Un Mois au Paradi

June 15, 2012

par: Mathieu Grodet

Au mois de mars dernier, j’ai eu la chance de voir ma demande de résidence accepter a Corning,

Après avoir reçu la lettre d’acceptation, j’avais touours du mal a y croire. Mon projet consistait à bénéficier de l’atelier de soufflage afin de souffler des verres à pied, “des blancs” pour pouvoir les gravés ou les émaillés ensuite.

Mon projet nessesitait un assistant en plus d’un traditionnel agencement d’atelier de soufflage.le programme prend en charge les frais de deplacement, un lieu de vie et un budget pour l’alimentation. “we take care of you”.

J’ai donc pris un bus pour Corning,NY de Montréal le 29 fevrier2012. Arrivé a Corning aprés une journée de transport, et une nuit de sommeil, le premier jours était consacré a decouvrir ce lieu mythique, à rencontré les acteurs,professionnels,techniciens ou professeurs. Le deuxième jour, j’ai donc commencé mon marathon de 97 heures de soufflage disseminé dans le mois de Mars.j’ai donc rencontré Ross Delano qui sera mon assistant pour tout le mois.Quand Harry Seaman et Jeremy Unterman m’ont fait visiter les ateliers,une phrase revenait souvent, “What ever you need, we have it, and if we don’t, we will make it for you” “Nous avons tous ce que tu pourrais avoir besoin,et si nous ne l’avons pas, nous pouvons le fabriquer pour toi” , rien a ajouter…le “titre” de paradis était alors justifié…

Les ateliers de Corning fourmille de monde toute la journée de 8h a 22H…se croise des touristes, qui après avoir acheter un ticket pour souffler une boule de noel ou faire une fleur, attendent leurs tours, des ex-employés de Steuben (fermé) qui, pour la pluspart soufflent des citrouilles pour le magazin du musée, des professionnels qui loue les ateliers pour faire leurs propre production, des “hobbyistes” qui se font plaisir a experimenter plusieurs techniques pas toujours conventionnel mais pleinne de surprise, des enfants ou groupes de tous ages sont aussi présent pour different programme autour de la decouverte du verre. Bien sur les ateliers de Corning ne compte pas seulement le verre a chaud, mais également, thermoformage/fusing, chalumeau,atelier a froid, pate de verre,vitail ou tiffany,

Ensuite j’ai rencontré l’autre atiste en résidence pour le mois de mars,Norwood Viviano.

Partager un appartement peut être difficile pour certain d’entre nous a different dgrés, Cela a été très facile avec Norwood, parfois, quand une “alchimie“ se forme, alors ce temp et espace partager finissent par devenir un plaisir, et même un moment d’échange productif en dehors des ateliers de “travail”. http://www.norwoodviviano.com/

J’ai egalement recontré Amy Shwartz, directrice des ateliers. Portes toujours ouverte, la parole est libre et peut eventuellement digréssé sur d’autre sujet que le verre…

Bien sur, j’aussi eu l’occasion de rencontré Bill Gudenrath, figure incontournable pour tout souffleur de verre…Bill travail seul dans une chorégraphie pas toujours evidente d’en lire les arcanes, Bill Gudenrath est musicien, il travail le verre comme un dansur respectant la music, il y a du rythme, des doubles croches avec moments d’intensité et …des blancs, des attentes, delicats, invisible…

Je n’avais plus qu’a travailler, essayer d’être au “niveau”, de répondre aux attentes.

Quels attentes? Je ne le sais toujours pas…c’est comme dans les films americains, quand tous le tableau est parfait, tout le monde est trop heureux, alors on sait qu’ils(les scenaristes) nous préparent une “catastophe” ou une transition… le probleme et de la même taille que le bonheurs initial des personnages… bref, “que va t’il arrivé?” ,”trop beau pour être vraie”

Mais qu’est ce qu’il attendent de moi? Qu’obtienne t’il en echange?

