Step Out the Back, Jack: CSA(rt) Sculptor Stacey Chinn on her Breakup-Inspired Series

S3A few months ago, Lexington Art League Exhibitions and Programs Director Becky Alley commissioned nine artists to create fifty works of art for Kentucky’s first Community Supported Art program.

Modeled after agricultural CSA programs, Community Supported Art is one of several innovative ways LAL is supporting local artists. CSA artists get paid to create new work and art appreciators who don’t happen to be millionaires can afford to buy high-quality, locally grown art. (Though, you know, millionaires welcome too.)

Most CSA artists created fifty pieces of the same work, and they are all genuinely awesome. These artists did exactly what LAL paid them to do.

Stacey Chinn, however, did not. She did even more.

And that is totally okay. In fact, it’s way more than okay, it’s freaking fantastic!

The fact that Chinn knew LAL would support her decision to grow her project beyond its assigned parameters means that LAL is creating a safe, stimulating environment for artists to take important creative risks.

Chinn developed an entire body of work in a series of sculptures called Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover, which, for her, was a way to work through upheaval in her personal life with creativity and humor.

Recently, Chinn shared the fascinating backstory of Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover. Here she is, in her own words:

S1When I was invited to participate in the LAL’s CSA(rt) program, I said “yes” right away because I recognized it was a unique approach to supporting the local arts community. Not only is it a great value for collectors, it is also a terrific opportunity for area artists to show off their individual talents, gain exposure, and be guaranteed a certain amount of return on their efforts.

I knew that creating fifty pieces would be a particular challenge for me. I tend to produce distinct works and resist making multiples or reproductions. Little did I know what would evolve while working on this project. From the initial idea to the last daub of paint, this body of work offered me new experiences I would have never anticipated and influences that will undoubtedly reveal themselves in future works to come.

From the get go, I knew I wanted all fifty works to relate to one another in some fashion. I immediately began thinking of the number fifty and its correlation to things like the Unites States, the Atomic Number of Tin on the periodic table of elements, etc. Then, one day, a friend said, “You should do Fifty Ways to Leave your Lover”– and it evolved from there.

 A fan of Paul Simon myself, and considering the events taking place in my personal life at the time, it was a real “eureka” moment. For me, making artwork and living life have always been interdependent. As I touted the project to friends and co-workers, my list of “ways” began to grow exponentially and in a very short span of time. Everybody had ideas and I was glad to have their input. Fifty, sixty, seventy “ways to leave your lover” later (and a few hundred dollars missing from my bank account), I had more than enough material to work with (both literally and figuratively).

Some pieces were well planned from the initial sketch to the finished work, and I executed them by acquiring and manipulating the necessary materials. Others were responses to objects already in my possession or ones I bought because they somehow resonated with me. Still others could be considered loosely controlled flukes. 

S2I admit, the making of each piece was, for me, rather therapeutic. The freedom to experiment was exciting. The chance to let loose a little personal angst while preserving a sense of humor was revitalizing. And, though I spent untold hours producing the Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover (and a couple of sleepless nights), the final reward of completing the pieces (actually 52 in all) in a fairly short amount of time is the sense of accomplishment I feel having made a series of works on which I am happy to sign my name. I hope the individual works, or perhaps the entire group, reverberates with others as well.

I would like to send out a heartfelt thank you to a few people who helped me along the way:

The LAL staff for the invitation and their continued support of my work; Amelia Stamps (also a CSArt artist) for firing “Hitchhike” for me and donating her own porcelain plates for “Take a Dinner Train” and “Toss a Pie in the Face”; Jerrill Johnson for printing the head in “Justice” and Chris Rawlinson for the use of the 3D image of his head; Joanne Meckstroth for her fabric and input; Jill Richeson for the initial idea and understanding; my mother and daughter for their patience; Kathy, Glenda, Siobhan, and the many others who offered me inspiration and support for this project (even the kids down the street). Thank you, very sincerely. My share of the crop was truly a communal effort.

