Friday, October 29, 2010

Rosa Poulsen in Morongo Valley and four artists at the Purple Agave Art Gallery

Rosa in her studio.
This is the last weekend of the 2010 Hwy. 62 Art Tours.  If you have not yet gotten a chance to grab a map and drive around in the high desert to look at art, this is your last chance!  There are many artists who are showing both weekends, and many artists who didn't show last weekend.  One artist who is showing only this weekend is Rosa Poulsen.  

Rosa has lived in Morongo Valley her entire life.  She began painting at an early age and came to it naturally - or maybe it was in her genes.  Both her Grandmothers were artists as well as her Father.  Rosa is self-taught and has a wonderful style.  Initially she shared her paintings with family and friends and they encouraged her to share with the rest of us.  She considers the nature of life is to be able to share. The joy in nature is worth nothing if it can’t be shared with someone.
For Poulsen, art is important as a way to express one’s self.  It requires imagination and inventiveness.  She also says it is therapeutic.  It is important as a record of time (what is happening at that moment in time.)
This is her first time on the art tour and is very excited to be part of it.  She has prepared a wonderful walk through her property and garden with stops showcasing a different theme for her painting.   She paints in oil and acrylic.  Her most recent theme is musical instruments blended with nature.  The mural on the beauty parlor in Morongo Valley is one of her creations.  She has shown her work at the World Guitar Show as well as at Joshua Springs.  She has also prepared a computer slide show of her past paintings set to music, and it is very well done.
In addition to painting she is a degreed gemologist, enjoys making bead work jewelry, is a musician and makes collages using tile and mirror.  
Rosa with her son
 Rosa is number 61 in the program, so be sure to mark her studio as a must see.
written by Terry Hone 
Artists at the Purple Agave Art Gallery
written by Karine Swenson
Another stop to mark on your program in Morongo Valley is the Purple Agave Art Gallery at Cactus Mart.  Number 62 on the Hwy.62 Art Tours program is a stop where you will have a chance to see the work of four artists:  Cheryl Jordan, Valerie Davis, who was interviewed here, Wally Pacholka, and Jennifer Ruggiero
Cheryl Jordan is a photographer, as is Wally Pacholka, who is well-known for capturing the night sky.  Valerie Davis will be showing jewelry, her glue paintings, and her mixed media sculpture.  Jennifer Ruggiero is showing photography. 

To see some of Ms. Ruggiero's photography, please visit her website here.
I had a chance to email Jennifer Ruggiero some questions this summer, so here is a little more about this talented photographer.
  1. How long have you been in the high dez?
  2. Where did you move here from?  (where did you move from and what brought you here?)
 I moved from NYC to Los Angeles in the late 70’s, and discovered the high desert in the 90’s. It took me 20 years before I changed my NY mindset and ventured out to what I thought was a barren lifeless landscape. After my first trip to Joshua Tree park on a very hot day in August, I realized that the desert was a verdant garden full of life where I could reconnect with my creative passion. I discovered Wonder Valley three years ago during Art Tours and fell in love so I bought a small cabin on 5 acres of land where I come to reconnect with my passions. I have a special connection with the desert and enjoy the stillness, silence and little creatures that visit me at my cabin. The night sky filled with stars and the sunrise and sunset help me to achieve the balance I need to create. I live in two communities Los Angeles and the high desert. You might say that the desert is my MUSE.

  1. How long have you been an artist? All my life.  

  1. Where else do you show your art? Los Angeles NoHo Festival and galleries, My photographs have been published in Utne, Spin and Clamer magazine.

  1. Why do you think art is important? (or why is art important to you?)
Art is a method that I use to communicate using music and visual images. Art is a medium that I understand and feel connected to. I use photography to communicate through color and frequency. Art is non-linear and can take you to a higher level of consciousness. Art is a communicator of feelings, beauty, ugliness, likes and dislikes. For me creating art opens a window of opportunity to experience a higher level of discourse that can stimulate change.  Art has always been a part of me…the art of raising my children, the art of daydreaming, the art of capturing an image or creating a sculpture out of clay that I dug up from the earth with my hands. Art is an unconditional love that nurtures the soul and heals the spirit.

