A Talk by Davira Taragin: Contemporary Craft in Context

DOMA Contemporary Craft Gallery

DOMA Contemporary Craft Gallery

Thursday, November 13, Davira Taragin, the Owsley Museum’s consultative curator, gave a talk to the docents about the new contemporary craft gallery. The docents are volunteers of many backgrounds and ages who give public and private tours at the museum. Taragin’s talk put the contemporary craft gallery in context for the docents who will then be able to share this information with the public.

Taragin presented the history of the Studio Craft movement, saying that it thrived between the late 1950s to the late 1990s, but artists of diverse backgrounds still continue working with craft materials today. After WWII, many veterans used scholarships through the Servicemen’s Readjustment Bill to go to art school during the development of the studio craft movement. Studio craft uses traditional craft techniques, but in comparison to traditional craft, the aesthetic is more important than the function and bring crafts into the realm of fine art. Studio crafts were influenced by a number of art movements of the past, including abstract expressionism, minimalism, post-minimalism, light and space air, pattern and decoration, assemblage, and the imagists. The movement was also significantly influenced by the counter culture of the hippie movement. One of the points that Taragin stressed the most was that the artists of contemporary craft did not live in a vacuum, they were responding to the past and what was happening around them.

“Giants and some giants who haven’t been recognized” is what Taragin said about the artists featured in the contemporary craft gallery here at the David Owsley Museum of Art. The Owsley museum has artwork from some of the leaders in the studio craft movement, as well as work from many artists who have yet to be significantly recognized for their achievements.

Landscape, 1973 Dominick Labino

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(left: Landscape, 1973 by Dominick Labino, DOMA collection, right: factory glass)

Dominick Labino (1910-1987), along with Harvey Littleton, were the first to blow glass outside of a factory setting, bringing glass into the realm of fine art.

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(left: Plate, 1989 by Peter Voulkos, DOMA collection, right: Right Bird Left, 1965 by Lee Krasner, DOMA collection)

The Owsley Museum also has a Plate from Peter Voulkos (1924-2002), a revolutionary in ceramics. He started out as a potter and painter, but through his inspirations from abstract expressionist painters he began to manipulate the clay with expressive energy. Through leaders like Voulkos, ceramics broke out of the role of purely functional objects into an expressive fine art.

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(left: Pink and Black Moon Pot, 1980/1989 by Toshiko Takaezu, DOMA collection, right Orange, Red, Yellow, 1961 by Mark Rothko, ex. Color Field Painting)

The contemporary craft gallery displays a number of ceramic objects made by Toshiko Takeazu (1922-2011). She was greatly influenced by the color field painters of the 1940s and 50s. Her vessels, which she viewed as sculpture, are about the glaze on the surface of the form, much like how the mood set by the overlapping colors was important to the color field painters. Takeazu would also put small pieces of clay inside her forms so that they would rattle when someone lifts or holds, making them become performance pieces.

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(left: Suntreader/Monophony, 1979 by Michael James, DOMA collection, right: Tremolo, 1962 by Agnes Martin minimalist painter)

Michael James (born 1949) was trained as a painter, but became interested in quilting. Although quilting was not considered a man’s medium, James embraced it and used it as a material and technique for fine art. In the work in our collection James’ influence from the minimalists can be seen in his basic color palette, and the simplified forms within this quilt.

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(left: The Rope Table, 1977 by John McNaughton, DOMA collection, right: 1970s laminated furniture)

James McNaughton (born 1943) is one of the unsung heroes that Taragin spoke of in her talk. Following the lead of pioneer maker, Wendell Castle, McNaughton laminated boards together, which was a typical process for handmade furniture of the time, cutting out the sides to shape the wood. He chose not to use traditional joining in his furniture. McNaughton’s furniture is much lighter in feeling than Castle’s ever was.