Once Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover got started, there was no stopping it. The project continues as I hope to publish a coffee table book with the same title featuring photographs, sketches, and short essays about the works. Stay tuned also for the possibility of Fifty MORE Ways to Leave Your Lover.

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You can take home one of Chinn’s “ways” to leave your lover from 6-9 p.m. during Friday, June 26th’s CSA(rt) Pickup Party by becoming a CSA shareholder. Shares are $400 for nine works of art (about $45 per piece) and “sharing” your shares with friends by splitting the bill is always welcome.

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The Stars Align for Fair Fjola: See Them in Concert Saturday Night!

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Sebastian Coria did not really mean to start a band.

He had just come home to Indiana from working to repair oil refineries in post-Katrina New Orleans when he discovered his younger sisters Eileen and Veronica had started exploring music.

“When I got home my two sisters were playing guitar and singing beautifully and my future brother in law was playing harmonica,” Coria said. “I wrote a song about coming home and Sam Gillis, who is the drummer, came downstairs and started playing and, immediately, we knew what we wanted to do.”

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Something clicked that night and the ensemble, which also includes Sebastian’s younger brother Sammy, and later added guitar player, Tyler Reinholt, became the band Fair Fjola and Sebastian never returned to his job in Louisiana.

Taking turns playing  instruments, the band began writing new songs, most of them penned by Sebastian, and within 7 months, had caught the idea of renowned producer Brian Deck, who has produced albums by Iron and Wine and Modest Mouse.

The band immersed themselves in a Chicago recording studio for a month and the result was the album No One Gets Any.

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Another recording heavyweight, Greg Calbi, mastered the album. Calbi has mastered the works of John Lennon, Bob Dylan, and most recently, Adele.

The stars continued to align for Fair Fjola when their album caught the ear of producers of TV shows Heart of Dixie and Parenthood, which each featured a different Fair Fjola song.

Working with seasoned professionals and catching the eye of TV producers helped give the band a boost of confidence that the decision they made one night while playing music at home was the right one.

“You can play shows and pack it out locally,” says Sebastian, “but you don’t really know what the rest of the country’s thinking, but to be able to have national recognition, that gave us a little spark of confidence and made us think, ‘we can do this, we’re a band people want to listen to.’”

You can be that person who wants to listen to Fair Fjola live at Equus Run Vineyards on June 22 from 7-9 p.m. as part of a special Francisco’s Farm Arts Festival Concert. The opening act will be local newgrass sensation Reva Williams. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children under 12. Come see what the buzz is all about!

We’re All Gonna Die: An offSITE Q & A with Charlie Campbell

Charlie Campbell, is the creative mastermind behind Dracones, an interactive video game/art project which involves slaying a dragon, inevitably dying, and hanging out with your friends playing video games in a bar like it’s 1985.

Campbell’s project, HC SVNT DRACONES, is one of the many offSITE installations commissioned by LAL to provide engaging art in surprising venues around Lexington.

We recently corresponded with Campbell about his project to learn more about not only the artistic aims of the project, but how to play. A transcript of the interview is below.

ABL: Tell me about the process behind your initial conceptualization of the project…I assume Becky contacted you to participate? How did you go about deciding what you wanted to do?

CC: Becky Alley, LAL’s exhibitions and programs director, contacted me via telephone, described the concept of offSITE and asked me to participate. I loved the idea of LAL engaging artists directly and inviting them to, in turn, engage with the community.

Since my work has been changing significantly, lately I had a little trouble settling on a project.

I spend my days interacting with gadgets of a various sort to accomplish my graphic and web design. Then would come home to even more gadgets to work on my more “fine” art projects–generally digital photo manipulations and abstract illustrations (there are plenty of examples on my website(s)).

It got a little tiresome to stare at screens nearly every waking hour – so I gave myself a break and started exploring traditional printmaking techniques (with my friend, Derrick Riley’s help and encouragement).

Through engaging more directly with traditional media–the drawing, painting, etching, and carving required to prepare images for print–I found myself gravitating naturally back to my earlier art-making inspirations: cartoons, comics, video games and animation.