  1. What are you working on for the Tours in October? What can people expect to see from you that isn’t here now?  (or that they haven’t seen from you before?)
I am working on a series of 13 x19” fine art prints that tell a story and allow the viewer to experience the moment. This year I decided to print my own work and experiment with fine art paper. I got tired of sending my images out to be printed by a print house. I missed the flow and connection of printing my own work and wanted more control and a more affordable selection of paper for my images. I am very happy and proud of the results. All of my prints are printed on hi-resolution fine art paper using archival inkjet inks. The results are worth the effort. I am also using a new frameless hanging method suggested by an artist friend, that gives my work a 2D effect and reduces my cost and the final cost of the print.  I can sell my images at a more affordable price. This year I am planning on including a series of fine art cards. Lots of experimenting with materials, presentation and light. I can’t go into too much detail without a long boring explanation…come see the show.

Most artists have more than one outlet for their creativity, what other outlets do you explore/have you explored? I was a professional musician in NYC before I moved to LA. My instruments are silver flute, Native American flute and sometimes Djembe. My genre is jazz, classical, Latin, and creating environmental sounds.  The frequency of sound has always been a healing experience for me. Transferring that frequency into color was a natural next step into the world of imaging.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Spelman Evans Downer, Stephen Jennings & Robert Morris

The first weekend of the Art Tours has come and gone, and we are gearing up for the final weekend.  Mike Lipsitz writes about one of the venues this coming weekend.
Turquoise South - Spelman Downer's studio.
Spelman Evans Downer sits at or very near the top of Morongo Basin’s art scene. This is true both figuratively and literally as anyone who’s ever had the good fortune to visit Turquoise South his hilltop studio on the Mesa will attest.  Downer traditionally exhibits a sampling of his most recent works for Hwy 62 Art Tours, and he taps one or two of the area’s most promising, newer artists to spotlight as well. Showing alongside Spelman Evans Downer at location #39 this year are Robert Morris and Stephen Jennings.

Spelman Evans Downer 
A visual artist, art educator, and mentor, Professor Downer is head of the Copper Mountain College Art Department. His creativity is expressed through his paintings, photography and large-scale earthworks; some pieces are a combination of these. They are priced between $100 and $4,000 with most pieces falling in the middle of that range.
To label his stunningly beautiful and original paintings “landscapes” would be misleading. Landscapes connote an interpretation of the world seen at ground level. Downer has spent more than 30 years studying and photographing geography and topography from the air and then expressing his impressions in poured enamel.
Spelman Downer.   Proto Colorado River, poured enamel.

The results are reminiscent of high altitude satellite images. They connote organic landforms that simultaneously appear both static and fluid. I am reminded of looking down from a passenger plane and experiencing the illusion that rivers, highways and cities appear both completely still and dynamic.
Downer spends summers at his studio and gallery, Turquoise North, on the banks of the Kenai River in Cooper Landing Alaska. Among the newer pieces he’ll show on the Hwy 62 Art Tours are poured enamel paintings inspired by running and fishing Alaskan rivers. They are studies of deep blue currents, cool and swift; so intense is their attraction, the waters seeming flow off and away from the medium. Among other recent work is a grouping inspired by the Transverse Ranges, coastal mountains of southern California than run from Santa Barbara to San Diego in an East-West orientation. They are part of what he envisions will one day be anchored by enormous, museum scale works.
Spelman Downer.  Southern California, poured enamel.
Spelman is also showing new pieces from his widely admired ‘Earth Mother’ body of work, photographic nudes in framed collages that encompass expressions of his earthwork techniques. Prolific, beautiful and technically superior, do not overlook this stop.