Mon Ami Dan Mirer m’a donné un élément de réponse…parlant de mes interrogation, il m’a simplement répondu “ just make the world a better place.” “simplment de rendre le monde meilleur” what could I say?   Que pouvais je repondre?

 

A Month in Paradise

by: Mathieu Grodet

In March of this year I had the chance to realize my accepted application for the Corning Studio residency. After receiving the acceptance letter, I had trouble believing it. My project was to benefit from the Hot Studio to blow stemmed glasses, “blanks” to be engraved or enamelled on later. And research historical forms and techniques in the library and museum.

My project needed an assistant and a traditional glass blowing studio. The program supported the travelling expenses, accommodation and a budget for food. “We take care of you”.

After a day of travel, and a night’s sleep, I spent my first day discovering this mythical place, meeting the studio professionals, technicians and teachers. When Harry Seaman and Jeremy Unterman took me to visit the workshops, a phrase often came back, “What ever You Need, We Have it, and if we do not, We Will make it for you”,… the title of “paradise” was then justified …

The next day, I started my marathon 97 hours of blowing that would be spread through the month of March in between days in the museum and research in the Rakow library and I met the awesome Ross Delano who would be my assistant for the month.

The Corning Workshops are a buzzing world all day from 8am to 10pm. Full of tourists waiting their turn to blow a Christmas ball or make a flower, ex-employees of Steuben who are making glass production for the Glass Market in the museum, professionals who rent the workshops to make their own production to “hobbyists” who are happy to experiment several unconventional techniques that can bring surprises. Children and groups of all ages are also present to various programs around the discovery of glass. The Corning Studio not only boasts hot glass, but also, kiln casting / fusing, flame working and cold studio.

Then I met the other artiste in residence for the month of March, Norwood Viviano.

Sharing an apartment can be difficult for some, it was very easy with Norwood, sometimes when an “alchemy” is formed, then this shared space and time can become a pleasure, and even a moment of productive exchange outside the studio. http://www.norwoodviviano.com/

I also met Amy Schwartz, director of the workshops. Doors always open and easy to talk to. Of course, I also had the opportunity to meet Bill Gudenrath, a key figure for any glass blower … Bill working alone in a choreography that it is not always easy to understand, Bill Gudenrath is a musician, he works with the glass as a dancer guided by the music, there is rhythm, crescendo with moments of intensity and … pause, expectations, delicate and invisible…

I just had to start working, to meet expectations. But what expectations? I still don’t know. My friend Dan Mirer gave me an answer, he simply said “just make the world a better place.” What could I say?

This became a month of intense blowing, trying various forms, sizes and techniques while developing my multi stemmed goblets.

With time to research in the library and reflect on pieces in the museum I took this new knowledge and inspiration and I tried new engraving techniques and blowing styles.

It was an intense, concentrated month of glass, an experience full of openness and endless possibilities to develop ideas and studio skills. With all the support you need. Any artist looking to really develop an idea would love the residency program’s opportunities.

At the end of the month I packed up 8 boxes of goblets to send home, for the second step of engraving and enameling. Now I am finishing goblets in my studio and working towards a three person show at Galerie Elena Lee in October, a great time to present the results of this wonderful experience.

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TEACH IF YOU WANT TO

Jamie Gray
June, 2012

As this is our education issue, it seems appropriate to talk about learning and, therefore, teaching.
For a long time, I’ve been interested in becoming an instructor so that I could teach glass art
techniques to people who, for the most part, are interested in art – adults at college level, in other
words. So, to that end, in my last year at the Alberta College of Art + Design, I applied for the
Master’s program in the Fine Arts department at the University of Calgary … and got rejected.
Dang, that hurt. There aren’t many institutions that welcome teachers with less than a Master’s
degree in something. So, at that point I had to rethink my options. Wanting badly enough to
teach made me consider how to search out some possibilities. As time has passed, I’ve happened
to find quite a few that have been viable.

