Monday, February 23, 2009

everything is being restored

That may or may not make me Calvinist.
I don't think the welder will make it, but the saw is now fixed and the plasma torch is being repaired by a professional. With any luck, I'll be back in business by Friday.
This invite came in the mail from The Upstairs Artspace and it's the coolest gallery invitation I've ever seen. I put it here for your if your computer will allow you to click on it, make sure you read it.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

everything is broken

Tig Welder,
Cold Cut Saw,
Plasma Torch.

The new idea goes nowhere until the plasma torch is fixed.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I'll scratch your back, you stab mine

Frequently emails come in to the Department of Fine Arts at Winthrop from public entities. These emails are distributed to the Fine Arts faculty as urgent pleas for artistic help. It could be a school or group seeking volunteer teaching help for an art session or camp. It could be a public assistance facility seeking someone to donate a mural. It could be a group seeking art donations for a charity auction. Sometimes the teacher/artists are asked to volunteer their time and talents, and sometimes the public entity asks for student volunteers. The idea is that students will work for free and that the professor will find a way to modify his/her functional curriculum in order to allow the students to receive class credit and assessment for their free work.

In my years at Winthrop I’ve witnessed the Fine Arts Faculty bend over backwards to help in some way each time they have been asked. Not only have they donated, volunteered, and sweated upon request; they’ve also organized and executed their own charitable ideas. The Department of Fine Arts planned and held a canned food drive in December for the needy. This entire academic year has been organized under the theme of raising awareness of the plight of the homeless and the 21st Annual Juried Undergraduate Exhibition scheduled for April requires all entries to address the idea of “Voices of Homelessness”.

The University also has a history of using Public Art to not only highlight student and professional artists, but also to beautify and benefit the surrounding community. Several Public Art Projects on campus have been placed in high profile areas to deliberately offer views to the public as they walk, jog, and drive near the campus. The tall chairs (or “Sweet Dreams”) on the front campus lawn adjacent to Oakland Avenue offer one such Public Art experience….and one that is personally important to me, since I know the artist and he’s a nice guy.
One of the reasons Public Art became a regular feature to the Winthrop campus is the addition of Shaun Cassidy to the University faculty in the fall of 1999. Shaun was an accomplished sculptor who specialized in large scale sculpture and Public Art projects. It was Shaun and Tom Stanley who began the Public Arts Initiative at the school in order to create a way for student art to be exhibited outside of the traditional campus galleries and to be made available to a wider viewing audience. In recent years Cassidy and Stanley have joined their personal creative forces to create Public Art projects in cities and counties in North and South Carolina offering proof of their dedication to bringing beauty and enjoyment to the taxpaying public.

The City of Rock Hill, home of Winthrop University, recently worked to beautify a very public eyesore in the Water Treatment plant on one of the busiest roads in town. As a part of that project it was proposed that they would spend $250,000 on a water fountain feature but eventually that plan was scaled back. It was later proposed that the city keep $200,000 of that planned beautification spending and offer a substantially lesser sum of $50,000 to Winthrop’s Department of Fine Arts in return for the completion of a student Public Art project to be completed this summer. This project would be planned, created, and installed by sculpture students with the help of Shaun Cassidy and Tom Stanley. In return the Department of Fine Arts would take a significant step in trying to recover a small portion of the funding they’ve lost this academic year as a result of Public Education Budget cuts from Columbia. These cuts have forced the department to trim part time faculty members, eliminate classes, and scramble to find new ways to raise the money they need to maintain the high level of standards Winthrop has always had for their students. This money would cover the materials and expenses related to the Water Treatment project and any excess funds would go directly into the department budget – a budget that will likely see more reductions in the coming months.
The approval of this plan earlier this month was met with public scorn. Taxpayers questioned the spending of $50,000 on Public Art at a time when South Carolina is in a financial crisis. So much opposition came so quickly that within five days of the original approval vote, the City Council decided to suspend using money from the Hospitality tax (a tax set aside specifically for “tourism related upgrades” to the city) and will instead see if they can get groups and individuals to donate the funds needed to complete the project. This would allow the public and the city to receive a Public Art installation without actually spending any money. Free art. A formal vote to officially suspend using public money for this project will take place on February 23.

Though I have some very strong opinions about public art and this project in particular, I have worked hard to eliminate my opinions from this entry. I have presented factual information received first hand from Department emails over the last six years and from the Rock Hill newspaper. I am aware that our country is waist-deep in a recession. I am aware that public officials are somewhat infamous for misusing taxpayer funds. Yet I am also aware that artists are among those suffering in these economically troubled times. For the first time in seven years, I sold absolutely no artwork last year. And yet several times last year I was asked to give away my time and my artwork for free. How is this not a faux pas? Would you be embarrassed to ask your dentist to donate his efforts on your root canal for free? I mean, that’s a beautification project, right? What about your local City Council or School Board. Perhaps each member could be asked to donate their salary this year or even this month and work for free….for the good of the public. Exactly. So why would you expect an artist to work for free?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

"I Just Worry So"
10" x 10"
ink & graphite on paper

Saturday, February 14, 2009

I'm OK.

I'm not superstitious.

So when the thirteenth day of the month happens to fall on a Friday my life is typically unaffected. I do not tiptoe through the day apprehensive or looking around with extra sensitive eyes for potential dangers. It's just a Friday and Friday's are usually pretty good.