Stephen Jennings
Stephen Jennings is one of two guest artists showing this year at Downer’s Turquoise South. A recent student of Professor Downer and two-time winner of the Copper Mountain College Art Department’s RGB Multimedia Competition, photographer Stephen Jennings began exploiting his creative aspirations only last year.  He has never shown in the Hwy 62 Art Tours; aside from the college, he’s never exhibited his work at all.  He says he’s experiencing some pressure associated with this first exhibition.
The 58-year-old recalls his early artistic expressions, “I used to ditch high school to go down and paint the beach,” says Stephen, who was raised in Huntington Beach.  “I always wanted to be an artist,” he adds. 
A carpenter by trade, he moved his wife and daughters to Joshua Tree in 1981 and made a living working his craft mostly in the lower desert. The progressive effects of rheumatoid arthritis forced Jennings to retire a year ago.  He saw the sudden luxury of free time as an opportunity to explore his interest in art more deeply.
“I’ve always taken photographs,” Jennings explains. “But now I can concentrate on it.”
Steve Jennings.  "Duchamps."  Digital photography
He has completed two of Downer’s digital photography courses. He uses a Digital Nikon D80 and shoots nearly every day. He then uses Photoshop to stitch individual frames of nature into great panoramas, some of them in vertical format, an execution we’ve not seen before. "Photoshop amazes me,” says Jennings. “Part of the plan is not to be obvious.”
Among Stephen Jennings beautiful photographs is a mixed media collage he calls “Worn Tools.” It is hideous, fascinating and is in juxtaposition with his photographs. The piece incorporates a severed arm, construction hardhat, worn hand tools and other unfinished elements. He tries explaining the concept.
 “I want to capture natural beauty, but there’s so much baggage contaminating it,” he explains. “I can’t ignore that. The piece is an expression of the contamination I find in everything beautiful.” 
Steve Jennings "Worn Tools"  Assemblage.
At the time of our interview, his works had not yet been hung for the exhibit. Jennings tries again to explain the contamination theme. For me, the concept remains elusive; perhaps I am too thick to get it. The plan is to “contaminate the exhibit with other elements” prior to the studio tours. Perhaps you will “get it,” I remain quite content with the beauty of Stephen Jennings’ photography prior to contamination.

Robert Morris 
Robert Morris is the other guest artist invited to show this year at Spelman Downer’s Turquoise South. A lifelong resident of Santa Barbara, Morris relocated to Joshua Tree five years ago when he retired. He takes pictures in a standard medium format which he scans, adjusts using Photoshop, and prints at home on an Epson 2200.
Robert Morris.   Digital Photography.
His technical skills are self-taught; while his love of art and his degree in art history are reflected  in his photographs. Robert Morris has done some freelance work for publication, and has previously shown at The 29 Palms Inn and at the offices of the Hi-Desert Water District. This is his first time exhibiting on the Hwy 62 Art Tours; he will show two series all representing subjects photographed throughout California and Arizona over the last five years. All of his works are matted and framed in a 16 x 20 format and are offered for about $250 apiece.
The series he calls “Singular Structures” is a delightful collection of architectural oddities, mostly structures built between the 1930s and 1950s. The subjects include mostly exteriors of cocktail lounges, theaters, motels, and gas stations. Many are art deco style, all share brilliant, still and capture cool color motifs of the period.
Robert Morris second series are works that he calls collectively “Idiosyncratica Deserta.” Inspired by his regular hikes in Joshua Tree National Park, this is a series of composites.
His own description captures their essence quite well:

I see things that other people don’t. Not infrequently have I discovered artifacts such as stone temples, tombs, statues, pleasure palaces, or even industrial buildings, some of them intact and some in ruins. The sound of splashing water might lead me to a lovely fountain adorned with sculpture. Occasionally I’ll come upon a naked goddess in her glory, a nymph lurking amongst the rocks, or perhaps a priestess performing strange rites. Saints, angels, and other portentous personages peer down at me from their perches in grottos hewn from granite walls. ... Sometimes these desert visions recall myths of various cultures, or they bring to mind themes from well-known or obscure works of art or literature.
Robert Morris.  Digital Photography

 Morris goes on to explain how he sees it his social responsibility to expose these apparitions to others in hopes they will offer others “a modicum of edification, bewilderment, or amusement."  He says that "some are sublimely spiritual whilst others are supremely silly.” He stresses that he must leave it to the viewer to decide which ones are which.

