Thursday, July 22, 2010

Michael Bedilion and Helen Matoush

The best part about writing this blog is that getting to meet new artists every week.  This week took us to 29 Palms to visit two artists, Mike Bedilion and Helen Matoush.

First stop:  the home of photographer Mike Bedilion.  Mike and his wife, Teri, have been part time residents of the high desert for the past four years.  Before they bought their house here, they would come out from Orange County to spend time in the desert, specifically Joshua Tree National Park.   They would camp and hike, sometimes staying at the 29 Palms Inn or the Homestead House.  There finally came a point at which they felt they needed to spend more time out in the desert.   When they are not in 29 Palms, they live in Westminster, California.
Mike Bedilion

Mike has been interested in photography for nearly all his life.  In high school, he had a choice between taking a yearbook class or taking machine shop, and he chose yearbook class.   That decision turned out to be a good one.  Bedilion has worked as a professional photographer since 1980.  He worked for the Department of Education in Orange County, shooting school board photos and still photos to be included in a video for helping children learn to spell.  He worked as a public relations photographer for Disneyland Hotel part time, where he got to meet the Lone Ranger and the Wrathers, who owned the Disneyland Hotel.  He even worked as a photographer for Sororities along the West Coast and Arizona, shooting portraits.  Bedilion has also worked as a producer for various professional photographers.

The photography that Bedilion does for himself varies in subject matter, but his most recent interest has been with Urban Landscape.  He has an interest in local history, and he will actually drive up and down alleys, looking for urban scenes that capture his attention.  He likes "funky stuff."  Bedilion does not really consider himself a documentary photographer.  His work is about seeing things change.  He will photograph something like Al's Swinger in 29 Palms, which was first a church and then it became the black marine bar.  Oftentimes, when things like this change, the changes are forgotten.  Having a photograph of the original state of things will remind us of what was before.  Bedilion's photography is centralized around observation.
In addition to his photography, Bedilion also plays bass for a surf band called the Goofy Foots, is a woodworker, and has even begun making lamp shades with images from his photography and scenes of the desert.  Like many creative individuals, Bedilion doesn't know where his imagination will take him next.   One thing is for certain, wherever his muse takes him, we will be waiting to see the outcome.  Bedilion will have postcards, photographic prints, both framed and unframed, magnets and pins for sale during the Art Tours this year.  He is also hoping to have more lamp shades. 
One of Bedilion's photographs, made into a lampshade.

Our next visit today was to the home studio of basket weaver and gourd artist Helen Matoush.  This year will be her third year on the Art Tours.  She and her husband Joe have been in 29 Palms for 20 years.  They first came here when he was a Navy Chaplain and was stationed in 29 Palms.  Matoush is originally from Queens, NY.  She lived in North Carolina for 20 years with her first husband before coming to the high desert.  When they first moved to the desert, she didn't like Southwest Art.  After living in the Southwest, her feelings about it have changed considerably.  She loves the colors and the tribute to the Native Americans that is found in Southwest Art.  Many of her gourds are created in the Southwest style, and she executes it beautifully.
A finished gourd with waxed linen weaving.
A finished gourd with horsetail on top.

Helen Matoush has sewn her whole life.  Crafting comes naturally for her.  Matoush began basket weaving first, while living in North Carolina.  She learned the Appalachian style of basketry, which is utilitarian rather than decorative.  She has since branched out from the Appalachian style.  The baskets are woven using processed rattan vine.  The rattan vine comes in a variety of sizes, and Matoush may use as many as 5 different sizes of rattan vine in one basket.  All the rattan she buys in a natural color, and if she wants colored rattan, she dyes it herself.   Upon asking how long it takes to weave a basket, Matoush told me that speed comes with practice. When a student first tries weaving a basket, it could take 5 or 6 hours to complete one basket, but after years of weaving, Matoush finds that she can finish a smaller basket in an hour or two.    Helen has begun teaching basket weaving again, after taking a bit of time off from it.

A gourd spirit doll with woven waxed linen.

Helen has been working with gourds for about 7 years.  She only works on gourds part time, while working on other crafts in between.  She sews, makes Christmas ornaments, jewelry (from gourds) and even grows a beautiful organic garden.  Matoush loves to pull from the bounty of nature in the creation of her gourds, incorporating pine needles, seed pods, horsehair, and other natural materials.  She also combines her weaving skill with her gourds, weaving open sections of the gourds with waxed linen or finishing the tops of them with woven pine needles.   Helen told me that the gourds have to speak to her.  Sometimes she may have an idea for how she wants the gourd to look upon completion, but the gourd has other ideas.  Matoush uses permanent ink dyes to color most of her gourds because they are resistant to fading in sunlight, although she will sometimes use leather dyes, acrylic paint and gold leaf.  Matoush will be participating in the first annual gourd festival in Yucca Valley this September, but you won't get to see her studio unless you add her to your list of venues to visit on the Art Tours in October. 
Gourds waiting to be worked on.
Helen Matoush.

You will be busy this year, with so many talented artists to visit on the Hwy 62 Art Tours!  Both Bedilion and Matoush will be showing on the first weekend this year, October 23rd and 24th.  Be sure to include them in your tour.

written by Karine Swenson

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