in secret, experimenting with the resin she saw her sculpture friend using. The urge to create work that had been whispering to her now had a voice. She found the new medium, materials, and a symbiotic relationship in which the materials informed the work and vice versa.

Now, Lewis would be in the studio all the time if she could, but life intercedes. Usually found working on her current series in sporadic bursts throughout the day and after her little one goes to bed, she holds to the advice she gives artists of any stripe or level of expertise: The more you make work, the better you get and the easier it is to find what you like. Time is essential. Spend time making work.

Next, Lewis looks forward to casting objects in resin and also returning to paint, exploring its surface and the gradation of color. In the meantime, she loves the reactions people have to her work, especially kids. “It’s like a firework mixed with a flower mixed with a machine.” The material gives people an entry point to engage in the work. We are familiar with and thrown off by the material. The depth, the trick, the illusion engages people as they come closer. And from the pages of what we feel we know, we respond in common, “I’ve never seen anything like this.”

FINE: Reflections on Resilience

FINE: Reflections on Resilience is a project conceived and facilitated by University of Minnesota Buckman Fellows, Lois Libby Juster and Julie Longo. The Buckman Fellowship for Leadership and Philanthropy is an initiative for the study and practice of philanthropy, leadership, and personal and community improvement. With the support of the Fellowship, Juster and Longo spent spring semester, 2014, working with recovering teens from PEASE Academy in Minneapolis and students in Longo’s Augsburg College Art 225 Graphic Design I and Art 320 Typography classes to explore what it means to be resilient. Themes such as addiction, recovery and common challenges that all humans face were expressed through creative writing, collage and the design of a zine. One of the goals of the project was to challenge stereotypes by giving young people affected by addiction a voice through self-expression and self-representation in an environment of mentorship, creativity and introspection.

The Augsburg students developed a deeper understanding of how the design process can be more effective through community collaboration and had the added benefit of working on Augsburg Experience Credit while participating in the project. All of the project participants were able to discover their own creative potential while building better social ties, networks and support.

Lois Libby Juster website:

Julie Longo website:



Studio Visit: Tara Sweeney


Tara Sweeney has two studios: a formal space for large scale, solitary work; and just about anywhere else she can create smaller scale drawing, painting, and writing in her visual journal. This includes places like her garden, kitchen table, neighborhood, the city, the banks of the Mississippi, a farmer’s market, and music in the parks. At the moment, she is working in her front porch at an old farm table where two objects have her attention, alongside a pot of tea, and life outside the open windows.

Working on an almanac-style visual journal of around 70 entries for her upcoming exhibition, she is in completion mode. But drawing and writing for this series began in 2008 and has proceeded throughout the seasons for nearly six years. One long ago November morning, while making a journal entry in bed, Tara spilled ink on the page and the sheets. It was the start of writing about the “messy, but real stuff in life.” She stopped trying to find subject matter and started letting it find her by closely observing the everyday objects and rituals that caught her attention.

The finished work is a combination of ink and watercolor drawing and original text in a reflective voice. Part prose, part poetry, each entry spreads across two 8.5” x 11” sketchbook pages and includes the spiral binding. Her process starts intuitively and proceeds organically. When something begs to be sketched, she trusts her instincts and begins. Today she is completing text for a drawing of Russian nesting dolls begun the day her grandson was born. Frequently a drawing is completed first and the text is then drafted longhand in a project notebook. Holding up five notebooks from this past year, she says, “I overwrite and pull out what I need when I need it.” She moves on to the next drawing when inspiration strikes and eventually returns to revise and hand letter the text for each entry, sometimes months or years later. “Life happens so I have to be flexible and place mark. It allows me to be present to the moment of inspiration and also to bring work to completion by using the increments of time I have.” Enough was completed on that busy day that fifteen months later she revises the text and discovers a connection between the matryoshka dolls and a missing family story that defines the origin of her grandson’s name.

After 15 years of leading undergraduate travel programs in plein air sketching to France and Italy, Tara has honed her skills for drawing and painting on location. But until the “Close to Home” visual journal series she had never really kept a consistent sketchbook here in Minnesota. Six years later the results are ambitious and original. She jokes about her process, “I have a high tolerance for ambiguity.” But she is very serious about sequence when it comes to completion. On the table sits a calendar listing all the entries with notes about what each needs for completion. “At this point I work chronologically.” She explains that it helps pace the effort and focus required, “That way I don’t finish all my favorites first and leave the tough ones for the end.” In May 2014 she calculated that finishing three entries per week would prepare the series for her solo exhibition opening at the end of August. However, after an unexpected trip to Paris for her son’s marriage, and planning to host their Minnesota party in her backyard, it’s now more like five entries a week. “Oh, this one is actually done,” she exclaims, drawing a big X through the date. “The list keeps me honest.”

Releasing an intimate body of work like this is both exhilarating and terrifying. “Creating an intimate series like this is essentially agreeing to be naked,” she explains. Through experience, she has grown used to the challenges of making really personal work visible, but it is still terrifying. “I have great support in family, friends, and gallery directors.” Plus, she loves making this artwork. When asked what has kept the series going for this long she says without hesitation, “It’s fun. It’s the most fun I’ve ever had creating. Maybe it’s because I am letting my artist and writer work together for once.”

Connecting with others has also motivated her to complete the series. It was exhibited in progress in January 2013. She notes that the viewer response was a complete surprise to her. “I never expected people to stand in the gallery and read every word.” They did, and then shared stories with each other that the artwork triggered.

The objects and rituals that inspire Tara’s artwork are ordinary but the insights she reveals are anything but. We recognize ourselves in this work. It’s this bridge between the personal and the universal that makes the work so engrossing. Browsing through the intimate seasons of her visual journal entries, we share the humor, the pain and sorrow, the joy, the gratitude, and the hope that inspires this work. We are, as the title suggests, close to home.


Blessings – KimyiBo


Gage Family Art Gallery: May 18 – July 20, 2012

Blessings is an exhibition that explores the idea of change. Through a large-scale print installation, artist KimyiBo works with spatial depth, tension, and patterns to reflect and record her own shifting emotions.

In KimyiBo’s own words, “My art is about change. I record shifting emotions through abstract images that conduct flows of energy. The methods I use are ordering space with changing patterns, playing with the dynamics between flatness and depth, creating tension between two opposing forces.”

KimyiBo received her BA in Fine Arts from the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia and an MFA in Printmaking from Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea. She has had solo exhibitions at Gallery Gaia in Seoul, Korea and the UV House in Heyri, Korea. She currently lives and works in the Twin Cities.