I invite everyone to come to the David Owsley Museum of Art to explore the new Contemporary Craft gallery that was curated by Davira S.Taragin. The gallery spans the studio craft movement from post WWII until the demise of the movement in the 1990s and shows how makers today continue to work with craft materials.  It includes the work of several Ball State professors past and present (Patricia Nelson, Alan Patrick, Linda Arndt, Ted Neal, Ned Griner, Vance Bell, Leslie Leupp, and Marvin Reichle), as well as contemporary artists. Connections can be made between the contemporary craft gallery and many other galleries in the museum, because as Taragin said, “these artists did not live in a vacuum.”

Guerrilla Girls

Founding Guerrilla Girl, "Frida Kahlo"

Founding Guerrilla Girl, “Frida Kahlo”

“Do women have to be naked to get into a museum?”, asks Guerrilla Girl Frida Kahlo.

Tuesday night at Sursa Hall on the Ball State campus, we had a gorilla in our midst! Well, sorta. The museum, art department, and several other organizations on campus hosted a founding memeber of the Guerrilla Girl, “Frida Kahlo”. The Guerrilla Girls are a feminist activist group that criticizes art, culture, and politics. The Girls wear gorilla masks (Frida’s was adorned with pink lipstick!) to conceal their identity. They’re more concerned about being heard than gaining personal fame. One of their main goals is to make known the discrimination of female artists in museums and the art market. They accomplish that goal by giving these talks, publishing books, slapping confrontational stickers in public places, and challenging museums around the world to present more female artist and less female nudes.

Frida talked about gender and race inequality and that it is an issue in all career fields, not just art. She even encourages everyone to create their own masked avenger group to help show the discrimination in the different work fields (just don’t pick gorilla masks, that’s already been done!).

Her talk was entertaining, fun, and insightful. If a guerrilla girl is ever in your midst, be sure to talk to her! Also, be sure to visit their website and Facebook page!

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sad facts about many art museusm

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The Guerrilla Girls speak up about racial and gender discrimination in the film industry, too.

When asked by singer Pharrell Williams to create a poster for his all women artists exhibition, the GGs revamped one of their classic posters to make a biting statement about women in music videos

When asked by singer Pharrell Williams to create a poster for his all women artists exhibition, the GGs revamped one of their classic posters to make a biting statement about women in music videos.

Copyright © Guerrilla Girls Courtesy http://www.guerrillagirls.com

Ball State Visiting Artist: Lauren Gallaspy

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Thursday, November 6th and Friday, November 7th the Ball State University School of Art and Ball State University Clay Guild welcomed Lauren Gallaspy as a visiting artist. Lauren Gallaspy is a ceramic artist who is a professor at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. During her visit she spent both days demonstrating her techniques for students, faculty, and visitors. She makes sculptural work ranging from palm sized to more recently a couple feet in height, as well as vessels such as mugs. The amount of intense detail makes her work appear to be like an explorable landscape in miniaturized form. In order to fully experience her work one might feel as if they need a magnifying glass and some time to sit and take in all that her work holds for the viewer.

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She says that her work is about “imbalance: the vulnerability of living things and the sometimes violent, sometimes pleasurable, almost always complex consequences that occur when bodies and objects in the world come into contact with one another.” Bringing what is inside the mind, the psychological experiences of the self, to the surface of her artwork is very important to Gallaspy because she sees it as “a kind of devotional or transformational act, a way to render interior spaces and intense psychological experiences physically”

The David Owsley Museum’s Consultative Curator, Davira Taragin, took some time to comment on Lauren Gallaspy’s work.

“Lauren Gallaspy’s porcelain sculptures are unlike anything in the David Owsley Museum’s collection.  Most of its ceramics are vessel-oriented and visually address weight, substance, materiality, and surface decoration.  Gallaspy focuses instead on process—about dripping the clay to create tenuous line. In that respect, her work evokes the canvases of the Abstract Expressionist painter Jackson Pollock and the Process Art movement of the mid-1960s.  Gallaspy’s ceramics also call to mind sculptures by Peter Voulkos and John Mason during their revolutionary period with clay at the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles during the 1950s. Her concern with process is shared by a number of makers today who are experiencing a renaissance of interest in art of the 1960s and 1970s.”

