Exhibit opening Oct. 26, Final Friday, at Do’s Deluxe

Detail of

The Deer of Mesa Verde

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please join me for an exhibit opening reception!

I’ve been working hard since I wrote my last blog entry called Beginnings, about the early stages of my creative process and about several new pieces that I was just getting started on. And now that work is complete! I would love for you to see it, the endings, the finished work, and more than just the “details” that I’m showing here, at my exhibit at Do’s Deluxe:

 

Better Angels, a Deer, and a Boat
Collages, mosaics and scratchboard by Lora Jost
Opening Reception on “Final Friday,” October 26, 2012, 6 – 8 pm
At Do’s Deluxe, 416 E. 9th St., Lawrence, KS
Runs Oct. 23 – Nov. 23, 2012,  T-F 11 am -6 pm; Sat 10 am -1 pm

(also see Better angels, a deer, and a boat)

 

Detail of Microburst

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Process detail of Blue Moon

 

 

Beginnings

I wish I had a new art piece to post every day or even every week.  But making art is not an instant process. So instead of showing pictures of new work, in this blog I’ll tell you about my current work as it is unfolding right now in my studio.

 

Here is the start of a new piece: plywood. I just painted a sealer on it. Beginnings are hard, even just that much. I like to avoid beginnings. Instead I make lists, do errands, clean my studio, surf the web. But the drudgery and uncertainty I like to avoid in the beginning is no less a part of the creative process. So I begin. Choreographer Twyla Tharp writes, “If you’re at a dead end, take a deep breath, stamp your foot, and shout “Begin!”

 

I have a vision of what this piece will be in my mind, and I selected some green cloth from my trove to cover the wood. I envision this piece as a collage with a light green background, a landscape that is barren and shiny with textures made of cloth and gold thread. Small painted silhouettes of mule deer dot the scene, some hiding behind shrubs. The deer are painted and lacquered, black and white, positive and negative, present and absent.  I won’t be able to fully translate these ideas into a tangible form.  There is an airiness and movement to the piece in my mind that I’ll never achieve in a collage. I enjoy what my college design professor called this kind of beginning, this intention that would inevitably turn into something else: a point of departure.

 

While the image in my mind feels like the beginning of the piece, my mind started working on it long before I ever thought of making it.  So where did this idea — these appearing and disappearing mule deer — come from?  The deer came from Mesa Verde National Park, where my family and I camped for two days this summer.  We were excited to see deer off to the side of the camp road on our first day there.  Later we saw deer a couple of times more, clusters of three or six.  On our second day there I stayed at our campsite for most of the day.  I sat quietly and sketched.  A buck wandered through our tent’s back yard. He didn’t see me at first.  When he did, he froze.  And when I turned to leave, he left too.  Later I opened my mind and my peripheral vision to the whole scene, the whole campground, as I wandered through it towards the camp store looking for a cup of tea. I noticed that there were deer all over the grounds.  When I became aware of the whole, I felt the slow churning of the place; mule deer wandering everywhere, some in the open and others hiding, slow motion, looking, watching.

 

A week later back in Lawrence I put a bit of that experience into my Sketchbook Project sketchbook.  I remembered my family and the other campers at Mesa Verde watching the deer and photographing them, and the deer watching us back. Earlier this summer I also saw a deer that struck me, a lone deer running through my Lawrence neighborhood, confused. I made a collage about that experience, too.  But unlike the deer in Lawrence, in Mesa Verde the campers  were in the deer’s neighborhood and not the other way around. Or that’s how it seemed.

 

I have other pieces in the works in my studio that are at various stages of completion. One is a mosaic that lies on a table, ready to grout. I like taking pictures of my mosaics just after I’ve completed tiling them and just before grouting, with bits of broken dishes all around and my trusty red-handled tile nipper to the side.  It is a familiar scene and I like the way the shards fall, a chance arrangement like wind shaping sand dunes.

 

 

 

And there’s more.  Here’s another page from my Sketchbook Project sketchbook. I have been pasting newspaper clippings into my book as the news unfolds, with stories that strike me as significant in some way. Along with the clippings, I am creating relationships between spreads by drawing pictures of a paper boat in each, from different angles and perspectives. Drawing over the news becomes a response to it. This two-page spread includes a clipping about the mass shooting that occurred in Colorado this summer.   I drew the boat at around midnight one night when I couldn’t sleep.  The shooting in Colorado was horrifying and senseless.  And yet to make sense of it I had to think about guns. Why must we have them?  And so many? And yet so many think we must.  [A second horrific shooting occurred this summer in Wisconsin a couple of weeks later.]

 

Here is another piece in progress.  This is a background that I made to accompany my planned foreground, a wind chime caught in a violent gust.  And yet the background doesn’t seem quite right for the foreground, nor does my plan for how to make the chime seem right anymore. So I don’t know what I’ll do to make it right.  But I like the idea of it; a beautiful object transformed by the weather into something that is clanking like a warning bell. It accords with  themes I’m exploring for my upcoming exhibit at Do’s Deluxe.

