Tuesday, July 12, 2011

One Night, One Craft at the Cincinnati Contemporary Art Center

One Night, One Craft at the Cincinnati Contemporary Art Center

Tonight was yet another fantastic evening at the Contemporary Art Center!  If you have not had an opportunity to check it out, let me introduce you to “One night, one craft!”  This genius summer series each Monday night at the Contemporary Art Center provides a two hour opportunity to learn a new craft from a skilled artist with an adult beverage in hand surrounded by other creative artists in training, and no judgement.  Typical of the CAC, each evening is unique and a great time.  This is not your grandma’s craft night.    
To recap: 
June 6: The kickoff was an embroidery tutorial and demonstration by Cincinnati’s own Pam Kravetz http://pamkravetz.com/Site/Welcome.html 
You may remember Pam’s exhibit at the CAC, “Beauty Queen, Superhero, Peanut,” the larger than life fabric art interactive marionette figures on the sixth floor.  This creative queen (Pam) held court on the sixth floor as well keeping the session lively with interesting details about how she got her start and her current inspirations.  She was energetic in tutu and leg brace, and had no qualms about sharing details on how she created her signature beautiful details, vibrant colors, and visible rustic stitching.  Pam is as exuberant as her art and it was an exciting start to the series.

My creation.  This guy is still a work in progress.  He is hungry. 
He is going to be eating a cupcake.  This cupcake is Pam's creation

13th: Intro to wet and needle felting with The Shiny Brights.
An Australian rock band?  No. The Cincinnati Shiny Brights are an eclectic group with similar interests that periodically gather to socialize while they create crafts.  If you thought, “felt” was a synthetic square you cut up and glued in elementary school, prepare to be shocked because wool felting is an age old craft that far precedes polyester.  Wool felt is a non-woven fabric formed when sheep’s wool or animal fur is subjected to heat, moisture and pressure or agitation.  The shiny bright crew introduced two methods of felting, needle felting that is created by stabbing different colored pieces of felt into another, and wet felting, the process of dipping loose wool into soap water and rolling it into beads to use in many other crafts.  New to many of the attendees this was one shiny adventure with beautiful ends.

My felt ball and bead bracelet.  Also still a work in progress.

June 20th: Kalamkari fabric painting with Radha Chandrashekaran www.radartist.com
In the spirit of full disclosure I regrettably had food poisoning and missed this event.  But I learned from my new friends that this is an ancient technique of painting using a hand made brush made by wrapping fabric around a wooden skewer.  By holding the brush tip with the fingers and applying different amounts of pressure varying line thicknesses can be achieved.  It was apparently messy but very fun.  Totally disappointed I cannot give you more details.
June 27th: Book making with Annie Stephens www.anniestephens.com
Sewing together pages of paper, and two cardboard covers may sound simple but producing a decorative notebook that looks good and stays together is challenging.  The knotting method was calmly introduced by the energetic and multi talented Annie, and she patiently ran from table to table to assist with different skill levels of crafters throughout the evening.  While it was a challenging start there was also a great sense of accomplishment when leaving with a completed gift-able notebook. 

My first hand bound journal.  Still intact.  You may be receiving one of these as a future gift if I can get better at it.

July 11th: Sumi-e ink painting & yoga poses with Anne Ducharme 
This week was a little different from previous evenings with a focus on meditation through art and yoga.  The evening began with Anne guiding the group in meditation.  She taught a few yoga balancing methods and poses as a great way to clear the mind for inspiration.  Sumi-e ink painting focuses on the tools and on the process rather than the finished product.  There are many brush and ink washing techniques that can produce different images.  Letting go of a predetermined image provided surprising and interesting results.  The variety of crafter images varied from very dainty to broad strokes, very literal images and more abstract pictures.  It was as if each state of mind depicted differently on paper.  Anne was a calm encouraging influence and I left with a great start to my Sumi-e painting beginnings.

A sampling of my creative process.  The fish on the bottom left are Anne's work.

My three favorite works.  My meditative state is less calm, more movement.