Jamie Gray teaching a children’s class at North Lands Creative Glass, Scotland Photo Credit: North Lands Creative Glass

Being a TA (teaching/technical assistant) for a variety of classes has provided opportunities for
me to offer additional little snippets of what I myself know – only when asked, of course, in that
case! And offering free mini-courses to fellow members of the Calgary Warm Glass Guild has
provided a great opportunity to share. I’ve also co-taught glassblowing at private studios and
enjoyed that an awful lot. And I’ve taught evening and weekend kiln-forming courses at local
glass shops. My favourite thing has been teaching children how to make “monsters” out of pre-
fired scrap glass at North Lands Creative Glass in Scotland. Gosh, glass monsters are amazing
and nobody can make ‘em like little kids. Those little monster-makers taught me a lot. Which
brings me to a very important point: I find that when you teach, you learn. Everyone wins.

“How to Make a Monster” class at North Lands Creative Glass, Scotland Photo Credit: North Lands Creative Glass

Eventually, what I’ve found is two things: my resume is getting loaded up with teaching
experience, and I’m getting pretty much all the instruction time I desire. A few years ago, my
instructor-heavy resume was integral to me receiving a summer session teaching position at Red
Deer College’s Summer Series program. This summer will be my third year there. Now I don’t
tell you all this to brag, by any means; just to let you know that from the humblest beginnings, it
seems that you CAN work your way up to a goal if your eyes are open to possibilities. I’ll still
have to get a Master’s degree if I want to teach formally at an art school, but knowing now that I
can survive without one could make getting one all the more fun.

“How to Make a Monster” class at North Lands Creative Glass, Scotland Photo Credit: North Lands Creative Glass

Speaking of teaching, our conference planning committee is working hard right now deliberating
all the speaking/teaching proposals that came in this month. Thirty-seven of them! All from
folks wanting to come here and teach us something cool. It will be tough to whittle down our
choices to a much smaller number but we’ll be doing that over the next couple of weeks. Do
keep your eye on the conference page of the website to stay updated regarding the conference
(http://www.glassartcanada.ca/public/page/2013%20GAAC%20Conference). We’re already
getting very excited about it as it is less than a year away. Meantime, go learn something. There
is a plethora of glass-related courses offered over the summer here and everywhere. Or, even
better, go teach a glass technique to someone else.

Now, on a more somber note. There’s teaching and there’s teaching, and we’ve been losing
some of our best loved mentors lately including, most recently, Jeff Goodman. Our next issue
(Fall, 2012) will be dedicated to Jeff with us celebrating his life and career, and so we’d love to
hear from you. Please submit your thoughts on Jeff, what he meant to you personally, what his
contributions to Canadian glass mean, anything you’d like. We’re asking for 200 words or less,
in either French or English. Do include any photos you have of Jeff (1025×1025 pixels max).
Submissions may be sent to Benjamin Kikkert at Benjaminkikkert@gmail.com and must be
received by August 1, 2012. We look forward to hearing from you.

Sur une note plus triste. Nous avons eu par le passé la crème de la crème comme enseignants mais nous avons perdu, tout dernièrement, quelques-uns de nos plus importants mentors comme l’a été Jeff Goodman.  La prochaine édition (automne 2012) lui rendra hommage en célébrant sa vie et sa carrière. Nous aimerions vous donner la parole afin de recueillir vos pensées sur lui, connaître ce qu’il signifiait pour vous, en quoi vous pensez qu’il a contribué au verre d’art canadien ainsi que toutes anecdotes que vous aimeriez partager. Votre texte doit avoir moins de 200 mots et peut-être rédigé en français ou en anglais. Vous pouvez aussi inclure des photos de Jeff (1025 x 1025 pixels maximum). Veuillez envoyer vos documents à Benjamin Kikkert : Benjamin.kikkert@gmail.com avant le 1 août 2012. Nous avons hâte d’avoir de vos nouvelles.

