Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Annie Fraser @ Hamilton Artists Inc I

Carbon Copies: Private Spaces by Annie Fraser, 2011; Photo Credit: Karen Thiessen 2012
Annie Fraser, a 2012 fine arts graduate from McMaster University, is an emerging artist to watch. She has ten art works in Re:Structures, a group show at the Hamilton Artists Inc artist run centre and they are spellbinding. Carbon Copies: Private Spaces, an assemblage using an old card catalogue, building materials, beeswax and dollhouse furniture dominates the space. Those golden house-shaped units in the drawers are made of beeswax, not cheese. Each of the eleven open drawers is a self-contained environment that invites the viewer to look closely. What is in the two closed drawers is a mystery. Mystery is good: it cultivates intrigue.
Carbon Copies: Private Spaces by Annie Fraser, 2011; Photo Credit: Karen Thiessen 2012
Annie has a finely-tuned sensitivity to materials and space. Eight pieces in the show are ethereal wall-based assemblages that cast gorgeous shadows. All but two are made of four basic materials: metal, paper, fabric, and thread.
Catalytic by Annie Fraser, 2012; Photo Credit: Karen Thiessen 2012
Catalytic by Annie Fraser, 2012; Photo Credit: Karen Thiessen 2012
Home and change are the themes for the work. Annie takes old photographs, enlarges them, excises them from their backgrounds, and then places them in new contexts. In doing so she is writing new narratives, reimagining history.
Heavy Lie-In by Annie Fraser, 2012; Photo Credit: Karen Thiessen 2012
Lie By Myself, Lie To Myself by Annie Fraser, 2012; Photo Credit: Karen Thiessen 2012
Annie Fraser's work is best seen in person. Photographs simply can't capture the subtleties of the work and the shadows as the viewer moves past the pieces. Re:Structures is on at the Hamilton Artists Inc from June 29 to August 5, 2012. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Quotes: Seek

"I do not seek, I find." – Pablo Picasso, Spanish artist


"The true worth of an experimenter consists in his pursuing not only what he seeks, but also what he did not seek." – Claude Bernard, French physiologist


"The new life needs to be inspired with the realization that the new advantages were gained through great gropes in the dark by unknown, unsung intellectual explorers." – Buckminster Fuller, American author and inventor

Friday, July 27, 2012

Week 28: Adobe Illustrator

Flowers for Planet Mars © Karen Thiessen 2012
Completing Flowers for Planet Mars is a breakthrough in my Adobe Illustrator practice. I started making the "flower" units in April and made three times more than I was able to use. Several times I opened the file, played with it a bit, then left it to incubate. The distribution of the units is loose-- there are gaps to let the design breathe. With this many units, the design definitely needs breathing room. Summer is the perfect time to tackle UFOs.*


UFOs = UnFinished Objects (not spaceships from Planet Mars!)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Colleen O'Reilly: Garden spirits





Colleen O'Reilly's installation of ceramic Garden Spirits totems grace the Burlington Art Centre's newly redesigned courtyard. The courtyard, designed by the Landscape architecture and design practice Sefarian Design Group, is only a year old, so it will take time for the plants to fill in and the concrete to weather to a warmer patina so that the space doesn't look so stark. Colleen's colourful sculptures enliven the space. In a previous life, she made the usual bowls and plates and other homewares in her signature spunky style. Mila Mulroney, spouse of former PM Brian Mulroney, purchased a set when her hubby was running the country. About seven years ago Colleen started making garden totems. What's cool is that the ceramic units stack over a metal spine and the units can be rearranged according to whim. Garden spirits, curated by Jonathan Smith, is on from June 9 to September 23, 2012 at the Burlington Art Centre.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Studio series: Inuksuk

Today's studio series is brought to you by my teenaged nephew TCT. Like his dad, TCT gives excellent gifts. A few years ago my dad and my nephew had a good thing going. Dad would collect rocks from hedgerows on the farm and TCT would make inuksuit. My nephew has an innate sense of balance and rhythm and his inuksuit were popular at fund-raising auctions, often the subject of fierce bidding. TCT has moved on to other hobbies, so I'm glad that I at least have this small inuksuk to mark my garden.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Postcards: Ying-Yueh Chuang & Yi Chen