I wanted to incorporate this new-found love of printmaking, the “feel good’ nature of these early inspirations into a new project.

I happen to work (at UK) with an extremely talented web developer, Scott Horn, who shares a lot of the same passions. We regularly talk over lunch about creating small games together and decided that this would be a great opportunity to try it out.

He’s taken the reigns as programmer/developer here on “Dracones.” That way I can step away and focus more on graphic design and art. He and I collaborated closely on the game design and its functionality.

ABL: This project seems to be an intersection of geek fun (video games,yay!) and art–do you see it that way? Did you create this intersection on purpose and why? 

CC: Like most of my peers, I grew up under the contant influence of animated television shows and films, video games, and comic books. These were the images I loved and mimicked as a child and teenager.

Before “fine art” was even a faint consideration I was teaching myself to draw by studying and copying cartoons. I was particularly fond of the Max Fleischer (Betty Boop, Popeye, Koko the Clown, etc.) and Warner Brothers shorts (probably because they were prevalent and handily available on cheap VHS tapes – I didn’t have cable until my early teens.). My sketching style naturally followed these artists.

So naturally, when I go back to traditional media, my images take on the characteristics of this media. So – when I’m having the most fun, my work takes a “pop culture” bent.

Somehow, somewhere along the way I decided that it wasn’t “serious” art and that I needed to avoid it. I’ve realized that was a pretty silly way of thinking and committed to embracing those inspirations.

It makes a lot of sense to me (now) to mix it all together. My personal definition of art is always changing–and I’m fond of saying lately that I’m “giving up on art with a capital ‘A.'” What I mean by that is to stop letting imaginary voices about what’s “serious” and what’s real “Art” stop stressing me out so much I’m ready to have more fun with my work – to let that “intersection of geek fun and art” happen naturally.

The same applies to technology. I studied computer science in undergrad (at Transylvania, alongside art under Kurt Ghode’s tutelage) and loved it. I’m letting it creep in naturally – and finding ways to work with my talented developer friends – submitting to their ideas and mashing them up with my own.

Fine art was always a very personal and private enterprise for me–so I’m forcing myself to trust and work with collaborators like Scott who bring a much different perspective.

Today, my goal is to make enjoyable and engaging things for people who aren’t necessarily a gallery-going crowd. I waiver back and forth – but this way is definitely far more fun.

ABL: Can you briefly describe the “story” of the game and how exactly people can participate?

CC: “Dracones” is really cliché. The basic gist is that there is a dragon hiding out somewhere being generally insulting and unwelcoming. As heroes wander by and encounter the dragon they feel compelled to try and slay it. Sounds familiar, huh?

The twist is that everyone dies.

Everyone.

The only way to defeat the dragon is to gang up on it – but you’re still going to die. It’s an allusion – a direct reference to the concept of “extra lives” introduced by platform gaming (in games like Super Mario Brothers in the early 80’s – technically introduced in an arcade game called King & Balloon)…

but it’s meant to represent failure. There’s no way to avoid it. In “Dracones,” like many video games (and some would argue, life) winning is as much luck-of-the-draw as it is skill, persistance, effort, and collaboration. Sure, it’s a little pessimistic – but handy to this analogy is that games are meant to be fun. In the great games, you don’t really mind the dying part so much – you expect it (for those on the inside, think Megaman, and more recently, Super Meat Boy and Dark Souls).
The experience of playing the game sort goes of like this:

People walk into Arcadium and see an illustration of the dragon on a large television. It hurls written insults at them on screen, (hopefully) piquing their curiosity. Just below the text field (designed to mimic early NES Japanese role playing games like Dragon Quest and FInal Fantasy) there are instructions on how to fight back.

Visitors can connect to a specific WiFi network on their mobile devices, visit a certain web address and are given an interface on their own screen to attack the dragon, or defend themselves when it returns their aggression.

When the dragon kills you (and it will) – you have an opportunity to re-join after waiting for a short amount of time.