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A call for submissions

We’ve been losing some of our best loved mentors lately including, most recently, Jeff Goodman.  Our next issue (Fall, 2012) will be dedicated to Jeff with us celebrating his life and career, and so we’d love to hear from you.  Please submit your thoughts on Jeff, what he meant to you personally, what his contributions to Canadian glass mean, anything you’d like.  We’re asking for 200 words or less, in either French or English.  Do include any photos you have of Jeff (1025×1025 pixels max).  Submissions may be sent to Benjamin Kikkert at Benjaminkikkert@gmail.com and must be received by August 1, 2012.  We look forward to hearing from you.

 

Sur une note plus triste. Nous avons eu par le passé la crème de la crème comme enseignants mais nous avons perdu, tout dernièrement, quelques-uns de nos plus importants mentors comme l’a été Jeff Goodman.  La prochaine édition (automne 2012) lui rendra hommage en célébrant sa vie et sa carrière. Nous aimerions vous donner la parole afin de recueillir vos pensées sur lui, connaître ce qu’il signifiait pour vous, en quoi vous pensez qu’il a contribué au verre d’art canadien ainsi que toutes anecdotes que vous aimeriez partager. Votre texte doit avoir moins de 200 mots et peut-être rédigé en français ou en anglais. Vous pouvez aussi inclure des photos de Jeff (1025 x 1025 pixels maximum). Veuillez envoyer vos documents à Benjamin Kikkert : Benjamin.kikkert@gmail.com avant le 1 août 2012. Nous avons hâte d’avoir de vos nouvelles.

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Glass Drawbridges

By: Brianna Strong

One of the most excruciating aspects of the human condition is experiencing distance; distances between people, birth and death, understanding, moments, communication.   I find the greatest moments of satisfaction and drive are born out of feeling coalescence with different ideas, people, environments, movements, happenings and experiences.

This prevailing desire for connectedness and to bring things together that would otherwise remain at a distance is the governing force behind identifying the parallels between the critical-creative inquiries of glass and drawing.

I am perplexed by the gap that exists between fine art discourse and craft theory and find any sort of discipline-specific determinism counterintuitive as an organic human being.  Research and practice in different fields offer specific visual or functional vocabularies that contribute to a greater language that informs an artist’s approach and navigation of any unknown phenomena that lies in advance.

My intention with this article is to perpetuate the dialogue between fine art and craft and begin to articulate how metaphor and relational aesthetics are bridges that span across the distance between drawing and glass.

It is important to acknowledge my more extensive background in drawing, as opposed to an introductory look into glass, as a way of providing a potential survey of my ignorance.

As a drawer, I employ image and metaphor as a way of navigating sets and systems of symbols and signs.  My way of synthesizing ideas from the content that I investigate is arbitrary and in its most realized forms a mere reflection of something essential.  When I entered my first glass class, I was incompetent as a maker and not indoctrinated with the traditions, methodologies and material knowledge associated with glass.  As consequence, I enthusiastically immersed myself into this novel way of working as if it were my own drawing practice and without making any distinctions between craft and fine art.

I was taken by the profound nature of working with glass and recognized that there is something essential and not arbitrary about material thinking, embodied research and tactic knowledge.  The most appropriate metaphor for this revelation between drawing and glass, between the arbitrary and the essential is the relationship between the nature of drawing and glass materials and light itself.  How symbolic to have paper reflect light and glass capture it.  As a drawer, it is through an experience of metaphor both in conception and in the content of the work that I find access points to glass.

 

Rachael Wong, Sound System 112"(h) x 221" x 120" 2007

 

The conception of a metaphor requires a cognitive process by which two ideas are brought together over a distance. The root of the word metaphor literally means, ‘to transfer or carry over’. Stephen Hawking in The Grand Design validates metaphorical thinking as an effective and essential way of navigating the world. Hawking says: “There is no picture-or-theory independent concept of reality.  Instead, we will adopt a view that we will call model-dependent realism: the idea that a physical theory or world picture is a model … and a set of rules that connect the elements of the model with observations.”

He continues to say, “Model-dependent realism applies not only to scientific models but also to the conscious and subconscious mental models we all create in order to interpret and understand the everyday world.”