Admittedly each week I do not leave feeling a master of each craft but I always leave excited by a new method of artistic expression to explore.  With a variety of materials to inspire creative minds, a relaxed atmosphere, and a friendly and enthusiastic crowd of attendees I continue to be impressed by the art created in this two hour period each Monday night at the Contemporary Art Center.

Upcoming opportunities to craft at the CAC:
July 18: Seed bombs with VisuaLingual
July 25: Woodworking and image transfer with Joel Armor and Joe Civitello
August 1: Mud cloth with Judy Dominic
August 8: Personalized Magnets with Cincy Craft Cartel
August 15: Henna tattoos with Sneha Nirody
August 22: Paper-craft with Jessica Wolf
Each week One Night, One Craft goes from 6 to 8pm and participation in some crafts may require paying a $5 materials fee.  Admission to the CAC on Monday evenings is free courtesy of Macy's.  Look forward to seeing you at the Contemporary Art Center!

On exhibit at the Contemporary Arts Center:
Currently the CAC is full with three ongoing exhibits to check out.  All three are impressive.
Maidens of the Cosmic Body Running: Majr Gazr
I continue to return each Monday after crafting to experience “Maidens of the Cosmic Body Running: Majr Gazr.”  It is a collective exhibit of work by Denise Burge, Lisa Sinders, and Jenny Ustick.  It incorporates expertly crafted hand made textiles, electronic and colorful video imagery, and trance like tones and repetitive relaxing whispers.  It is designed to be a multi sensory, participative exhibit dedicated to relaxing the participant.    
The relaxing effects of the combination of these influences is incredible.  All the elements of the exhibit purpose to “explore notions of utopia tied to feminism, nature, and spirituality.” Further description indicates the integration of the elements and craft, “Reference the Maidens’ notion of a female community; while the use of color, symbolism and textiles evoke the myriad of utopian communities that have emerged throughout the last century.”  Honestly, I was a little leery of that description initially.  I also was not sure how I felt about the community slippers.  My first visit, however, I had on incredibly uncomfortable heels and so while I was somewhat uncertain I quickly donned the slippers and grabbed a “map” illustrating the ways to participate in each aspect of the exhibit.  This first visit it was close to the museum closing and I was alone as I listened, watched, and became wrapped in the experience.  My stress melting away with the tones, images, and tactile influence.
Each time I visit I notice an additional element of the exhibit I did not in the past.  I later found the slippers are to protect the textiles as much as they are to add to the sensory experience.  Wearing shoes and walking on the hand made items would surely cause wear that would detract from the experience.  I find myself looking forward to visiting each week and am a little concerned how I am going to find the same stress melting effect once this exhibit has concluded.  
Hurry to experience this exhibit soon as it is only running through July 17th!
Matthew Monahan
The sculptures by Matthew Monahan are amazing to see.  His use of repurposed materials and the way he wields them into precise human form is totally impressive.  It seems his works are alive, eyes sparkling, muscles flexed, expressions expressive.  
The CAC website description so artfully describes this best, “Monahan’s sculptures seem to hover in a state of fleeting existence, projecting the illusion that the forces of nature could turn them back into unrecognizable rubble at any moment. His works succeed in engaging the viewer in a dialogue between contemporary and ancient; alien and disparate parts. His fragmented figures—with their active postures and facial expressions—convey the struggles of coming into existence in the present moment while carrying a sense of a past long gone.”  True.  Matthew Monahan’s work is worth a visit sometime before the exhibit conclusion on October 30th.  
Keith Haring: 1978-1982
This exhibit provides an exploration of Keith Haring’s work from his youth and early work through his height of popularity and some of his final works.  His efforts to make art accessible to all, and his broad quick intersecting lines helped to make him one of the “most iconic, influential and popular artists in the world.”  
This exhibit gives great insight into his artistic development, internal struggle, and immersion in the New York City Scene with rarely shown early work and some of his most notable images.  Personally I remember Keith Haring as I was first introduced to his work in first grade.  At the time his brightly colored, distinct human forms were being painted on city buildings and sidewalks in New York.  He must have been featured on Reading rainbow or something because I vividly remember sitting on the floor of Ms Ditkin’s (my first grade teacher) floor attempting to braid another girls hair and pay attention at the same time.  I remember liking the color usage the best. 
My early introduction to Keith Haring seems to have been quite flat with only an introduction to his work and a brief glazing mention of his death to AIDS.  What I did not remember being introduced to about Keith Haring in the calm afternoon of my elementary school art hour were his sexual influences, incorporated phallic symbols, and overwhelming drawings.  I was surprised to see some of his later work, sometimes violent red images of aliens and death.  It is funny how a purposely narrow sight, for a child or otherwise, can change the artistic impression of the patron.  Seeing this complete collection first hand with its large scale and detail is quite impactful.  This exhibit allows you to feel the challenges Keith felt in his shortened life, to understand his journey further, and it allows you to experience the impact of his broad brushstrokes and interconnected lines and elements.   