After hours of this (and many people passing through the bar) – someone will eventually deal the killing blow to Mr. dragon. That person wins a framed, hand-made wood block print of the monster. I have these for sale, as well – if you’re not that lucky person.

ABL: Do you our at-home video games has taken away a social component that the old arcades provided? How do you think Arcadium addresses that?

CC: I definitely think that Arcadium brings back that social component – and am thrilled to have them in Lexington (and particularly on North Limestone, where I also live). Video games have a very great social influence. They can work to isolate: to provide (sometimes, much needed) escape. They can also bring people together.

A lot of people keep games to themselves. I get that. I love to escape into a good game – get sucked into the story, and isolate myself in it. Sitting alone with a good game in a dark room is just what you need sometimes.

There’s something very human about submitting to good gameplay mechanics – it’s a very pavlovian reward system of repetitive action. Tons of people are addicted to it. Kids in the late 70’s/80’s/early 90’s blew through allowances at arcades with no regrets.

It’s even more exciting to share that sort of experience with friends. Places like Arcadium keep that alive. As an Appalachian kid, I missed the boat on that experience for the most part (save a Street Fighter game in the lobby of the local Wal-Mart) – so it’s great to have it preserved somewhat. I can be nostalgic about arcade experiences I only really ever read about.

For some people, they get to relive their childhood camaraderie at Arcadium – and supplement it with a cold beer. I envy that. I just get to pretend – but I’m fine with that.

The owners and bartenders were extremely welcoming and accommodating. They just got the project instinctively and immediately – only a brief description was provided before they said “yes.” They didn’t even see the game until the day we opened the bar with it as a test run for Gallery Hop.

ABL: Is there anything else in the universe you’d like to add about your work, creative process, and broader artistic vision you’d like to share with the world (because everyone in the world reads artbeatlexington.com)?

CC: That’s an impressive readership.
Maybe, I can take this opportunity to say “Hey, Mom and Dad! Thanks for being awesome.”

Oh! and to add that the title of the piece “HC SVNT DRACONES” means “here be dragons.” It was what cartographers historically printed on their maps when they couldn’t necessarily identify an area. It speaks to the prevalence of this theme of monsters and the unknown that we’ve always revelled in as human beings. I also thought it’d be good, old-fashioned, toungue-in-cheek humor to have that printed out on a map of the offSITE projects.

Check out Campbell’s project Friday, June 21, during Gallery Hop from 5-8 at Arcadium! Together, you can defeat the dragon!! (Although you all will die.)

CSA and Francisco’s Farm Ceramic Artist Amelia Stamps’ Work is Rooted in her Childhood

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Growing up in Asheville, North Carolina, Amelia Stamps was immersed in a world of artists and art-making. At home, she ate and drank from pottery her parents had made, an experience which sparked a tactile, intimate connection to the very craft art that would one day become her livelihood.

Outside the home, her mother ran a craft gallery.

“I used to spend my babysitting money on pottery I’d see at craft shows,” says Stamps, one of over a hundred artists from more than a dozen states who will be selling artwork at the 10th anniversary of Francisco’s Farm Arts Festival next weekend.

“One woman sold these little tiny pots for about $5 and I would get those,” says Stamps. “I used to make pots just like that for the same reason.”

Stamps will be selling some non-functional, creative work at Francisco’s Farm Arts Festival, as well as functional dishware using a white on white glazed that she has been experimenting with.

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“Usually I’m strictly functional,” says Stamps, who often sells her work in wholesale quantities to galleries around the nation.

“I just wanted to branch out and do some more things,” she says of the large, expressive pieces she will offer to festival-goers.

Stamps won’t entirely abandon functionality, though. In fact, she is constantly thinking of ways to make her work more appealing to the commercial market.

The white on white glaze, for instance, is a recent departure from the blue and gray tones that usually dominate her work.

“A lot of times people want something that’s a little more neutral,” says Stamps, “so I have been trying to develop some glazes that would go with dishware that people already have in their homes.”