This speaks to the development of an underlying experience-based framework that enables a subjective conceptual cartography of reality.  This use of sensory input as a means of forming and building a ‘picture of reality’ through an accumulation of understood systems and models that can then be used to inform an understanding of other ideas validates the dominance of metaphor in cognitive functioning.

The significance of this operation in our mental faculties lies in the ability to amass an infinite number of different models or correspondences that we can then lay out relative to one another.

By extension, the inherent design of this mental structure and processing of information has no predetermined constraints or borderlines between the terrains of different disciplines. Through this mental process that organizes our sensory intake across a conceptual plane we effectively become the cartographers to our own ‘world picture’ or view of reality. As viewers and artists, we essentially have the capacity to navigate all fields of study and to understand one thing in terms of other.

Rachael Wong, Red Effect detail 126"(h) x 231" x 10" 2009.

The amassing of information that takes place in a conceptual mapping of the world and in subjective experience can be diagrammed, metaphorically, as dots connected with lines.  This subsequent network or constellations can parallel the use of a map, where the moments that are born from experiences and the sensorial data function as ‘dots’, or points of interest, in cognitive compilations of the world.  More importantly, they function as a coordinate system that informs and connects to one another with lines of thinking that will produce a latticework of conceptual paths to guide an ongoing navigation.

With regard to the nature of discipline-specific points there is the risk of becoming enclosed, self-referential and inaccessible.  However, to abandon the constraints of a discipline-specific determinism, an interdisciplinary approach – which observes the essential and arbitrary qualities of the chosen content – allows the glass artist and drawer to create linkages between images, ideals, models, systems, forms and relational experiences without boundaries.

This sprawling map of intersections and growing networks not only illustrates how the mind processes information but is also a microcosmic example of how people interact with their surroundings, one another and in visual culture.

As Nicolas Bourriaud elaborates in Relational Aesthetics with an explanation of ‘critical materialism’, “The world is made up of random encounters.  Art, too, is made of chaotic, chance meetings of signs and forms.  Nowadays, it even creates spaces within which the encounter can occur.”

Bourriaud’s emphasis of ‘art is a state of encounter’ is important to the realization of an artwork – as simultaneously object and experience – having the capacity to function as a coordinate in a broader system and ever-expanding survey of a conceptual and cultural terrain in contemporary discourse or a subjective experience for the viewer.  The assertion that art ‘creates a space for encounter’ acknowledges the inventive power of art making and the capacity of the artist to contextualize the artwork into correlative measurements to life.  In other words, a drawer or glass artist can produce a connecting line between art form and viewer as a way of providing an enhanced way of navigating the world and influencing their public’s ‘world picture’.

Glass artist Rachael Wong divulged the significance of a viewer’s navigation in a room full of moments during an interview I conducted in October 2011.  Wong defines the art object as “a physical manifestation of experience” and “an embodiment of the moment”.

Her artwork is not only punctuated in space by time, but through her process, there is an amassing of information, navigation of internal and external content and finally an arrival at a captured moment.  When her work is surrendered to the external realm of the public, the art form becomes a coordinate for a viewer’s experience.  In her words, “It is a cyclical process where the making-experience produces a viewer-experience.  It is experience manifesting experience.”

In any discipline, for a latticework of embodied and conceptual points of departure to propagate further experiential latticework that will then influence more, resonates deeply. The relational aspect of the art object is of the utmost relevance in its ability to transcend the constraints of categorization and prompt a perpetual dialogue of experience in a vast field of infinite possibilities.

Rachael Wong, Red Effect, 126"(h) x 231" x 10" 2009.

 

Brianna Strong

Brianna Strong is a recent graduate from the Alberta College of Art + Design. Her critical-creative practice is invested in observing the underlying designs, concepts and parallels in art, physics, and being.  Strong identifies with Bourriaud’s definition of a “semionaut”, as it makes the end of NASA’s space shuttle program a lot easier to handle.

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Con“grad”ulations!