Ying-Yueh Chuang and I were at NSCAD and Harbourfront together, she in ceramics and I in textiles. Like me, Ying-Yueh is a night owl and she kept the strangest hours in the Harbourfront ceramics studio. Obviously the fairies and elves worked overtime with her, because she produced an impressive body of work. One thing that continues to fascinate me is that she creates a lot of her exquisite work in modules that she either joins or exhibits together. This postcard is from a two-person show, The Hybrid, (with Chinese/Canadian artist Yi Chen) at Plum Blossoms Gallery in New York City in 2004.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Quotes: Mead

"Change and risk-taking are normal aspects of the creative process. They are the lubricants that keep the wheels in motion. A creative act is not necessarily something that has never been done; it is something your haven't done before." – Margaret Mead, American cultural anthropologist

Friday, July 20, 2012

Week 27: Adobe Illustrator

Lounge lime aloha © Karen Thiessen 2012
Lounge lime aloha continues the summer theme of revisiting old patterns to keep my Adobe Illustrator mojo working. Move over Arcade Fire, Lounge lime aloha could be the name of the next big musical group. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Gareth Lichty @ TH&B2

Gareth Lichty Hamper; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2012
Continuing the gone but not forgotten theme, Gareth Lichty was another guest artist invited to exhibit in TH&B2 at 270 Sherman in Hamilton, Ontario. Like Janet Morton's emissions/omissions, Lichty's Hamper was another of my favourite pieces. Hamper enlivened the industrial space with its cheerful volume.
Gareth Lichty Hamper; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2012
Get a load of the texture: I was seriously tempted to hop onto the surface and lay down on what I imagine would be a friendly bed of nails. 


The statement in the brochure states: "Gareth Lichty presents Hamper, an investigation into the constant renewal of industrial and commercial spaces. Hamper is made up of a single cylinder of a continually rolled safety orange-coloured construction fence. The sculpture, if unrolled flat, would cover the total surface area of a football field, but could also be used to create a fence 7 kilometres long..."

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Janet Morton @ TH&B2

Janet Morton emissions/omissions; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2012
The TH&B2 show at 270 Sherman in Hamilton, Ontario is gone but not forgotten. Janet Morton, a guest artist invited by the TH&B collective, created emissions/omissions for the exhibit. In her statement she wrote: "Growing up in the 70's, wearing a "Give a Hoot, Don't pollute" t-shirt and living across the bay from Hamilton, Stelco and Dofasco filled both the skyline and my imagination in dark menacing ways. This factory piece is [a] wrestling match where all of my thoughts of dystopia have been omitted, surrendered." Yup, that's the prettiest factory and smoke plume that I've ever seen.
Janet Morton emissions/omissions; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2012
According to the exhibition brochure, emissions/omissions is made of reclaimed plastic flowers, marine plastic, lexan, liquid plastic, wood, beads, wire. I'm curious to know if the lace pieces that the factory is shaped from were once textile doilies that were hardened with liquid plastic, or if they were plastic to begin with. The lace is not on the materials list and I'm a curious person.
Janet Morton emissions/omissions; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2012
Morton's concept is solid. I appreciate how she used mostly synthetic man-made materials for her factory tableau. Also, I'm a sucker for textiles being used or represented in quirky ways. Morton's piece was one of my favourites. It brought a strong, yet feminine touch to a large industrial space and contrasted nicely with the other artworks in the exhibit.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Marla Panko: Meaning & Order

Marla Panko, Thursday Journal I-IX; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2012
Marla Panko: Meaning and Order, curated by George Wale, is up in the cosy Perry Gallery at the Burlington Art Centre till August 7, 2012. Marla is a painter and collage artist and I must confess that her collages resonate with me the most. She has a natural eye and feel for combining paint and materials to create compositions that sing.
Marla Panko, Thursday Journal VIII; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2012
Marla Panko, Thursday Journal III; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2012
The nine collages that make up Thursday Journal are my favourites.
Marla Panko, Thursday Journal IX; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2012
Marla Panko, Acrobats; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2012
Acrobats, a 7" X 12" diptych, is acrylic on panel. Marla has a way with dots. Looking at each image in this post I see a dot. Check it out for yourself (it's easier than finding Waldo).
Marla Panko, United Z, United X; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2012
United X and Z are mixed media reliefs that incorporate translucent materials. These pieces are best seen in person if you want to get the full effect of the layering. If you are in the Burlington area, do drop into the BAC and see Marla's work for yourself.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Quotes: Schweitzer

" I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve." – Albert Schweitzer, German-born physician and humanitarian

Friday, July 13, 2012

Week 26: Adobe Illustrator

Lounge Carnival © Karen Thiessen 2012
Number five of Bruce Mau's  Incomplete Manifesto for Growth tells us to "Go deep." This summer I'm keeping the love for Adobe Illustrator alive by revisiting many of my favourite patterns and going deep. I'm using newly learned techniques to play with scale and different colour ways. A few changes here and there really alters the look and feel of the this lounge pattern.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Black cherries!