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Stamps will use the white on white technique to create fifty limited edition mugs to be included in the first crop of LAL’s Community Supported Art program.

Eight other local artists will join Stamps in contributing fifty original works of art to the summer crop of CSA, a newly-launched program modeled after agricultural CSA’s and designed to encourage community investment in local art, artists and art-making. By purchasing a “share” of CSA, shareholders will receive a crate filled with high-quality, original works of art by local artists.

Stamps is excited to be included in the first round of CSA crops.

“It’s fantastic,” she says. “It’s such an honor to be one of the first artists to sell their work in the CSA program.”

LAL exhibitions and programs director Becky Alley thinks the combined beauty and practicality of Stamps’ work will appeal to both CSA shareholders and to Francisco’s Farm visitors.

“Amelia’s work is lovely, well crafted, and function,” says Alley. “The technique she uses for series of mugs she is making for the CSA results in a beautifully subtle and delicate pattern on the surface. I can’t think of a better way to experience coffee in the morning than sipping it from one of her pieces.”

“I just always feel pottery records memory,” says Stamps. “Every pot that I have, I know exactly where I learned each little thing from.”

You can purchase Amelia Stamps’ work directly on her Etsy store and follow her show schedule on her website. She will be selling her work at Francisco’s Farm Arts Festival at Equus Run Vineyard in Midway on June 22&23. To become a CSA shareholder and receive one of the limited edition mugs (plus eight other excellent works of art), purchase a share online or call the LAL offices at 859-254-7024.

Freedom in Constraint: Art and Architecture Collide in Alisa Dworsky’s Light-Shifting Tetrahedrons

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For Vermont-based SITE artist Alisa Dworsky, creativity often flourishes because of restraints.

Dworsky believes her dual training in art and architecture strengthen and complement one another in a way that keeps her artistically curious and motivated by the very limitations which might daunt other artists.

“Being trained as an architect, one of the first things you really do is look at a project’s constraints,” says Dworsky, who earned an undergraduate degree in painting from Stanford before switching to architecture during graduate school at Yale.

As an artist training as an architect, Dworsky’s work leaped off the canvas and into three-dimensional space. She regularly exhibits her site-specific installations around the country, using her architecture background to influence how she perceives space and how she approaches the limitations of each project.

“You’re thinking about larger concepts but you’re also looking at site constraints, budgetary constraints, structural constraints, what the client wants–there’s a massive amount of parameters involved and you do your due diligence,” says Dworsky. “You’re trying to see what all of those constraints are annd then your goal is to design something within all of that.”

“As a designer, I don’t think of those constraints as a negative,” she adds. “You use that as a jumping off point.” If you had infinite choices, sometimes that can leave you floundering. Constraints lead to creative solutions.”

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As a teacher of first year architecture studios, she encourages the same sense of innovation in her students. She issues each of them a “kit of parts” and a concept to work with. They can’t use anything else, a restriction that forces the students to come up with creative ways for each part to best serve the whole of the concept.

“If you had infinite choices, sometimes that can leave you floundering,” says Dworksy. “Constraints lead to creative solutions.”

“For this installation, my kit of parts was the tetrahedron form and the tensile fabric and dowel rods,” says Dworsky.

Her piece, Inside Out, Open Form 1, is a series of tetrahedrons that form a crystalline landscape whose white color encourages the light to bend and shift throughout the day. Experiencing her work in the morning may feel completely different to late afternoon or evening, so it is worth visiting the gallery at different times of day for the full effect.

“I like the idea of the subtle color shifts that one perceives on the surface of white and relative to a white wall,” says Dworsky. “White for me is not a uniform, neutral color;  if you have a white on white environment you begin to see other shades.”

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Dworsky was inspired by the work of engineer and designer Buckminster Fuller, whose work with the shape led to the popular geodesic dome.

She emphasizes what Fuller knew–that the triangle and tetrahedron are powerful, strong forms that boldly engage a space.