Autumn Rhythm by Jackson Pollock

Autumn Rhythm by Jackson Pollock

As Taragin stated, Lauren Gallaspy’s sculptures are reminiscent of times in art history when the medium as well as the inner emotions of the artist were the driving force in the art. Although Gallaspy’s artwork is very much a product of modern ideas of art, she said in her lecture that one of her biggest inspirations are Mimbres pottery from Mexico, very much like several vessels in the David Owsley Museum collection. She said that she enjoys the line quality in the Mimbres pottery, as well as the surreal images on the pots that show animals and design intertwining to tell a story. The Mimbres pots are only just one of Gallaspy’s inspirations that she mentioned, along with many other contemporary artists and the landscapes that surround her, including the landscape where she grew up, the South, which is defined by the invasive vine, kudzu.Mimbres Potterykudzu

So much can be gained by learning about the artists of our time, because much of what artists make their work about is their inner contemplations of the world brought into physical form for others to see. Be sure to keep up on future visiting artist lectures through the Ball State School of Art as well as check out the new Contemporary Craft Gallery at the David Owsley Museum of Art to see contemporary ceramics displayed on campus. The museum also often has special exhibitions that highlight contemporary artists and their work.

(Almost) Final Friday

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Artist Brandon Beeson

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Everyone was really interested in the printmaking process!

We held our second Final Friday event at the museum a few weeks ago on October 24. This event was very social and a lot of fun! The museum stayed open after hours, from 5pm-9pm, to give visitors more time to view our galleries. We provided our visitors with snacks and a cash bar in the sculpture court. All night long, artist Brandon Beeson painted wonderful portraits of guests who sat for him. At 6, art education student, Erin McAtee, along with Ball State professors David and Sarojini Johnson, led a printmaking demonstration in the Brown Study Room. This was very fitting because the museum currently has its own prints show on view in the same room, Reverse and Repeat: Master Prints from the DOMA Collection!

David Johnson led a quick impromptu "tour" of our prints show in the Brown Study Room.

David Johnson led a quick impromptu “tour” of our prints show in the Brown Study Room.

Erin was very knowledgeable about the topic and demoed how one would make a print using woodcut and etching techniques.

At 7, the Pecha Kucha presentations began. These presentations are a quick and concise way to promote your business, organization, or self. The topic for this Final Friday was Nexus, meaning a connection between links and ideas. We had 5 very interesting presenters who spoke about organizations around town meant to bring like-minded people together and kind of the joys of Muncie. A couple of my favorite presentations were by make-up artist, Brian Blair, and Muncie designer and “boomeranger” Ty Morton. Blair, a BSU alum, runs several of his own businesses (Pumpkin Pulp, Brian Blair Studios, and Scarevania). He actually creates all the frightening but amazing props that scare us as we walk through that haunted house attraction on Granville Avenue! Seriously, if you’re not too scared, check out his work.

Brian Blair and one of his creepy creations

Brian Blair and one of his creepy creations

Another great presentation was by Ty Morton. Ty is the Principal for Tylonious Studio, Inc. and serves on the board of Muncie/Delaware Clean & Beautiful. His presentation, titled “Ball Jar Full of Dirt”, was my favorite presentation of the night. Although he traveled around and left Muncie, he kept returning (blaming it on some tale that if you want to leave Muncie forever, you have to fill up a Ball jar with Muncie dirt and take it with you when you leave to stay away. Have you heard this story before??). What I really loved about his presentation is that he really cared for the city of Muncie. All too often we hear people talk down about the typical American small town, Muncie is sadly no exception. But although Ty talked about Muncie always reeling him

Ty Morton and the ideas and life that bloomed from his Ball jar full of dirt

Ty Morton and the ideas and life that bloomed from his Ball jar full of dirt.

back in, you could tell he really enjoyed our town. And that was refreshing. Ty’s remarks on the night’s events were very positive, “It was particularly exciting to see so many people from different disciplines participating in an event built around a theme of coming together. But then, that’s one of the great things about Muncie. People here are inspired to share their passions.”

