Q & A with artist Stephanie Hunder

What is the reference of the exhibition title?

This title specifically comes from a poem by Pablo Neruda, Entrance to Wood. To me, this poem suggests that there are spiritual qualities in the material, physical qualities of nature, similar to what is expressed in the artworks in the exhibition.

What originally inspired you to work with nature?

From childhood, I have always been exposed to and interested in scientific imagery – including natural history. When I learned to photograph, however, my real love of “close looking” at nature developed – the patterns and details are endlessly fascinating and almost miraculous.

Tell us a little bit about your connection to nature and how it affects your work.

It’s probably a general characteristic of Midwesterners to love nature – who around here doesn’t enjoy camping? Growing up, our house was on the edge of town, backed up to fields and forests that we spent plenty of time exploring, and we spent several weeks of every summer deep in the BWCA and Quetico. Nature always feels complete, whole, is beautiful, and makes sense.

I have tried in the past to make work that is more expressive of political ideas, or things I want to protest, but it is never inspired. I feel I have to make work about things I love, things I feel passion for, things that are inspiring – and then the work also contains those feelings.

What was your process of picking objects to run through the press?

In Johnson, VT, where my artist residency was, there was a stream that ran through the middle of town – so I just stepped off the sidewalk into the snowdrifts and hiked along it – it was pretty wooded and very snowy. I snapped off dried weeds and plants that had graceful lines, or somehow stood out by their gesture. Many things you cannot run through a press because thick or hard objects will damage the roller. Many things are also too large – the press bed there was only 28” wide, and plants are surprisingly big.

The first item I tried was a kind of thorny weed that we used to call “trip weed” – you know, the one that makes an arc and reattaches to the ground. It really was too thick and sharp – it made big wrinkles and punctures in the paper in a very “incorrect” manner – but I discovered that these marks spoke to me. One reason I am a printmaker is because I love process – how the act of printing a piece changes and adds to the image. Here, the process was extraordinarily apparent and clearly part of the image.

I experimented with different types of plants – when I returned home, I worked with a lot of the meadow grasses and wildflowers that grow around our house. But it was always things that caught my eye, or contained a voice. Whenever you walk outside you probably notice things like this.

On average how many times would you run one piece of paper through the press?

When I am doing traditional screen prints and intaglio, a print can have anywhere from five to fifty layers. For these prints however, each piece of paper has been run through the press only once- the layers here are made by multiple sheets of paper and collage instead. This process was notably hard on the paper – it came out wrinkled and stretched, and often cut or sliced by the plants.

Is there a specific fairy tale that you would say is prominent in your prints?

Stories where people are turned into trees…

Did you use reoccurring objects in your prints?

Often similar plants were used, while experimenting with what they would produce. The printing technique itself also creates several related images for each object used.

What surprises did you find with the technique you used?

I was a little surprised at how evident the collagraph process was – how the action of the press and paper became such a part of the image. In the gum-bichromate photograms, I was surprised at the variability of sharpness and shadow, and then the play of space between the collagraphs and photograms.

What is one symbol you use in your work to evoke a sense of familiarity with the viewer?

The works in the show have more expressive than symbolic qualities. However, there are some aspects that are recognizable, the most obvious being that they are plant matter – which has to do with life, growth, cycles, etc. The arrangements and textures may also evoke any branching structure – rivers, families, knowledge. I am interested in the iconic meaning of forms– in which objects are not associated with a specific cultural meaning, but have a meaning suggested by their form, the way they look.

What was the most challenging aspect of this process?

The pieces are big and messy, and exhausting to handle. The plants have a limited amount of time you can work with them before they become dry and crispy. Unlike the more planned printmaking I’ve done before, it’s hard to know how things will turn out, and there are no multiples to experiment with.

What are some of your artistic influences?

Mark Rothko, Judy Pfaff, Minor White, Terry Winters, Brice Marden, Karl Blossfeldt, Doug & Mike Starn, Audubon birds, scientific drawing, photomicrography, botanical art

What is next? Will you continue with this series or has it inspired another series/direction?