Another factor for using the polyhedron and tetrahedron shapes, as well as the simple fabric and dowel rod material she uses, is more practical–it’s cheap.

“Using tensile fabric pulled over wooden frames for installations was an idea that began last year when I got a commission to do an installation in New Mexico,” says Dworsky. “That constraint of the distance and a certain budget makes you question whether you are going to spend it all on shipping or are you going to do something very lightweight that can fold up and then you can put more into the design work.”

Clearly, Dworsky went the light and nimble route for SITE too. Her installation was assembled in a jiffy compared to some of the other artists laborious (and fascinating) week-long processes.

You can see her work at the Loudoun House during gallery hours, Tues.-Fri. 10-4, Sat. & Sun. 1-4. SITE will be on display until July 14.

 

 

Firelight to Starlight: Jason Paradis’ Metaphors of Image and Light Inspired by Canadian Wilderness

When Jason Paradis was growing up about 45 minutes from Montreal, he and his family frequently went camping in the northern Canadian wilderness.

“We went camping once or twice a month,” says Paradis, “even in the winter.”

The regular immersion in nature was a formative of experience for Paradis, who says he developed “a spiritual relationship” with the outdoors that continues to shape his work as an artist.

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“In my art, there is a sense of contemplation or of reverie that speculates on fundamental mysteries–this being the result of a lot of camping under an expansive sky in the northern Canadian wilderness,” Paradis writes in his artist statement.

“There, questions emerged regarding the existence of something much larger than the immediate world,” he writes.

Paradis brings this sense of mystery into the Loudoun House this week with Lexington Kaleidoscope, a mixed-media installation based on star formations that would be visible if you looked out the windows of the gallery at night.

Paradis, who now lives in New York, is one of five artists transforming the Loudoun House this week for SITE, a large-scale, site-specific installation that will change the way you see your surroundings.

Using an iPhone app, Paradis plotted the star formations visible from the Loudoun House and painted them on canvases exactly as they would appear if you could see them, technically accurate regarding the location and magnitude of each star, while also abstracted to create a visual response and reinterpretation.

The star-plot is again transferred on Plexiglas covering the gallery windows to relate to that view outside, each hole representing a star.

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More than 1400 strands of colored yarn stream from the star formations to a stone cairn in the center of the room.

ImageThe pile of rocks represent a campfire but also the stones used to bury the dead, and is one of several ways Paradis juxtaposes the past, present, and future in his work.

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Paradis began focusing on location-based star formations in his artwork about a decade ago, when he discovered a journal he had kept as a boy.

“I found an old journal where I had tried to keep track of the stars when I was ten or eleven,” says Paradis. “That’s where the star pieces started. I started transferring images from that journal into paintings and then it became a metaphor for me.”

“It’s not that I am that into stars, it is the metaphor that fascinates me,” says Paradis, “the idea of distance and time is all wrapped up in the stars, because they are light which travels and carries an image. You can kind of go back in time if you think about how far away something is.”

Paradis says that gazing up at the stars from the warmth of a campfire as a young boy inspired him to think about the paradoxes of time, how light is a carrier for images that existed millions of years ago, and may not exist at all anymore.

The colored strands of yarn which descend from Paradis’ star formations represent the rays of light traveling from the stars to earth and likewise, traveling from the earth out into the cosmos.

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Viewers of the installation experience them as a kaleidoscope of connections from the earth to the expansive of the universe.

“When I was camping, one of my relatives said, ‘you know, that star might not even be there anymore,’” says Paradis. “In reverse, it could be that if someone saw a light from earth, they might be seeing images of from the time of dinosaurs.”

Meet Jason Paradis and experience his work in person at the opening of SITE this Friday, May 24, 6-9 p.m. We’ll have food and drinks from local food trucks and admission is FREE ($5 donation suggested and appreciated).

Violence and Beauty, War and Decor: Liz Miller’s Installation is an Intersection of Gothic Shapes and Symbols

Since nationally renowned artist Liz Miller’s recent work is inspired by Gothic architecture, she was delighted to discover the Loudoun House, the 160 year old castellated Gothic villa that LAL has called home for 30 years.