Spelman Evans Downer, Stephen Jennings and Robert Morris will show their works on the second weekend of the Hwy 62 Art Tours, October 30th & 31st.  Don’t let the final weekend pass you by without treating yourself to the delights that hang in Turquoise South, stop # 39.

written by Mike Lipsitz

Friday, October 22, 2010

Michelle and Troy Pence

Tomorrow is the start of the first weekend of the 9th Open Studio Art Tours!  We can't believe it's here already.  For those of you who are without programs, you should be able to pick one up at many of the local art galleries and shops.  There will also be an ample supply out in front of the Donation=Creation Art Store, located in Joshua Tree, slightly east of the Joshua Tree Post office.  The address is 61325 Hwy. 62 in Joshua Tree.  Welcome to the Hwy. 62 Art Tours, everyone!

One stop you will want to mark on your map this weekend is the studio of Michelle and Troy Pence, #17 in the program.
Troy and Michelle Pence

Michelle and Troy Pence have found their version of paradise in Joshua Tree.  Their fenced-in property is home not only to the two artists, but also to a dog or two, a timber wolf, a bullying rooster, three tortoises, and a hungry sheep who ate part of my notes.  The studio, which sits in front of the main house, was a homestead cabin.  It has now become the birth place for the unique art of these two charming people.
The sheep who ate part of my notes.

Michelle Pence works in styrofoam.  She carves and paints the styrofoam, sometimes even adding texture with coffee grounds or sawdust mixed with paint.  Michelle has a way of transforming something as ordinary as styrofoam into fascinating bas-relief paintings.  Most of the materials Michelle uses are recycled.  The styrofoam comes from a company that makes pool covers.  She uses a variety of different paints, including house paint.  Michelle has been working in styrofoam since 1999.  She loves animals, flowers and designs, and will sometimes look for ideas on the internet.
Michelle Pence.  Styrofoam tortoise shell.
Michelle in her studio.
Michelle has shown her work at Metro S.C.R.A.P. gallery in Indio, and both she and Troy show at the 29 Palms Gallery.  They have both taught art and music at Angel View in Joshua Tree.  They have been in the high desert for one year.   Troy and Michelle have been married for six years.  They met at S.C.R.A.P., where Michelle worked.  For their wedding invitations, they made the paper and envelopes the invitations were printed on.  They included seeds in the hand-made paper, so the invitations could be planted.  I admire the way these two artists lead a life that is so integrated with art.  Not only are they both artists, but they both sing and love music.

Troy Pence is a painter and metal sculptor.  He paints in oil, watercolor and acrylic, and has been painting since 1990, when his aunt gave him his grandfather's oil paints and brushes.   Troy comes from a family of artists.  His uncle and grandfather were both oil painters, his mother paints on porcelain, and his father is a cabinet maker.  His interest in art began in high school.  His family opened an art gallery to sell his uncle's paintings, and because of the gallery, Troy's painting became even more important to him.  Troy is a self-taught artist.  His art has been exhibited in the libraries in Palm Desert and Rancho Mirage, the Indio Museum, and 29 Palms Gallery, to name only a few venues.  He has had his work purchased by people all over the United States, Canada and Europe.
Troy Pence.  Abstract painting in one of his metal frames.
Troy Pence.  Abstract painting.

Troy's metal assemblage sculpture is shown in Laguna Beach at the Mint.  He has an avid interest in recycling, and you will be surprised at what he does with objects that have been discarded.  His approach to all of his art, whether it be painting or sculpture, is to focus on the basic shapes.  This approach seems to be working well for him.   In addition to his metal sculpture, Troy also makes his own frames out of metal.  Many of his paintings are frames in this unique frames.

Troy Pence, metal "shovel" tortoises.
More of Troy's metal assemblage sculpture.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Karine Swenson, Marjorie Franklin, and John Lauretig

Number 25 on your Art Tours program will bring you to the home studio of Karine Swenson.  For the second year in a row, Swenson has teamed up with several other artists.  You will have a chance to see the paintings of Karine, Marjorie Franklin and Nora Lousignont, in addition to some really cool crochet hats created by John Lauretig.