Monday, July 4, 2011

A Stylish Book Report: The Style Strategy by Nina Garcia

Finally a style how-to book I can fully embrace!  You may have picked up from previous posts I am somewhat of a clothing collector that loves to reinvent vintage, and embraces the cyclical nature of fashion.  You probably do not know I am lucky to act as steward to a small collection of hand-me-down duds from generations of my relatives from the 1800s to today.  Daunting, maybe, but a ton of fun!  With this in mind I always get annoyed when the first instruction in a style book is to purge anything you haven’t worn in a year.  Leave it to Nina Garcia to make me happy with her book The Style Strategy.

The Style Strategy is described as “A less-is-more approach to staying chic and shopping smart,” clearly it was written with the most recent economic downturn fresh in the mind, but it is more than a recession-ista guide to being stylish.  Nina gives great guidance on logical editing, reinvention, construction quality, and appropriate care of clothing and accessories.  She presents all of this sometimes less than sexy information with the same colorful illustrations, interesting historical fashion facts, and enthusiastic love of all that is stylish as her other fantastic guides.  The Style Strategy is a great intro for vintage shoppers, conservationists, fashion history enthusiasts, and artistic types alike.  
First in the book is a section on evaluating what you have and, yes, there may be purging involved.  Unlike other guides that direct blind purging, however, this evaluation section provides knowledge of garment quality, historical reference, and teaches an eye for how to find the treasures.  There are two types of clothing: disposable and collectible.  Many of today’s affordable clothing falls in the disposable category not because it isn’t stylish but because the construction is not finished to last longer than a few seasons.  After a few seasons unfinished edges begin to fray, colors significantly fade, hems pucker, or fabrics stretch out of shape.  Such is the case with some vintage as well.  Challenging are the fabric crazes of different eras.’  Some by necessity and scarcity of materials, others as technologies newest and greatest synthetics have fallen out of favor.  Sections one and two of this guide help you sort through them all to determine what really needs to go, and what can be reinvented and incorporated into new styling. 
When it comes to vintage, and some newer things also, a split seam, or imperfect fit is not necessarily a sign of low quality or a reason to give up hope.   Time could be the culprit in such wear and these errors may be cheated with appropriate care.  Section 3 of The Style Strategy describes the how, what, and where to get these workable imperfections addressed.  By highlighting tailoring, mending, caring for clothing and accessories it gives the option to extend the life of each item, and opens the wearer up to creating one of a kind and unique items.  It is also full of interesting info on how to tap stores off the beaten path for low cost, high quality items to incorporate into a wardrobe going forward.  Dance stores for tights, and flats; import boutiques for tunics and beaded items; and a plethora of other shopping resources.  Nina gives us her personal references on how to navigate so many shopping options for a find. 
In The Style Strategy Nina Garcia turns a frugal approach to fashion into an opportunity to feature individuality and ingenuity.  If you enjoyed reading the other style guides she penned you will also enjoy this book.  If you are looking for a light and fun introductory guide to discerning value beyond brand label you will also love this book.  The Style Strategy is a book to read for entertainment, knowledge, and is a good one to keep for reference.