By: Jamie Gray, president of GAAC

June, 2012

This issue of Contemporary Canadian Glass is dedicated to the topic of education.  So, I thought I’d speak directly to that and send a big shout-out to this year’s graduates of our Canadian glass schools:  Espace VERRE in Montreal, Sheridan College in Oakville, and the Alberta College of Art + Design in Calgary.  Con“grad”ulations, you guys!  You did it.  You made it.  All the late night cramming for exams, panicky project catch-ups, and gruelling critiques are over.  Now comes the tricky part:  becoming who you’ve been practicing to be.  And we’re here to help.

Our glass community is pretty well connected and highly supportive.  The Glass Art Association of Canada provides all new grads with a gift of a free year’s membership and eight images for an individual artist profile on the GAAC website.  We hope that you’ll stay in touch with us as you take these next most important steps in your career.  Send us photos of your new work, articles about your journey, links to your blogs.  We’re interested and we care.

Congratulations must be also be extended to the instructors of our schools.  You taught well and raised up some great up-and-comers; glass artists whom we’ll be watching with interest.

Have a great summer, everyone, full of well-deserved rest!

 

Félicitations!

Par : Jamie Gray, présidente de la GAAC

Juin 2012

Ce numéro du Contemporary Canadian Glass (Verre Contemporain Canadien) est dédié au thème de l’éducation. Alors, je me suis dit que j’interviendrais directement sur ce sujet et j’en profite pour féliciter les diplômés de cette année des écoles canadiennes  du verre d’art; Espace VERRE à Montréal, Sheridan College à Oakville, Ontario et  Alberta College of Arts and Design à Calgary. Bravo à vous tous! Vous avez réussi. Vous l’avez fait. Toutes ces longues nuits à réviser pour les examens, les rattrapages de projets en panique et les critiques assommantes, tout cela est  révolu. Vient à présent la partie la plus délicate : devenir ce que vous avez appris à devenir. Et nous sommes là pour vous y aider.

Le très bon réseau de notre communauté est d’un grand soutien. L’Association du verre d’art du Canada  fournit à tous les nouveaux diplômés un abonnement de membre pour une année et la possibilité de mettre jusqu’à huit images gratuitement avec leur profil individuel d’artiste sur le site internet de la GAAC. Nous espérons que vous resterez en contact durant ces prochaines étapes très importantes de votre carrière. Envoyez-nous des photos de vos œuvres, des articles sur votre parcours, des liens pour vos blogs. Cela nous intéresse vraiment

Il faut aussi transmettre nos félicitations aux enseignants dans les trois écoles. Vous avez bien enseigné et suscité de grands espoirs pour l’avenir de ces artistes du verre que nous surveillerons avec intérêt.

Bon été à tout le monde, qu’il soit le temps d’un repos bien mérité!

 

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Ben Goodman – A retrospective sculpture and photography

A COLLECTION OF SCULPTURAL WORKS, PHOTO IMAGES AND NARRATIVE BASED ON A BODY OF WORK INSPIRED BY THE AESTHETICS OF THE NATURAL ENVIRONMENT

to download original text and complete images click here

www.bengoodman.ca

Form And Space #1, 1990

Mind Over Matter, 2011

The view out my studio window as I write these notes, on an uncharacteristically cold December afternoon, illustrates Kipling’s words* perfectly. The fresh fallen snow transforms the usual tree’d landscape into a sculptural array. The trees take on an ethereal aspect with the accumulation of fresh snow turning them into living sculptures. This is a very transitory state – once the snow melts, or the wind rises, these snow sculptures will return to their natural form. That’s part of the beauty of “nature in her nakedness” – an ever-changing landscape. For many years, I have been taking photo- images of the landscape focusing on the transformations created by nature – transformations that occur through the effects of weather and time on natural and made surfaces, the “mark making” by animals and insects, the transformation of the land after a snowfall and the effects of tides on shorelines. It is the record of the passage of time inherent in these images that fascinates me – the passage of time between then and now.