Karine Swenson, written by Bonnie Kopp
Karine with Pono and Brody
Considering all the time Karine Swenson has spent interviewing most of the artists for this blog, it’s a wonder that she had any time to paint this year.  Miraculously, she is only twelve paintings short of her goal to produce one hundred new paintings in 2010.  What that should tell you is that Karine is a serious-as-a-heart-attack, full-time artist who would rather be in the studio than just about anywhere else.  Except maybe running the trails with her trusty dog Pono, or occasionally dancing in her living room with the music up loud.
Swenson.  Balancing Act.  Oil on Canvas, 24 x 18 inches.
Born in South Dakota into a family of musicians, Karine played the violin in a family string quartet that included her sisters on cello and viola and her father on piano.  She became interested in the visual arts while attending Augustana College in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, studying sculpture and painting.

After her marriage to a commercial pilot, Karine found herself moving around the country, from Evergreen, Colorado to Maui, Hawaii and then to Salida, Colorado where she owned a successful art gallery called Cool Mountain Art.  They loved Salida, a small town full of artists and surrounded by 14,000 foot peaks.  But when her husband took a job with Cathay Pacific which flies out of Los Angeles, they made the move to California.  Originally they had hoped to buy and restore a Palm Springs mid-century home, but they were house-hunting at the top of the market and asked their realtor to show them something more affordable.  He took them to the high desert, and after her first glimpse of Joshua trees, Karine was hooked.

For this year’s Art Tours, Karine was determined not to put restraints on her creativity, so the resulting body of work on view is incredibly diverse.  There are figurative desert paintings in all media, including some exquisite pastels.  She has also continued her exploration of abstraction by painting to music and attempting to portray what a painting would look like if it was a song.  The result is both dynamic and calligraphic.  Her more familiar abstracts focus on the relationship between shapes.
Swenson.  Cleopatra's Realm, Oil on Canvas.  40 x 30 inches.

Karine’s work is currently on display at JTAG, the cooperative gallery in Joshua Tree.  She also exhibited at the True World Gallery in 2008.  She has exhibited her work in galleries in Colorado and Hawaii before moving to California, and has had her work collected by people all over the United States, Canada and Europe. 
A View of Swenson's studio in its natural state of controlled chaos.

Visitors to Karine’s studio will have their pick of watercolors, pastels, oils, drawings, monotypes and other prints, T-shirts and hand sewn journals featuring her artwork.

Marjorie Franklin  written by Karine Swenson
Marjorie Franklin with a studio assistant.

One of the first things Marjorie said to me was that she has lived a peripatetic life.  Her wandering ways are exhibited not only in the fascinating life she has led, but also in her art.  She is one of those artists who has not forced her creativity into one corner, but allowed it the same wandering freedom she herself has enjoyed.  She worked for many years as a computer programmer.  Her love of math and music was transferred to art in a gradual way.  When her son was born, she loved the way he looked, and drew a picture of him.  That was her first drawing.  At the time, she was a computer programmer for UCLA.  She bought a camera when she met her husband Alex, which was another significant moment in her life as an artist.  She developed an interest in making independent films, and created films on the side, while continuing to work as a computer programmer.  One film she made was accepted into "Movies 'round Midnight" and was shown all over the country.
Works in progress in Franklin's studio.
She grew tired of making films, and moved on to installations and video in the early 1980's.  It was about this time that she realized she wanted to refresh her art practice with new ideas, and so she decided to pursue an MFA.  It was about this same time that the Amiga computer came out.  The discovery of this computer was the first time the artistic side and the computer side of Marjorie's life came together.  The Amiga computer had the color she liked and computer enhanced video could be created with it.  After working with the Amiga for a year, Franklin was able to create interactive installations with it.  These installations were a precursor to the Wii.
Franklin.  The Fall, acrylic on watercolor paper.
After completing her MFA at San Fransisco State, Marjorie went to teach at NIU.  Franklin's next creative foray was into the world of 3-D animation.  For many years, her art focused on how technology was changing human beings.  People have a digital self that has an impact on real life.  (Think about how your social security number affects your ability to get a job or a loan, for example.)   She continued to do interactive installations.  She also taught at the University of Minnesota for seven years.  At both Northern Illinois University and the U of M she set up a program for electronic art.
Franklin, Untitled.  Acrylic on Watercolor paper.
The last significant shift in Franklin's life came when her mother became weak and died.  It changed Marjorie's way of looking at life.  She had been ambitious and wanted success as an art professor, but she left that life to come back to California, where she was born.  She decided she wanted to live in the desert and be in the physical world, rather than spending so much time in the virtual world.  For six years, Marjorie has been living in Joshua Tree with her husband Alex, and she is now focusing on painting and drawing.  For Marjorie, painting is a mystery.  She doesn't know where it is leading her, but she is happy to go, where ever it leads.  Franklin has always been ahead of the curve, and she says she still feels that way.  She loves the physical qualities of paintings - how they look so much different in person than they do on the web.