 

 

 

More projects: My sister-in-law mailed a set of broken dishes to me; toy dishes sent from a relative to her for my niece, which crashed to the floor in a freak accident.  Could I make a mosaic with them?  I have some ideas and sketchbook scribbles.  And what else? I’ll make an illustration for a book of limericks for my college alma mater come November, focus on mosaics come spring, and soon teach a class on “field sketching” at the Lawrence Arts Center if I get enough enrollment.

 

What else? The mule deer piece is currently in idea form and I’ll soon start putting the pieces together to turn that idea into a collage.  But I also have a work in progress that is on the verge of being an idea, another scratchboard piece in a small series about our “better angels.” I don’t know what the next piece will look like yet, but I have been visited by those angels in my sketchbook, so I suspect that a more tangible idea is soon to follow. But what comes before something is even almost an idea? Maybe experiences? I have experiences in the hopper too from the summer, captured in photos and journal-writing. There had been fires at Mesa Verde, and I was struck by the other-worldliness of the burned landscape against the sky. All of the barren landscapes that we drove through this summer, in Arizona, Utah and Wyoming, were hauntingly beautiful.  We saw other fires too, active ones exacerbated by the drought, and the drought exacerbated by global warming.

 

There was a little bird at Mesa Verde that made quite an impression. It hopped around looking for bugs, shuffling the leaves with such gusto that it made quite a racket.  At first I thought there was one bird doing this but I realized that it was a kind of bird and there were many. But I never saw more than one at a time. The bird had a dark head and tail feathers, tan on its sides, a white belly and speckled back.  What was it — that earnest little bird?

 

 

 

Having new experiences, like seeing different  birds or unfamiliar landscapes, makes creative work seem possible. Spending too much time in my studio makes me feel dull. And bored. And lonely. Getting out helps. But when travel isn’t possible (and it isn’t much of the time), I read. I just finished reading a book called Biggest Elvis.  My brother recommended it. When I asked him what it was about he said, “It’s complicated.” The book is about three Elvis impersonators in the Philippines who work at a club where bar girls service in every way imaginable, servicemen affiliated with a nearby US Naval base.  I took Biggest Elvis on vacation and it was good company because it provided images of beauty and desolation at the same time I was experiencing a similar contrast of beauty and desolation through the car window. The book raised moral questions about the characters it portrayed.  But in the end they were almost too complex to judge.  And that’s what struck me the most about this book. Biggest Elvis was about US imperialism, too, but again the portrayals were not simplistic.

 

I’m throwing Biggest Elvis out there as an example of one of many small but notable experiences to draw on in my work.  I don’t know if I’ll ever draw on it in any kind of direct or meaningful way.  But as Corita Kent and Jan Steward put it in their book Learning by Heart, “Everything  is a source.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Art Lives!” / “This Green Space” / a mosaic

I’ve been having a lot of fun in my studio lately and I thought I would share some of my ideas, unfinished work, and creative process.  I’m working on a mosaic commission as well as several pieces for two group shows in March.

 

Art Lives!

This is the start of a collaborative piece that I am working on with Erika Nelson for "Art Lives!"

“Art Lives!” is a statewide collaborative project pairing women artists  to work together to make art about the theme art lives. The project was conceived by Rachel Epp Buller, an artist and professor at Bethel College in N. Newton, Kansas, as a response to the condition of arts funding in Kansas; Governor Sam Brownback vetoed funding for the Kansas Arts Commission making Kansas the only state without an arts agency.

 

I am working in my studio on a collaborative piece for "Art Lives!"

I am working on a couple of pieces for this exhibit.  I am most excited to be working collaboratively with artist Erika Nelson of Lucas, Kansas, known for her “Worlds largest collection of the world’s smallest versions of the world’s largest things.”  I still haven’t met Erika in person, but I have enjoyed talking with her on the phone and through Facebook and email.  We’ve decided to begin two collaborative pieces, one that is “political” about the state of the arts in Kansas, and one focused more loosely on the theme art lives.  We are passing the two pieces back and forth in the mail, and by now have each had a chance to add to what the other has done.  It’s a fun process and we’re thinking of it as a dialogue.

 

This is the first layer of the piece that I am making for "Art Lives!" I will be layering ink and other media on clayboard and then scraping back into it with a scratchboard knife.

I am also beginning to work on a piece of my own for this exhibit.  I am imagining art lives as a depiction of a theatrical scene with dancers and actors springing forth and even flying through the space.  I’m imagining this “play” as including subtle references to the Occupy  movement because that movement has highlighted how publicly-funded programs like the Kansas Arts Commission are being taken over by wealthy corporate interests. I am excited to try a more  process-oriented approach with this piece, so the final product might be very different from my first thoughts.

                              

 

The exhibit “Art Lives!” will be on display at City Arts in Wichita, Kansas, from March 28 – April 21, 2012, with a Final Friday reception on March 30.

 

“This Green Space”

Call for entries

I am also planning a piece for an exhibit called “This Green Space” at the Percolator in Lawrence, Kansas. For this exhibit artists are invited to share their visions for imagining and re-imagining the green space at the corner of 9th and New Hampshire in Lawrence, a space that may become a large hotel — just across the alley from the Percolator.  Alternately, artists are invited to exhibit work that tells the story of how they have re-imagined “green spaces” of their own.