I am attracted to the minimal as I view images in and of the landscape. I try to exclude all other extraneous matter (or visual “noise”) and focus on the primary elements that caught my attention at the outset. In this manner, my image taking (and image making) tends to develop into abstractions. This also focuses attention on the features that excited me. Yet I can recall the entirety of the scene surrounding the image. So the images are always alive to me, a constant source of interest and joy – reliving that moment in time. These images have inspired some of my own sculptural work. They have been the genesis of this collection and Kipling’s words have been the catalyst.

*Source for title of this collection

“Ah! What avails the classic bent, And what the chosen word, Against the undoctored incident That actually occurred? And what is Art whereto we press Through paint and prose and rhyme When nature in her nakedness Defeats us every time?”

(from The Benefactors, Writings on Writing, Rudyard Kipling – Epigraph to “The Edge of Evening”)

Tribute To The Kiss, 1994

A Slice Of Life, 1998

TRANSFORMATION

My lifestyle is about transformation — from a career in the corporate world, to Art College, to work as an object-maker. As a visual artist, I transform an idea, or concept, or feeling into an image or object. The bodies of work I have developed deal with transformation — of found material to give it new meaning, of glass to modify its shape – and where I choose to live, from an urban dweller in Toronto to a forest north east of Toronto, to an island on the West Coast of Canada. My first studio was in a wood-land near Toronto so I began to see the land with an intimacy that would eventually influence my work. This is probably where my interest in combining art with the land started to emerge.

The images I view in the landscape become an important part of my visual language – almost as important as the work itself. They provide a visual context with which to consider an idea, concept or feeling.

I am influenced primarily by the physical world more than the cerebral. The unexpected combination of the natural and the made worlds are particularly inviting. Installations such as – Joe Fafard’s cow sculptures in the midst of the financial district in Toronto, and a contemporary bridge in a remote area of northwest Scotland (page 5). All are impressive examples of effective integration of the made into the natural environment.

An image of a blade of dried grass in a wide open field of snow is a very eloquent composition. The meaning of the expression “less is more” becomes very clear when viewing a natural composition such as this one.

The dichotomy of glass bolted together with large steel fittings, the fragility of one material and the hardness and strength of the other – a successful marriage of unlikely partners. I have used bolted glass in many of my functional pieces as well as several of my sculptures.

The work I do as an artist provides me with a clear way of viewing the landscape and a visual vocabulary with which to express this view. I am challenged to ensure that my work has a strong voice and is not about technique (which can be a seductive trap when using the glass medium). And I struggle with the reality expressed in a line from Rudyard Kipling’s poem The Benefactors: “and what is art whereto we press through paint and prose and rhyme — when nature in her nakedness defeats us every time.” This is a healthy struggle because it forces me to keep my work honest.

Watcher #10

Connections #7

LANDSCAPE AS CANVAS – EXPLORING THE NOTION OF “NATURE’S CANVAS”

“Don’t Fence Me In” – the title of a song from the 1930’s, is also a refrain frequently heard from sculptors. Visual artists working in three- dimensional format are at a distinct disadvantage compared to other artists. A performing artist’s work does not occupy “living” space. A writer’s work sits neatly on a shelf (when not propped up in the reader’s lap). A painter’s work occupies wall space so does not compete for functional “living” space. It is only sculptures that occupy floor or table space and thus compete with many other functional uses for that space. Of most importance to the sculptor, is the need for abundant space in which to place their work, and to be able to minimize the amount of visual “noise” surrounding it. Outdoor installations meet both these needs admirably.

Using the landscape as a “canvas” for sculpture installations provides a unique creative opportunity for artists. The variations that exist in the landscape create a multitude of possibilities for sculpture installations. Outdoor sites permit a wider variation in creative style and scale and provide a diversity of setting; flat or undulating terrain, open or forested land, waterfront or hilltop to name just a few. As well, seasonal and weather changes can have a dramatic affect on the work – sun, cloud, rain, snow, wind can all alter/add to the work. Natural, unique elements in the landscape can also be worked into the installation: wave and weather-sculpted sandstone, unique tree and rock formations, natural “found” wood at rest in the forest, abandoned tree stumps, a treed area or a creek-side location. Outdoor installations can be permanent, changing with the effects of time and weather. Some may be ephemeral, gradually becoming part of the landscape in which they sit.