This past Friday was also a 13th and though I had already been alerted to this fact a couple of days earlier, as I was driving to work around 5am it was not one of the things on my mind.

That is until the black cat streaked across the asphalt right in front of me.

No really. Black furry blur, brakes, adrenaline.

But again, I'm not superstitious. Any other day it's just a cat who needed to cross the street. But I'll admit the black cat coupled with Friday the 13th did catch my attention. I may or may not have been a little more careful driving the rest of the day. I may or may not have looked over my shoulder once or twice. I may or may not have avoided ladders and mirrors and cracks in the sidewalk.

And I may or may not have waited until the following day to mention it to you. You know, just to be safe.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Two Posts, One Stone

Part One:

Exhibiting in Winthrop University galleries February 9 – March 26 is a very impressive collection of objects created by Alfred Ward, Artist and Professor Emeritus of Winthrop University. Alf, as he is known around campus, specializes in Jewelry and Metals and has created work for Spink & Sons in London and for Her Majesty the Queen and has produced pieces for The Royal Air Force and The Royal Family of Saudi Arabia. And while these may be great reasons to be impressed with Mr. Ward, the more you get to know him, the more impressive he gets.

Alf was a child in England during the German bombing raids of World War II. He is a gifted writer and storyteller and when he shares specific stories of downed planes and mad dashes to the bomb shelter the listener or reader is riveted, hanging on every single elegantly accented word that sprints from his lips. He served as Chair of the Department of Art & Design at Winthrop during the time I was in undergraduate school and I looked forward to any opportunity to meet with him to discuss my schedule (pronounced “shed-jewel”). Having retired from Winthrop a couple of years ago, Alf can now be found each spring wearing an awesome hat and massaging a cool white Fender Stratocaster as part of a great blues combo performing at the WUG Spring Gallery Reception.

Alf is, without question, the coolest man you’ll ever meet. He is as smooth, polished, and exquisite as the priceless objects of art he has on display. What I’m saying is: If I were a teenage girl, I would totally have posters of Alf Ward taped to the walls of my room.

March 5 at 8:00pm Mr. Ward will be speaking in the Rutledge Auditorium about this exhibition of fashion oriented objects. You would be foolish to miss this opportunity to hear him speak.

Part Two:

Last Friday was the Opening Reception for the Winter Exhibition at Winthrop University Galleries. Other exhibits on display showcase the work of Anne Lemanski with an exhibit titled “Interlaced”, an exhibition of student work from the “craft” side of art titled “The Function of Art”, and the MFA student works in progress exhibition. I’ve previewed these exhibits and am very excited about having this work on display for the next couple of months. I like to be present for as many of the Openings as possible on campus and this is one for which I was certainly willing to make the drive.

But I had a prior commitment.

While elbows were being rubbed and wine was being sipped and art was being appreciated, I spent my evening building towers out of brightly colored blocks and reading the classics. That is, if you consider Dr. Seuss books the classics…….and I do.

After dinner my 2 year old persistently asked if we could “play blocks” until I followed him to the wide open space of carpet. With a wide smile he deposited two large boxes of blocks on the floor with a crash of plastic. For the next hour while using part English and part gibberish he instructed me on the finer points of toddler architecture. I learned that this blue piece does not, in fact, belong there at all….it goes here instead. I learned (or was reminded) that there’s no such thing as gravity. I learned that imagination and creativity doesn’t always need to be lectured on the importance of a wide, sturdy base in order to yield a very tall impressive tower. And I learned that the best thing about building a tower taller than daddy is watching the tower slowly collapse and scatter color all over the floor.

Then we read books. Lots of books. We read the small cardboard books and the large hardback books. We read books filled with visual candy and books with beautiful word rhythms. We also read terrible books. Books with computer generated images having all the originality of a bar code. We read books written so horribly that you would have to read sentences twice thinking you’d left out a word or mixed up the order, only to find that sadly, that was exactly what was written.

Here’s where I’d like to say that if you try your hand at writing novels or poetry and you just don’t quite measure up that does NOT mean you should try writing children’s books. Apparently some writers feel that there is something of a lower standard of talent required if your book is illustrated or sold in the section of the bookstore that also hosts story time with a large costumed character. If anything, I believe that writers of children’s literature should be the most talented writers out there. My child is experiencing the mashing together of sounds, words, and meaning in a way that will likely stick with him for the rest of his life and frankly, I don’t want him reading what was left at the bottom of the barrel.
I could apply this argument to varying genres of art including so called “Christian Art” but luckily I’ve played with enough blocks and read enough Dr. Seuss to be in a good mood.

Two days removed from the reading of many books and completely out of the blue, the young one was strapped in his car seat and rambling on about the full moon rising outside his window. The next thing I heard was “…not with a fox, not in a box…..not in a boat, not with a goat…” I was so proud.

Sunday, February 1, 2009


I know I'm supposed to like the Panthers since I live just an hour away from their stadium, but my father had the good sense to raise his sons to be Steelers fans. My first jersey was a Terry Bradshaw number 12 and when I was wearing it in elementary school there was only one other Steeler fan in my school.
My cool brother and I have been able to visit the stadium in Charlotte a few times, but only when the Steelers are in town. I took the photo above on our last visit there during the 2006 regular season and the Steelers won. Tonight they won the Super Bowl. Again.

In less than 2 weeks pitchers and catchers report to spring training. Now if only my Cubs could put together a championship season.

If you came here to read about bad. I'll do better next time.