 

The green space that I am imagining at 9th and New Hampshire is a fantasy playground.  What I hope to convey in my finished scratchboard piece is a feeling of joy and play, focused on the needs and interests of children. I have quickly sketched out some ideas, made a more detailed plan, and am now in the process of rendering the piece in scratchboard.

 

“This Green Space” will be on exhibit March 3 – 25, 2012, at the Lawrence Percolator, and will be open for a reception during the March “Final Friday” event.

 

Mosaic commission

Mosaic in process

And as I move forward with the above new projects, I am also in the process of finishing a mosaic commission that I have been working on since December with a tree-theme.

New Mosaics at the Strecker-Nelson Gallery in Manhattan, KS

Here are two new mosaics that I made, that will be on display and are for sale at the Strecker-Nelson Gallery in Manhattan, Kansas, from early November through December, 2011.

 

Each Mosaic, Winter Tree and From the Dark, includes many hours of work. I first created the basic concept and design for each, and then shaped the ceramic pieces to fit where I wanted them to go. The images change as I proceed, and I design each piece anew as each element is placed and new relationships are formed. I find the process to be a bit like putting together a puzzle that evolves as the creative process unfolds.

 

I made both mosaics from ceramic dishes that I found over time, mostly from thrift stores. Sometimes friends give me the remains of beloved dishes that were dropped or met some other dark fate, and I incorporate these, too. I stockpile dishes of particular colors that inspire me or that I know I’ll need eventually, especially black and white.

 

Each piece was inspired in part by the impending winter.  I wanted to create a stark winter beauty in the piece Winter Tree.  I have been thinking about the arch that appears in this piece for a long time.  It is a personal symbol for everything that is here within, a bit like a rainbow but matter of fact and without the emotion.  The other mosaic, From the Dark, is about illumination — the light that carries one through the dark — a dark winter or a dark time. The carrier of the light in this piece for me connotes fragility, yet the medium renders these papers boats rather solid.  The boats were interesting shapes for me to work with.

 

The Strecker-Nelson Gallery is located at 406 1/2 Poyntz Avenue, Manahattan, KS.  Hours are Monday – Saturday, 10 am – 6 pm. Phone the gallery at 785-537-2099.

Commission Accomplished

 I’m pleased to have recently finished this commissioned mosaic. The theme is prairie grasses, and the piece is 12″ x 12″. I used recovered dishes and pottery to make the piece. When I make mosaics, I use a tile nipper to shape the ceramic pieces to fit, then glue them to a plywood backing before applying the grout.

Grout is Good: When Commissions Come Together

Occasionally I get the chance to create a piece of art that is commissioned for a particular purpose or occasion.

 

Once I made a collage time-line of sorts for a client who gave me important photos, memorabilia, and documents from his life to incorporate.  It was scary working with such precious things, among them a copy of his birth certificate, weathered and encased in fragments of plastic. He was someone I didn’t know and he didn’t want to influence my design or working process at all — total trust. And that was nerve-wracking. Would he like it? In the end I think he did, or at least he said he did.

 

Once a friend commissioned a piece of art for her wedding; two nesting doves portrayed in scratchboard. The original black and white image was reproduced in purple for the wedding invitations, programs, and t-shirts. Ten years later my friend’s parents commissioned another piece, now for my friend’s tenth anniversary. I used mixed-media collage for this one, again in purple. And now the doves have kids.

 

Today I am in the process of making a small commissioned piece in mosaic. The design phase is over, and for me that’s the hardest part of the creative process and also the most satisfying. The finished piece will be a gift commemorating new beginnings in a story that only my client could tell. I’ve enjoyed gathering some of the details of the lives that this piece will honor. I’ve worked alongside my client to find the right symbol and design: blowing prairie grasses. I am using broken shards of recycled dishes to make the mosaic. In addition, I’m incorporating small pieces of colored glass, special to my client who picked them up around her farm. I’ll know whether or not the mosaic will come together as a whole only after I grout it and it dries. Grout is the unifier. Grout is good.

Final Fridays art walk, July 29, 2011

Come join me for the Final Fridays “Art Party,” usually at Hobbs-Taylor Lofts, will be at a new location this month to beat the heat — 739 Massachusetts Street (Formerly Maurices) — in downtown Lawrence! I’ll be showing this new work:

 

 



 

Final Friday Events in Lawrence, March 25, 2011

Join me for the Final Friday festivities in Lawrence, KS, on March 25, 2011, from 5:30 – 9 pm.
I will show this new mosaic at the Lawrence Art Party,  at the Hobbs-Taylor Lofts on 8th and New Hampshire. I’ll be grouting this mosaic tomorrow, so wish me luck!

I’ll also be showing this new clayboard (also called scratchboard) piece at the Lawrence Art Party.

And finally, I made this new clayboard piece with colored ink, and it is only 5 inches square.  Come see it, and bid on it, at the Lawrence Arts Center’s annual art auction.  The opening is part of the Final Friday festivities on March 25.