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Miller, based in Minnesota, is one of five artists creating site-specific work for SITE, an exhibition of large-scale installations designed to change the way you see your surroundings.

“I love the detail in the window casings, the ornamental molding,” Miller says. ““I was immediately interested in the Gothic revival nature of the building because I’d already been thinking about taking architecture, ornament and pattern and making those things sinister in some way while also capitalizing on the beauty of them.”

By the end of the first day of her installation process, Miller and her team of volunteers, mostly art students from regional colleges and universities, had painted the Zygmunt Gierlach Gallery of the Loudoun House a bright lavender and begun to assemble the intricate swaths of felt that comprise Architectonic Onslaught, the name of her installation.

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“My mixed media installations and drawings recontextualize simplified shapes, signs and symbols from disparate historical and contemporary imagery to create abstract fictions,” she writes in her artist statement.

Lately Miller has been honing in on Gothic and Baroque images of weaponry and armor and splicing them with related symbols from ornamentation and decor.

“I’ve always been interested in the duplicitous nature of simple shapes,” Miller says. “What a shape means in its original context can become something else depending on how you bend it or fold it.”

The thematic interrelationships between images of aggression and beauty, war and decor, are evident in the materials and construction of Architectonic Onslaught. Black and white stiffened felt cut into delicate Gothic-inspired shapes and bolted together with metal hardware float from the vaulted ceiling and sprawl, spiral up and then descend, intertwining through the gallery.

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“I like this material for many reasons,” Miller said in an interview with dailyserving.com. “It conveys fragility, but is actually very strong. I love the fact that I can start with a soft, tactile material and manipulate it in ways that are structured and architectural.”

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Drop by the Loudoun House Thursday, May 23 from 10-4 p.m. or Friday, May 24 from 10-12 p.m. to see Liz put the finishing touches on her installation, or watch the progress on our live stream.

And celebrate the opening of SITE with us this Friday, May 24 from 6-9 pm. We’ll have food by That’s How We Roll and wine and beer from DaRae & Friends Catering.

How Do You Feed Your Soul?

Here stands Chee Wang Ng, sunshine incarnate, kisser of babies, long distance rider of buses, visionary builder of labyrinths and for the rest of the week, our guest.

Please give him a warm Kentucky welcome.

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In this not very fancy iPad photo, Chee has just ridden 24 hours on a bus from New York.

“I don’t mind the bus,” the native of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia says brightly, “I just need some coffee.”

Caffeinated and undaunted by his long journey, Chee cheerfully greets the empty room of the Loudoun House that will be his three dimensional canvas for the next week.

Chee is one of five artists who are spending all week transforming the Loudoun House with large-scale, site-specific installation art.

His project, The Three Hundred and Sixty Walks of Life Labyrinth, is a terrific example of his internationally celebrated work engaging the Chinese diaspora.  His work has twice been reviewed by The New York Times and has been exhibited in museums around the world. You can learn more about Chee’s work on his website.

Or you can meet him in person by dropping by the Loudoun House this week as he arranges 360 rice bowls from 60 different countries in a spiral of multi-level shelving.

Chee’s installation juxtaposes the centuries-old symbolism the rice bowl has in China’s cultural legacy with the notion of professions, labor, and what one does in order to make a living.

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“One kind of rice feeds a hundred types of people,” is one of the idioms on which Chee bases his work. Another is the vernacular usage of the phrase “making a living.”  In Chinese, the phrase roughly translates to “in search of eat or food” and in Southern China in particular, the phrase is “in search of rice.”

Drawing on this notion of making a living as how one gets rice, Chee explained in his project proposal that there were 36 established trades during the Tang Dyanasty (618-907 A.D.) but by the Ming Dynasty (1384-1644 A.D.), there were over 360.

The rice bowls featured in the exhibition, some dating back to the Song Dynasty and some as new as the 21st century, will form swirls of the labyrinth based on the five elements of Chinese cosmology, becoming moving meditations about the place and purpose of our professions and approaches to our “search for food.”