Black cherries; Photo credit © Karen Thiessen 2012
Black cherries; Photo credit © Karen Thiessen 2012
Black cherries are my favourite summer fruit. Niagara cherries are in season here in Ontario right now. This reminds me of a conversation about food seasons that my husband and I had the other day. He pointed out that some (many?) folks no longer know their local food seasons because we go to the grocery store where food is imported from all around the world, or is grown almost all year round in greenhouses. I confess that I eat imported foods like fresh spinach in winter and mangosteens, bananas, and the occasional orange, but in spring, summer, and autumn nothing tastes better than fresh local produce that was picked just the day before. Psst: plums, peaches and nectarines are the next fruit in season.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Studio Series: Radio Grille quilt

Radio Grille quilt ©Karen Thiessen 2012
Do you see the green squares with the somewhat oval-curlicue motifs? Those are screen-prints taken from the speaker grille from an old radio cabinet. The radio was long gone when I received the cabinet, but thankfully the grille was in perfect shape. The Radio Grille quilt is from the Tangents series that I wrote about previously. It features fabrics that I dyed and printed from my years at Sheridan and then Harbourfront, plus some commercial fabrics, both new and from clothing (I see my husband's swim shorts and work shirts in the quilt). Jacqueline Harris machine quilted the whole thing using the loop-de-loop pattern that I designed. Radio Grille is 82.5” W X 93” H or 210 cm X 236 cm.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

What do you see?

Lake with Swan; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen 2012
What do you see? Depending on your culture you'll either say a swan or a lake, a swan, and a reflection. Westerners will focus on the swan and apparently people raised in an Eastern culture will see the greater whole (lake, swan, reflection, ripples on the water). What do you see?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Quotes: Cocteau

"It is possible that progress might be nothing more than the development of an error." – Jean Cocteau, French artist

Friday, July 6, 2012

Week 25: Adobe Illustrator

S-curvy © Karen Thiessen 2012
When inspiration comes, grab it and run with it. The cover of Sergio De La Pava's novel A Naked Singularity is simple, yet stunning. I trolled the web, looking for the name of the book cover designer, but came up with nothing. S-curvy was among the first of many attempts to replicate the book cover design. Mine is different, but I'm fine with that. Once again, I bumped up against my limitations with the A.I. program. How to expand your knowledge? Learn what you do not know and then rectify that.


News alert! A kind reader informed me that Isaac Tobin designed the cover for A Naked Singularity. Thanks Levi!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Metamorphosis: The Fiber Art of Judith Scott


In January I wrote about finding Metamorphosis: The Fiber Art of Judith Scott by John M. MacGregor, on the Creative Growth website. I bought the book while vacationing in Arizona and thus saved paying the exorbitant UPS shipping costs to Canada. John M. MacGregor spins a good yarn about Judith Scott, her family, and her work. The writing is compelling and it's difficult to put the book down. Even if you don't read a word of MacGregor's text, Leon Borensztein's photographs will seduce you. Furthermore, if all you do is place this book on your coffee table, the book and cover design by Mark Coleman and Mark Jones will impress you. The best thing about this book is that it honours the life and brilliant and complex work of Judith Scott.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Studio Series: Tags

Tag Collection © Karen Thiessen 2012
Tags are on my mind a lot these days as I prepare for a solo show for 2013. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Edmund De Waal: The Hare with Amber Eyes


For five months Louise Penny kept me company with her brilliant Armand Gamache mysteries and just last week I finished her seventh novel. It was a sad day, knowing that I'd have to wait months for the eighth book to be published. There's nothing I like better than to dig into a juicy mystery on a long summer weekend. Edmund De Waal's The Hare with Amber Eyes saved my Canada Day holiday. The Hare with Amber Eyes is about memory, objects, family history, story-telling, and touch. I'm only a tenth of the way into the book and already I'm hooked. The Hare with Amber Eyes is a biography that reads like a mystery. Don't try reading this before bedtime: it's a compelling read, very hard to put down. 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Quotes: Habits

"We first make our habits, and then our habits make us." – John Dryden, English author


"The road to life is not wide and straight; it is steep and tricky, and those who only travel on sunny days will never reach their destination." – Old Buddhist saying