John Lauretig  written by Karine Swenson
John Lauretig, modelling one of his HaMBAM crochet hats.
This is John Lauretig's first year on the Art Tours.  He an his wife, Nora Lousignont have lived in the high desert for ten years.  They moved here from Maui, HI.  It was John's work that brought them here.  Lauretig remembers one of his first creative endeavors fondly.  When he was a child, he made a hand-painted necklace for his mother out of macaroni.  Every now and then, as John was growing up, she would wear it.  He thought it was really cool that she wore it.  Perhaps it was that fond memory that keeps drawing John back to art.
Karine, in one of John's hats.

While living on Maui, John worked in ceramics.  It was there, at the Hui no'eau, a center for visual arts located on Maui, that John had his first adventure throwing ceramic pots on a wheel.  Lauretig had work in several juried shows on Maui.  One ceramic bowl, an "offering" bowl, had his hand prints in glaze was especially memorable.  It was also while living on Maui that John and Nora met and were married.  As gifts for the wedding guests, John gave ceramic bowls that he had made.  Lauretig also explored sculpture on Maui.  He created a found object sculpture called "Under Siege" about Man's destruction of Nature.
John in another crochet creation.

Life pulled John away from art after they moved to the desert.  It was his wife Nora who re-centered him by introducing him to crochet on a trip to Florida last year.  He has been crocheting ever since.  Lauretig has crocheted over 100 hats, mostly in wool.  Many of John's wool hats are felted, which is a process where the wool hat is washed in hot water to shrink the wool fiber and make it more dense.  You will also see hats in acrylic, nylon and even ribbon in this collection.  John has created many custom hats, and will be taking orders for custom hats during the Art Tours.  These "HaMBAM" (Hand made by a Man) hats are warm and stylish.
Karine, in another HaMBAM.
  So venture down the dirt road that leads to #25 on the first weekend and experience the vision of these three artists.  They are showing for the first weekend only, so don't miss them!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

David and Lorelei Greene in Wonder Valley

As the Art Tours draw closer, I (Karine Swenson) am finding my time for interviews has vanished.  So, this week, two of the "wonder-ful" Wonder Valley artists helped me out by writing their own blog posts.  David and Lorelei Greene will be showing the first weekend of the Art Tours, October 23rd and 24th.   Be sure to make their studio a stop on your Art tours this year.
David Greene
Big Skies, David Greene
Tarantula Oil, by David Greene.

David's blog:
"My wife and I moved to the desert four years ago from Columbus, Ohio. We had visited on a few occasions prior to the move and had fallen in love with the environment and people. The fact that there is widely dispersed but cohesive artist community was and remains a big attraction.

At an early age , about kindergarten, I would copy the Peanuts characters. My older siblings accused me of tracing them , so I drew the images again in front of them to prove them wrong. Their surprise and subsequent support sold me immediately. Doing artwork has always been a way of finding the calm eye in the storm of life, it helps me process everything else and serves as a form of unintentional diary.

Just today I was reminded of an idea I’d had about a year ago simply by finding a rusted tin can while walking the dog. I’ve gathered a variety of cans with the intention of doing paintings of some sort on them, desert themes, my Hy-Desert stuff, something...all of the above.

