Mirth

In July, I was a resident at the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, Vermont. The artist and critic Stephen Westfall was visiting and at the conclusion of his talk, smiling, he offered one word: Mirth - an eloquent reminder of the pleasures and amusement of the creative process.

My assigned studio was next to two kilns. Years ago, I came across a small, 18th century Japanese polka dot ceramic bowl at the Brooklyn Museum. Its pattern had been created using a cut paper resist that burns out in the kiln. Wanting to experiment with this technique, I began my day by taking clay and pressing it around found logs and branches to create forms. For burnout material, I clipped leafy branches from a nearby tree.
Janis Stemmermann, 2014, Clay & Logs
Looking for a quick way to push the foliage into thick slabs of clay, I channeled some of my favorite art-making notes. Like the artist Jackie Winsor dragging her sculptures over the cobblestone streets of Soho with her truck in the 1970s for a distressed finish. Or the "big woodcut" class I keep hearing about, where large sheets of plywood are carved and printed with a steamroller. My Volvo station wagon would have to suffice. Out in the parking lot, I ran the front tires back and forth over a twenty-pound lump of clay and tangled greenery, flattening and fusing - feeling like a housewife gone awry. Slumping the results over stacked cross sections of tree trunk, as it dried parts would crack, falling away. Black glaze brushed on, into the kiln, burning and smoking. Out of the kiln and still intact: mirth.
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Things To Do Calendar

Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs
October 12th - February 8th, 2015

Recovering from a cancer operation at the age of 72, Matisse traded his paintbrush for scissors. Cutting shapes from painted sheets prepared by his assistants, compositions were mounted on the walls of the room where he slept, considered and reconfigured over many months.
Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs, Museum of Modern Art, New York
Imagine Science Film Festival
October 17th–24th, 2014

Melanie Hoff, 2014, 15,000 Volts (video)
An exciting week of films presenting scientific fact in compelling visual narratives. A discussion where art and science collide, featuring experimental, animated, visual data, documentary and fiction films.
Imagine Film Festival, Google New York & other venues
Collage Workshop at Russell Janis
November 8th & 9th

In 1912, Georges Braque's simple, daring move of cutting shapes from wood grain pattern wallpaper, gluing them to a charcoal drawing began a new paradigm of visual thinking that defines so much modern and contemporary art. Today "newness" is born by remixing ideas, images, materials to create fresh visual meaning. Come join us for our second collage workshop at the Russell Janis Salon.
For more information and to sign up, click here.
Salon Russell Janis, Williamsburg, Brooklyn