Category Archives: Inside the Artist’s Studio

Interview From The Studio with Karen Sardisco

Karen Sardisco

Tell us a little bit about yourself. You are a professor at MCC, an exhibiting artist, guest curator of various exhibitions, how do all of these things relate?

My teaching and my work as a practicing artist have always been intertwined. I am a full time faculty at Monroe Community College in the Visual and Performing Arts Department. I teach Painting, Drawing and Design. The work that I do in the studio/classroom is an extension of the explorations in my own studio. It is a symbiotic relationship… I pass on what I have learned as an artist to my students and my students inspire me with their interest and enthusiasm. Being in the studio/classroom everyday feels like home… the ongoing desire to communicate and create is infectious, and it is wonderful to see it in the students. As a teaching artist I get to be involved with art at all levels and my work as a curator feeds into that. Conceptualizing and organizing exhibitions is a way to continue the dialog as an artist. I am able to see other artist’s work and have the opportunity to put artists together in a way that allows for interesting interactions between the works. It is a different kind of creative effort that is equally as satisfying. The exhibitions that are a result shed new light on artist’s work, and I am able to be a part of that artistic process.

Karen Sardisco's paintings on paper

Karen Sardisco’s paintings on paper

Give us a little formal information on your paintings. What media do you use? Why have you preferred paper over canvas?

I began working on paper when finding time to work became a challenge. I was teaching, had a small child and was working very consistently in the studio. I began using acrylic paint when I was pregnant with my son because I didn’t want to deal with some of the toxic materials that were part of the oil painting process. I discovered then that my natural approach to technique was very spontaneous and the fast drying time of acrylics just seemed to work for me. The more rigid surface of the paper that was tacked up to a board had just the right give for me. I could develop layers and work very quickly. I began to manage the transparency of the paint and also worked with an interaction of forms within the layers that created the spatial effect that is typical in my work.

Karen Sardisco's studio

Karen Sardisco’s studio

You mentioned before that you were thinking of making a move back to working on canvas, what prompted that?

Well, I do miss the character of oil paint… the surfaces that have a more tactile quality. The feel of the paint on the brush and the way the paint engages with the canvas is an aspect of the process that is very seductive. It takes much more time, but it may be workable again. I am also finding that the scale and the difficulty of moving my works on paper around is getting to be an issue… not to mention the cost of framing such large-scale work.

One of Karen Sardisco's framed paintings

One of Karen Sardisco’s framed paintings

Tell me about the prints you have been making. How do you see them in regards to your paintings?

When my husband passed away suddenly, I stopped making work for a while. I knew that I needed to try to find a way to get back into the studio and had been thinking about the monoprinting process. I found a technique that was very direct using water-based inks, and that was that. I spent a whole winter making prints without the thought of showing them… I really just wanted to explore and work through some of the emotions that I was experiencing without thinking about how what I was doing related to my other work. I realize now that they had a very direct relationship, and the paintings that I am doing now come partly from the place that I got to making those prints. I can see myself devoting more time to that process, but when I began painting again the decision always is…what do I do first, and it comes back down to getting the paints out and jumping in.

Karen Sardisco, "Shadow", detail

Karen Sardisco, “Shadow”, detail

Can you talk a bit about the symbolism in your work? What themes seem to materialize? Do you notice a trend in your work over the years?

For me, the ambiguous space of the imagery eliminates a specific place or time. Forms like knots and branches, or anatomical references for example, are pulled from a visual lexicon of forms that speak to me. They suggest something… they allude to aspects of my experience and become a shorthand that encapsulates thoughts and feelings, and arranges them together in ways that I may not have envisioned. I feel as if I am tapping into a collective database that, when shaken up a bit, sheds new light on my personal experiences. It may also relate to the experiences of others, and I rely on that connection to draw viewers into my work.

Karen's reference materials. Many aspects of her paintings and prints are drawn from natural elements.

Karen’s reference materials. Many aspects of her paintings and prints are drawn from natural elements.

Nature is typically a source for me because I can use forms that seem familiar, something that one might see in the natural world. When those forms are paired with invented forms, or maybe more man-made forms, the relationships are questioned, and, as I mention in my artist statement, those new configurations challenge preconceived notions of function and meaning.

Karen Sardisco's reference materials

Karen Sardisco’s reference materials

If there is a thread that works its way through my work I would have to say that I do rely on forced relationships between forms, and tend to create an ambiguous spatial field for them to exist in. It is not a representational environment in any sense, because I feel that moving out of a comfort zone allows one to experience the way being open and aware can lead to new realizations about themselves, the world… the human potential for discovery. Since I never have a plan for what will happen when I approach a new work I have to trust my instincts and accept what comes. When I am totally immersed in my work, and, on a good day, I can experience a connection to the world that is totally satisfying. I hope that happens for my viewers.