My work can usually be found at the 29 Palms Creative Center and True World Gallery in Joshua Tree."
Wonder Valley.  David Greene

Lorelei Greene

Lorelei's blog:
"I moved with David, from Columbus, Ohio in late October 2006. Our friendship with Mikal Winn and Jeff Hafler is what brought us here, originally. We soon fell in love with the desert. Once we moved, we found we were surrounded by artists. Quite literally!...Our closest neighbors are both artists.

At 4 or 5, I remember becoming completely absorbed in drawing & making things.  My teachers usually had to remind me a 2nd time that art class was over; I just love(d) being in that creative mindset!

I began my adventure in jewelry-making in 1989. I am primarily self-taught. I sell my handmade jewelry directly to boutiques in the US & Canada at trade shows. I show at public art events throughout California, as well.

Recently, I began working in a new medium, paper maché clay. To introduce my new work, I arranged a group show, “Raised by Stars (not by wolves)” at the 29 Palms Creative Center that runs through Oct. 16th. I have done drawings, collages & sculpture since childhood. The new medium allows me to tie all those forms of expression into one.

New items for art tours...the paper maché clay pieces, along with the jewelry, of course.

I believe showing & observing art is a way of relating to one another. Some ideas are communicated best in a dance, a piece of music, a painting, a jewelry piece, etc. I get a lot of inspiration from music & books; along with Sparky, they are my constant companions, while creating.

Romancing the Red Baron, Lorelei Greene.
True World Gallery in Joshua Tree, CA carries some of my jewelry pieces.”
Rainbow Pyrite Bracelet.  Lorelei Greene

High Hopes, Lorelei Greene

Monday, October 11, 2010

Cree Rivera & Joan Vangieri: Gourds, Jewelry, Acrylic Paintings

Cree Rivera and Joan Vangieri work out of their home studio a very short distance off Highway 247. The studio is a wonderful Southwest inspired structure nestled between giant rock formations and perched high above Yucca Valley. Drawing in the scenery that unfolds out and away from their workspace is likely as close as one can get to the world as seen through the eyes of some magnificent raptor.  It’s little wonder that so much of their creativity is expressed through organic materials.
They begin with gourds which, when selected, are covered in loose soil and loam.  Back at their workspace, they peel away the dirt and detritus to reveal fantastic shapes - from whimsical, silly or phallic to an earth mother engorged with natural beauty. 
“I’ll be cleaning a gourd,” says Joan. “And as I scrape away the layers ...”
Cree finishes, “Its shape begins to tell you what it wants to be.”

Rivera and Vangieri met 25 years ago. Their works of art are displayed in every part of their home, from which they also operate their business, Four Directions Printing.  In the fall and winter, Cree holds a yoga class there. Their nest is not at all cluttered. Their sculptural art pieces are separated not according to whose hands crafted them, but in groupings based on characteristics known only to them.  They operate quite naturally like birds of a feather; one need not ask if they are ‘together.’  They have been working with gourds for more than ten years. The impetus for their artistic passion came in the form of a gourd decorated for an anniversary gift.

Once a gourd has been preened and its aspirations revealed it is taken to its full potential. They use a multiplicity of materials ... horsehair, crushed turquoise, hawk and turkey feathers, leather, rabbit fur, beads and stones, denim and dyes, and they create intricate reliefs, carving designs into the skin of a piece, or distinguishing it through pyrography. The results are brilliant.

They do not work on individual pieces together. Each artist has her own style and unique vision. The differences are reflected in their works. Joan, who has created art and painted since childhood is accomplished with a brush. Visitors will find many fine examples of her talent painted on the gourds, but also on wonderful canvases exhibited throughout. She works mostly in acrylics, but is equally adept with oils. All of her work is freehand, some of it dreamlike, much of it intricate.
One of Vangieri's paintings.
Joan Vangieri.