I am continuing with these collagraphs prints, but combining them with other imagery including old medical drawings – my next exhibition may be more of an installation, with loose papers hanging in overlapped arrangements.

Questions by gallery intern Megan Bartylla

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Q & A with artist Joe Page

 

How did you get interested in working with the materials you use?
I attended Knox College in Galesburg, IL, which is very similar to Augsburg. I took a ceramics class to fulfill a fine arts requirement and was hooked on the vast potential of clay. It can be made to record every gesture of the hand or none at all. Clay acts as a conceptual springboard that I then translate into other materials: wood, polystyrene foam, and vinyl in the case of the “Flow Chart” series.
There are almost no sharp edges in your work and a good deal of repetition. What is the purpose of this?
The bubble represents an endless source of new variations and themes emanating from the same form. I would say there’s an obsessiveness in wanting to explore every possibility within a fairly limited formal framework. There’s a tension in that uniformity of visual language that looks digitally or mass-produced, but you’ll see that no form is repeated exactly the same way twice.  The work is modular, kit-based, like a set of Legos in that it can be assembled an infinite number of ways from a finite number of parts. 
In one instance you describe your work as both comforting and cloying, sincere and cynical. Describe how these opposites are broadcasted in your work.
I’d compare the viewing experience of my work to a tropical cruise or a trip to the candy store: colorful, energizing, and artificial.  Tropical cruises and candy are wonderful treats, but eventually you need to return to something more substantial. The work offers a statement on both the benefits and limitations of escaping from reality.
What would you like your viewer to walk away with when leaving your exhibit? 
If the work offers a bit of respite and visual nourishment during their day, I think I’ve been successful.
What have the reactions to your installation work been so far?
Visitors usually say that the work brightens their day and gives them a boost of energy.  It really is like an endorphin rush.
Have you ever thought of designing a pinball machine or video game based on your installations?
I reference a great deal of pinball machines and video games when I speak about my work. It would be great to collaborate with someone to make that influence flow in the other direction.
Do you consider your work to be a landscape?
The work strives to be an immersive environment to navigate and take refuge in, essentially the real world run through an extreme aesthetic filter. This environment comprised solely of circles and straight lines is utopian and authoritarian in nature; one absent of any visual language that cannot follow these rules. Lately I’ve added interactive elements to the environments, engaging viewers in a physical dialogue with the work rather than just a visual one.
What things from today’s digital culture inspire you?
I’m heartened by the renaissance of pixel-graphics, particularly in the indie game scene. The mosaic-like visual language of the pixel began to fade as the hardware pushed digital imagery toward polygonal graphics, so it’s great to see that pixel art still has a lot of potential to be mined. I’m also fascinated by the ways that vast amounts of data are streamlined into visually comprehensible and often quite beautiful imagery. Data visualization is one of the best examples of synergy between the visual arts and the sciences that I can think of in today’s world.

Questions by Gallery Intern Megan Bartylla

FINE: Reflections on Resilience

FINE: Reflections on Resilience
A collaboration between Augsburg College & PEASE Academy

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FINE: Reflections on Resilience

Reception: Friday, September 5, 6 – 7:30 p.m. Music by the Kennedy’s: Meg Miura and Dave Chapman

Over spring semester, 2014, Augsburg College Graphic Design I and Typography students collaborated with students at PEASE Academy, the oldest sober high school in the U.S., 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.

This project was made possible with support from University of Minnesota’s Buckman Fellowship for Leadership in Philanthropy. Fellows Lois Libby Juster and Julie Longo conceived and facilitated this project.

Lois Libby Juster has a Soul Centered Energy Mind/Body Integrated Health and Healing
practice. She uses art as a tool for both her clients and herself to access moments of transformation that mark the path of healing. As a Buckman Fellow for Leadership in Philanthropy at the University of Minnesota, she used poetry and collage as tools for healing in her project. Her focus has always been to make a difference in people’s lives in a way that will make the world a better place for everyone. Her passion for making a difference in the world has taken her to many countries to be an advocate for human rights, education and women’s issues. At 80, Lois Libby continues to be an active learner, teacher and healer and is collaborating in the writing of a book on WellALLogy.