This event was a lot of fun and super informative about the events and building and community in general of Muncie. Our next Final Friday is not scheduled yet, but keep your eyes peeled for more information! In the meantime, come visit the galleries and check our special exhibitions, Great Things in Small Packages: The Drawing and Small Sculpture Show and the before mentioned print show, Reverse and Repeat.

The Art of Meditation

IMGuprightSeated on the floor around the tranquil Amida Buddha we all strived to allow our minds and bodies to forget the tensions and stresses of our lives for a short time as part of the monthly mindfulness series of Meditation in the Museum at the David Owsley Museum of Art. The October meditation was my first time taking part in Meditation in the Museum, which proved to be an enjoyable experience after a long week of school and work.  To introduce us to meditation, Sylwia Hodorek and Anca Barsan-Cayro of BSU Conseling Services led us in a brief mindfulness exercise and explained some of the benefits of taking time in your daily life to meditate. They explained that meditation can reduce one’s stress level, improve many of our body’s mental and physical conditions, and also substitute for a nap in its ability to rejuvenate your body and mind.

The main focus of October’s Meditation in the Museum was mindfulness through creative actions, which was observed through the coloring of mandalas. Mandalas are circular designs that are used for focus and balance during meditation, and are often associated with spiritual traditions among many religions. We were each asked to select a mandala and color it while clearing our minds and relaxing our bodies.

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One of those present for the meditation, Marc Devine, described his experience coloring his mandala:

“While coloring the mandala, I began to become aware of my breathing in relation to how I was thinking about the task.  If thoughts began to enter my head that I should speed up and try to finish the mandala, I noticed that my breath would increase, as well the tempo of my movements in coloring would also increase.  When this type of thing would occur, I would invite myself back to simply breathing at a more ‘relaxed’ rate and to allow myself to focus on the sensation of coloring within my fingertips, extending through my hands and connecting to the rest of my body.  

As I chose colors, I would allow my eyes to wander, much like I did when I chose the mandala, and allowed them to land on whatever color they were drawn to.  I trusted that choice, or perhaps simply didn’t question it, and that color became the one that I would use for a period of time.  I would color certain shapes for a period of time, as long as it felt right.”

Coloring the mandalas allowed for a chance to think without rules and take the time to allow our minds and bodies to react naturally to how we were interacting with the mandala. My experience with coloring my mandala took me back to spending time as a child coloring as my thoughts freely spun in my head. I felt it was a very calming and reflective time to return to the mindset of a child.

The act of meditation is meant to affect more than just the time that is set aside to meditate. It is meant to bring more of a balance to daily life and teach you to become mindful of how life’s tasks affect your body and mind. Marc Devine also commented on how the short time he spent meditating played a role in the rest of his day:

“I believe that this experience did stay with me after I left the museum.  I noticed myself feeling very calm and grounded through the rest of the evening.  I noticed a sense of ease to how I performed tasks throughout the remainder of the day, without a sense of rushing or anxiety.  And if at any point I did notice those thoughts of ‘needing to do something quickly’ creeping in, I would think back to the mandala experience, and ask myself to let whatever task that I was doing at the moment happen in its own time.”

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If you’ve been feeling stressed, perhaps incorporating a short time of meditation in your day would improve the way you feel and how you handle the challenges of your day.  You could try meditative coloring or time closing your eyes with your body relaxed to clear your mind and release the tension in your body. I would also like to invite you to the next Meditation in the Museum, Friday, November 21st at 3:30pm.  The focus of the next mindfulness session is Body Scan.

The body scan is a way to get in touch with the body, help your mind become more focused, improve your attention, shift your attention away from your thoughts, relax your body, help you with sleep, and become aware of the moment versus all the things you need to do in the future.

Participants will be asked to lay down on the floor so it’s recommended they bring a yoga mat, blanket, or a towel to the meditation group. One of the facilitators will lead the group in the body scan exercise that will last approximately 30-40 minutes. The entire meditation group will be one hour long and it’s recommended to arrive on time because once we start the exercise we won’t be able to allow others to start late.

Hope to see you there!