Karen's reference materials

Karen’s reference materials

What will you be working on next?

That is a good question. I never make plans in regard to my work, at least not specifically. I may work on canvas again. I will probably make more monoprints. I will continue my process until I discover that there may be another approach that serves me just as well.

Karen Sardisco, "Game", detail

Karen Sardisco, “Game”, detail

You can see more of Karen’s work on her website: www.karensardisco.com

Four of Karen’s paintings are on display in Main Street Arts’ current group show, The Opposite of Concrete: An Exhibition of Abstract Painting and Photography. Stop by this Saturday (September 6th) from 4-7pm for the opening reception!

Check out our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio post, by painter Sarah Sutton.

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Sarah Sutton

Interstice Series on the way to Main Street Arts to be installed!

Interstice Series on the way to Main Street Arts to be installed!

I am originally from the central Appalachian mountain region in northeastern Pennsylvania. My ancestors on both sides were immigrant coal miners from Eastern Europe. The area I grew up in now rests over flooded and burning mines and is surrounded by abandoned coal breakers and shake piles. This industrial world that had once meant so much for so many people was, to me, a dead metaphorall around and underneath memeanwhile life went on.

fire-in-a-coal-mine-under-centralia-pa-irish-640x480

This intermeshing of worlds and realities continues to inspire me. I am specifically interested in how people internalize and pass on socio-historical traumas through generations, such as the Knox coalmine disaster in 1959. In a single day, illegal mining broke through the riverbed, wiping out the local anthracite coal mining industry. Decades later the consequences of that single day are still palpable- in the landscape as well as in the people who once inhabited it. Through the paintings in this body of work, I create a visual language that depicts the complexity of perceptionhow historical and internal experiences interweave and intertwine.

In this blog entry I am going to explore three thoughts on representation and abstraction and address how I see these categories as changing in the digital age; a conversation that greatly affects my work.

1. Excess and Overload as Abstraction

Typically, abstraction has been associated with reduction or abbreviationreducing something to its “essence”. However, I am interested in a different kind of abstraction. When there is an overload of information as with media saturation we do not process a “whole” or “essence” at all. The sheer quantity of images and objects creates a type of pattern-based processing, making it more difficult to focus on individual components and promoting more of a time-based processing. This is explained by Jeffrey Rian in the article, The Generation Game:

 A child born into the electronic age learns his or her way into the world under the influence of disembodied voices and images, piecing together a world in collage pattern that absorbs ‘everywheres’ and everywhens’ into a cacophonous present. With electronics, sensory life is made more complicated because of the abundance of unrelated sounds and images… Experiencing free floating and unanalyzed images, which are integrated as tactile experiences, may offer a level of familiarity, or low level stimulus that engenders a variety of memories…

-Jeffrey Rian (The Generation Game)

Wall of thoughts and inspiration

Wall of thoughts and inspiration

2. The Visibility of the Invisible

Spaces that once only existed as imaginary are all over the Internetfrom hidden corners of the Amazon, live broadcasts of acts of terrorism, webcams of outer space, to videos of surgeries showing the intricacies of the internal body.

After the advent of photography, painting began to explore the notion of the “unknown”internal worlds, complex and amoebic states, and images of the “otherworldly and surreal”. Since almost everything can be “seen” online, it has become more and more difficult to imagine the “unknown” as a singular image.

In my work, painting becomes a way to envision relationships that are seemingly impossible to imagine (even and especially on the internet), because they involve time, different perceptual and sensory information, and the subjective. Ultimately, I am interested in making an image that captures how internal experience and memories are projected onto the external worldwhich becomes personal and involves both recognizable and non-recognizable imagery.

Supplies in the studio

Supplies in the studio

3. Legibility of Illegible

In his book, Six Stories from the End of Representation, James Elkins contrasts the use of the blur in art to what it means in astronomy. Where artists often intentionally blur to obscure an image, astronomers look at skies full of blurs that have never been seen “in focus”. In fact, the paradigm of being “in focus” or legible vs. “out of focus” or illegible does not apply when looking at the sky, as sharpening can cause a loss of information. By moving pixels closer together or turning the lens to focus on one area, contours and shapes that exist in the spaces in between are lost. In this case, the quality of being out of focus leaves the register of human perception all together, and clarity does not necessarily mean seeing something better. I am interested in the paradox of making information less legible, less recognizable, and less reliant on gestalt principles in order to expand on ways of seeing.