Julie Longo is a practicing graphic designer and Graphic Design Adjunct Faculty at Augsburg College, University of Minnesota College of Design, and Minneapolis College of Art and Design. Her primary professional and educational interest is in collaborative community-based design. Longo is also an active member of AIGA and serves on its Design for Good Committee.

THE FAIR UNKNOWN by Josie Lewis

Christensen Center Art Gallery

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Josie Lewis

Using thick layers of resin and fragmented fashion magazines, Josie Lewis creates intricate dimensional collages that reference cellular biology, starscapes, kaleidoscopes, and explosions.

Studio visit with Josie Lewis

Reception: Saturday, October 4, 1 – 5 p.mPart of the Fall Art Tour!

September 2 – October 23, 2014

Artist Bio: Josie Lewis was raised in northern Minnesota on the shores of Lake Superior in an octagon shaped house. Her work has been widely exhibited in the Twin Cities area and nationally. She has an MFA from the University of MN and currently lives in North Minneapolis with her husband and daughter.

Artist Statement: I make semi-sculptural slabs of epoxy resin and found paper collage. I use cut fashion magazine images that are intricately layered between multiple pours of resin. My attraction to these magazines consists of a complex push-pull of distaste mixed with formal relish. Like an archivist, I dig, sift and edit. The magazine is milled into a kind of analog pixilation wrought by my scissors and utility blade. I seek to draw attention to the source material while simultaneously damaging it almost to the point of elimination. The glossy magazine becomes a glossy and heavy slab; shredded, exploded, inside out and backwards. I am administering a its rebirth to a more perfect object: solid, definite, personal, precise and terribly permanent. The resin slabs are seductively handmade and aggressively beautiful. josielewis.com

Christensen Center Art Gallery – map
Hours: M – F, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.; Sat. & Sun. 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Close to Home: A Visual Journal by Tara Sweeney

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CLOSE TO HOME: A Visual Journal

An almanac of observations in watercolor and ink paired with original text explores the extraordinary in the ordinary.

August 25 – October 23, 2014

Reception: Friday, Sept. 5, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.

Artist Talk & Demonstration: Tuesday, September 9, 12-2 p.m., Adeline Johnson Conference Center, adjacent to gallery, first floor of Oren Gateway Center

Studio visit with Tara Sweeney

Artist Bio: Tara Sweeney was born in Minnesota and lives in Saint Paul. She has worked in the Twin Cities’ visual arts community for over thirty years. Her distinctive body of work explores figure, identity, and sense of place. She is associate professor and art department chair for Augsburg College, where she has been teaching since 1991. Prior to this she was executive art director for Minneapolis –St. Paul Magazine and an award-winning book illustrator and designer. She earned a B.S. in Studio Art and a B.S. in Textile Design from the University of Wisconsin (1978), and an M.F.A. in Visual Studies from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (1997). Her work has been widely exhibited and is held in public and private collections.

Artist Statement: Combining art making and writing is integral to this intimate series in watercolor and ink. To be honest, I didn’t intend to continue for six years when I began “Close to Home” late in November of 2009, but it was so much fun that it acquired a life of its own. I don’t consciously try to find subject matter. I wait until something captures my attention. The more ordinary it is, the better. Each entry begins with drawing and writing from direct observation. Reflection also plays a crucial role. To tell my stories I stay inside the lines if it works and invent freely when something else works better. It requires that I pay close attention and stay open to possibility until the process of observation, memory, and invention feel complete. Creating this way is messy, surprising, and deeply satisfying. tarasweeneyart.com

Part of the Fall Art Tour!

Gage Family Art Gallery – map
Hours: M – F, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.; Sat. & Sun. 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Josie Lewis: Studio Visit

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“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.

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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.”

www.josielewis.com

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: www.loislibby@loislibbyjuster.com

Julie Longo website: www.julielongo.com

 

 

Studio Visit: Tara Sweeney

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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.

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Blessings – KimyiBo

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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.