Mind Over Matter - 2011

Using materials that will be altered by the impact of weather and seasons can add to the appeal of the installation. The transition to a natural patina of rust on steel, coverage of snow, and aging of wood can add dramatic change to the work. All of this variation of light, weather, season and placement can be both inspirational and at the same time, intimidating. It does, however, greatly expand the pallet of design and technique available to the artist. Ideally, there should be a good match of each installation with the intended landscape location – a close connection with the site for which the works are planned. On the other hand, a juxtaposition of natural material to a site foreign to its existence can create interest and a certain tension. For example: bales of hay in the woods, beach shells in the forest, green leaf branches on a shell beach – these become a form of “erratic” sculptures. The range of materials that can be used is only limited by ones imagination. The concept of landscape as canvas opens up many new opportunities for three dimensional art by removing the confines of space and opening up a refreshing new freedom of expression.

“Oh give me land, lots of land and the starry skies above” – this plea, the final refrain in the song Don’t Fence Me In, is fulfilled with the creation and installation of sculpture outside.

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Jay Macdonell Visits Sheridan College

By: Jade Usackas

Sheridan College offers us many experiences to meet and work with members of glass community. Having Jay Mcdonell as a visiting artist was a particularly exciting and valuable opportunity for us all. Not only did it encourage student from all three years to participate, but many graduates and past faculty were also involved. It was an event that really brought people together.

Jay Macdonell with students, faculty and graduates of the Sheridan glass program. Photo credit: Owen Colborne

Laying his foundation with glass in a production-style setting and later developing his own body of work, Jay has a unique skill set. He has been working with glass for the past 20 years and in that time he has accomplished many things. He has experience teaching at several notable glass establishments; Pilchuck, Espace VERRE, Pittsburgh Glass Centre, and more. Additionally, he has worked as a project manager, design consultant and gaffer for numerous artists, designers and architects. He is a talented and noteworthy member of the glass community with the added plus of being a really down to earth and approachable guy.

Jay was kind enough to do two demos during his visit. I was particularly excited to have him gaff a piece I had been trying to figure out all semester. It was impressive to see how Jay’s years of experience enabled him to quickly and confidently devise a plan of action.

Jay Macdonell shaping glass before final post-gather Photo credit: Benjamin Kikkert

Jay also made one of his ‘signature’ pieces. As these pieces are so unique, they are made in three separate and hollow parts. The base, the thick centre bead designed for stability and the flowing and organic top. The process involved three teams and the help of the majority of the people present. As the piece started to come together, the tense excitement that comes with working in the hot shop started to mount. Connecting the top of the piece to the centre bead made an already hefty piece into one that maxed out our glory hole at more than a metre in length. Maintaining consistent heat required using three torches and fluid communication. When it came time to knock off, Jay informed us that these tall and seemingly delicate pieces are best caught carried by their centre. A nerve-racking task I’m glad I didn’t have to take on.

Sally McCubbin and Aaron Oussoren assisting Jay, surrounded Sheridan alumni, Photo credit: Benjamin Kikkert

The piece went away safely, followed by applause and high-fives. It was an amazing experience that is unique to the glass blowing world. Observing and assisting Jay gave everyone a great chance to make a piece with someone who has been working with large teams for years. It was also a treat to work with someone who can articulate their process and instruct – not only with enthusiasm, but also sound effects, a method I’m particularly fond of.

Being a student in my graduating year of a glass program, having the chance to meet and work with someone like Jay was really inspiring. At the risk of gushing like a schoolgirl, Jay is someone that any emerging artist can look up to. He is an active member of the glass community, an easy-going and informative instructor and a skilled artist who has carved an admirable niche. All in all, it was a really great day, and everyone involved had a blast.

Jay Macdonell Photo credit: Benjamin Kikkert

Jade Usackas is a recent graduate of Sheridan College’s glass program. She is attending the Alberta College of Art + Design in the fall.

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