“Most of us hold and change countless jobs in our lives that require many skills, trainings and talent,” Chee wrote in his project proposal. “How do you define and identify your ‘vessel of substance– ‘rice bowl’ in your ‘search for food’? How far do you go for your humble bowl of rice? How do you feed your inner soul?”

We suggest you feed your inner soul by standing within 20 feet of Chee’s contagiously positive energy, or by visiting his installation during the opening of SITE this Friday, May 24 from 6-9 p.m.

You can also swing by the Loudoun House during gallery hours (10-4 p.m.) and watch him work in person and catch him on our live stream.

THE GIANT LOOK BOOK OF EXPLODING DANDELIONS {…its all for you and now in full color}

We spend our whole lives trying to be happy.

It’s even written into our constitution as something we ought to continually pursue, but in Lexington artist Blake Snyder Eames’s paint and vinyl mural-in-progress, she reminds us that intense joy is something that can beexperienced for free, in the simplest manner, and in a matter of a few seconds.

“Stop and smell the roses,” the saying goes, but a better idiom might  be, “stop and wish on the dandelions.”

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Eames’ mural, The Giant Look Book of Exploding Dandelions, is  designed to capture the brief but potent moment of joy and delight she regularly witnesses while watching children pick dandelions and blow their fluffy wishes to the wind.

Eames  is the first of five artists to begin her work transforming the Loudoun House for LAL’s large-scale installation exhibition, SITE, opening Friday, May 24, 6-9 p.m.

Since she is the only local artist in the exhibition, and since she has to paint a huge mural in our expansive hallway, we let her get a head start over the weekend.

Here she  is in “mad scientist mode” on Sunday afternoon as she eyes a table full of paint buckets.

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You can catch a live steam of Blake’s installation at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/lexingtonartleague and learn more about her work at http://blakeeamesdesign.com.

 

Feel free to come by the Loudoun House during gallery hours (weekdays, 10-4) to watch the installation live in person. SITE opens Friday, May 24 from 6-9 p.m.

The Art of Prank

No, we are not talking about handcrafted whoopie cushions.

And while those prank calls you made before the internet and call-waiting ended a whole sub-genre of DIY home entertainment were no doubt hilarious (OMG, my refrigerator is still running!)–they were not art.

Prank art, or fictive art, is a serious enough business that it earned artist and teacher Beauvais Lyons a couple of fancy professorships at the University of Tennessee, where he directs the Hokes Archives, a compilation of rare cultural artifacts that seem like they really, really, REALLY could be real but are in fact, more fake than re-shot segments of Keeping Up with the Kardashians.

Lyons will be giving an artist talk about his Association for Creative Zoology exhibit this Friday, April 26 at 5:30 p.m. before the Story Soiree celebration from 6 – 9 p.m.

In the clip below, Lyons talks about how elaborately crafted hoaxes such as “The Centaur Excavation at Volos” can challenge viewers to think critically about consumer and media culture.

“I am interested in that edge between fiction and fact,” says Lyons. “There’s so many ways in which we experience that from the media and television and the internet. Can I believe that? Is it real?”

Obviously, the Georgia Dog-Fish below does not exist in reality–wouldn’t it be cool if it did?

Georgia Dog-fish of Lake Lanier

The American Badger Swallow isn’t real either, but it is another example of how Lyons borrows techniques from science to lend authoritative authenticity to his hoaxes.

American Badger Swallow (1)

The best way to experience Lyons’ large scale pranks is to come by the Loudoun House and see them up close and personal.

Heck, meet the man himself this Friday at 5:30 p.m. before getting your Soul Funkin’ Dangerous groove on and your West 6th brew on at the Story Soiree!

There’s still time to check out his artistic pranks after the weekend, though. His Association for Creative Zoology exhibit is on display in the gallery until May 12.  It even includes a Bible marked with passages supporting the existence of these fantastical creatures!