Many of Cree’s pieces are more three-dimensional. She may marry a gourd with formed clay to conjure an image; many are feminine characters with indigenous features, a natural expression of her native Cree ancestry. The three-dimensional aspect of her work also manifests in her jewelry. She seems a free spirit ... open, expressive, warm and unedited. That she is a skilled and popular Hatha Yoga instructor somehow seems completely consistent with who Cree Rivera is. Joan Vangieri seems the perfect complement ... deliberate, complex, contained and kind.
Cree Rivera.
One of Cree Rivera's paintings
Rivera and Vangieri are #44 on the HWY 62 Art Tour, showing the second weekend, October 30th and 31st. This is their first time on the tours; in fact, their works have only ever shown during an annual art auction fundraiser they host. The gourds, which are offered from $5 to $300, have generated a lot of funds for the Humane Society. Visitors to their hi desert perch will want to add their name to the guest list for Joan & Cree’s Holiday Fundraiser.

written by Mike Lipsitz

Monday, October 4, 2010

Perry Hoffman and Mayah Martin

One wall in the Tile House.
Perry Hoffman

An early morning drive east into the rising sun led me to the Tile House in Wonder Valley and the wizard of “AHHHHH’s”, Perry Hoffman.   Perry Hoffman is number 2 on the Hwy 62 Art Tours.  You will find Wonder Valley a perfect starting place for your first weekend of art adventures.  From the entry chain link fence adorned with desert finds,  past the trail of broken pottery and tile,  and through the multicolored gate,  visual stimulation never stops in this eclectic studio/home/retreat.  A work in progress, The Tile House is a never ending story that Perry and his husband, Doug Smith, keep adorning, augmenting, and embellishing.
A mosaic artist, Perry began his art directions in 1st grade with a crayon drawing of a female nude  and after getting in trouble for this he never looked back and has been exploring artistic directions ever since.  A student at Cal Arts in the 70’s, he and fellow classmates created a graffiti wall in the dormitory which resulted in admonishment from the administration ~ today Cal Arts has an entire wing dedicated to the art of graffiti.

Living part time in Santa Barbara and part time in Wonder Valley, Hoffman has established a well worn path of inspiration and draws on the wonder of nature from the desert to the sea.  He collects Mexican hand made tiles, smalti (Italian small tile), broken pottery, ceramic figures  and other “treasures” at yard sales, thrift stores, the beach, and desert back roads.  From these finds he creates mosaic shrines and wall art that also incorporate his own handmade ceramic tiles and sculptural pieces.  Each work draws from daily meditation and then without the hindrance of sketches or plans he allows the pieces at hand to influence his designs.

When he is not creating he is teaching (two or three times a year Perry gives Mosaic Workshops in Wonder Valley and Santa Barbara) or learning (he recently returned from a trip to Utila, Honduras where he studied  glass fusion under Neil Keller of Jade Seahorse).  Glowing from a recent 1st place garnered at “Lantination” , a show at the Metro Galleries in Bakersfield,  Perry Hoffman  feels that he is the recipient of an incredible amount of good fortune and takes this as a constant reminder that he is going in the right direction.  This is his 9th year on the HWY62 ART  TOURS and this year he shares his space with fellow mosaic artist and sculptor Mayah Martin.
Perry Hoffman. Paper weights.

Mayah Martin moved to the desert from Maine where she was a rustic furniture craftsman.  Trained at the Omega Institute by Daniel Mack, she used birch bark, bent willow and other materials culled from nature to repurpose antique furniture.  After moving to the desert she began working at The Pottery in Yucca Valley and turned her focus to ceramics. An attendee at one of  Perry Hoffman’s mosaic workshops she then began incorporating tile into her work.
Mayah Martin, At Prayers
Mayah Martin inspecting greenware.
Inspired by her spiritual path Mayah’s pieces are all deity related, drawing from all religions.  In shrines, mosaics, incense burners, and small sculptures her attention to detail is evident in the faces of the deities and the placement of the tile.   She works on several pieces at a time, and surrounds herself in a circle of  work;  mosaic, sculpture, or combinations of both.  She enjoys the fun of working in clay and likens it to sandbox therapy.   Mayah has had shows at the Glass Outhouse Gallery in Wonder Valley and at Crossroads in Joshua Tree.  This year, her third on the Art Tours, she will show  the first weekend with Perry Hoffman and the second weekend  at the  studio of Eric Muller in Pioneer Town (number 57).

 written by Mita Barter