 

See our previous post: A Studio Visit with Sarah Sutton

Inside The Artist’s Studio with Samantha Stumpf: Process and Perspective

I’ve recently been  working on tableware for Main Street Arts, exclusively for their new online gallery shop.  I have always enjoyed eating off of handmade dinnerware, it is part of my everyday routine. Each day I get to choose my mug for coffee, my bowl for yogurt and my portion controlled plate for dinner. I enjoy sharing these rituals  with the people who made these pieces.

My kitchen cabinets

In preparing myself for this project, I thought back to a time before I was a ceramic artist. I grew up with mass produced dinnerware that was bland and stackable. My parents dislike the fact that I have mismatched dinnerware; unstackable and chaotic. So, to this day I keep a single place setting of handmade dishes at their house just for when I visit!

I wanted the  series I was making for Main Street Arts to be used everyday and I wanted it to be fun and playful.

Getting started…

To be fair, there are a few mass produced manufacturers that I really do love for what they are.  One of my favorite mass produced dishware manufacturers, which influenced this dinnerware for the gallery is Austrian Gmundner Keramik Ware.

geflammt_mix1

Austrian Gmundner Keramik Ware

I ate off their  everydayware when I worked for potters at Lyon Clay Studio during the start of my ceramic career.  I loved the simplicity of the forms and the fluidity of the brush work. I have always loved mark making and it has been a huge part of my own functional ware.

Main Street Arts dinnerware

Main Street Arts Signature Tableware Series

Soon, you be able to purchase this exclusive series of everyday tableware from the Main Street Arts online gallery shop. Keep following this blog series as well as their social media for updates!

Part One: Inside the Artist’s Studio with Samantha Stumpf: Ongoing Inspiration
Part Three: Inside the Artist’s Studio with Samantha Stumpf: A Little Bit of Process…

Inside The Artist’s Studio with Samantha Stumpf: Ongoing Inspiration

Hello, and thank you for checking out my first Inside The Artist’s Studio blog post on the Main Street Arts blog!

I would like to introduce myself…

talking about pots

talking about pots

I am originally from Baltimore Maryland and started working with clay in high school. I was instantly hooked to the material’s responsiveness  to the sense of touch. I knew that I wanted to continue my exploration of this material in college and completed my BFA at Cleveland Institute of Art in 2003. After completing my degree, I worked for local potters in Baltimore until moving to Rochester to complete my MFA in Ceramics at Rochester Institute of Technology, School for American Crafts. After my experience at RIT I began teaching and making work at the Lorton Arts Workhouse in Lorton, Virginia. Then in 2009 I became a resident artist at Genesee Center for Arts and Education which brought me back to Rochester where I continued to make work and teach. After my residency  experience  at Genesee Center I decided to stay in the Rochester area. I have a private studio located in the Susan B. area, downtown. I also currently teach at Genesee Community College, Studio Sales (Avon) and the Genesee Center.

landscapes

Landscapes

I enjoy making both sculptural and functional work. Most of my sculptural work focuses on the forms of action and reaction that occur in natural environment. A sense of simultaneous deconstruction and construction—such as what occurs when a mountain slowly weathers or the way that water erodes a stream bed. Given the primary influence of nature, these pieces can be seen as metaphoric landscapes. I create these clay pieces by exploiting the responsiveness of the clay. I push, pull, and tear the clay in an attempt to create a physical dialogue between myself and the material.

work in progress

Work in progress (for the Main Street Arts online gallery shop)

On the other hand, my functional work is fun and fresh with an attention to detail. I use a wide range of glazes for my color palette and then layer the surface with unique hand painted brush marks. These marks are very fluid and intuitive. I enjoy layering glazes and washes to create contrasts within the glaze surface. I love to use my functional work everyday. I would want you as well to use it everyday. All of my functional works are food, dishwasher, microwave and oven safe.

Look for my Signature Tableware Series in the Main Street Arts Online Gallery Shop soon!

Part Two: Inside the Artist’s Studio with Samantha Stumpf: Process and Perspective
Part Three: Inside the Artist’s Studio with Samantha Stumpf: A Little Bit of Process…

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Peter Pincus: Cracks in the Foundation

Last week I was visited by critic and blog writer Jason.  Sleep, In Spite of the Storm piqued Jason’s interest, so he traveled seven hours to see the show and get down to business.

Jason was able to find the all the technical flaws in my work, as if directly accessing my thoughts.  Some were obvious, though others were nearly invisible.  Jason was the first person to outwardly fixate on those sorts of details.  That fixation, which I celebrate for its clarity and honesty, prompted the following blog post.

The vase on the left leans.  Can you see it?  I do every time I look.

The vase on the left leans. Can you see it? I do every time I look.

An alternate view of the urns in the exhibition

Sorry for the re-post, but these urns also lean. I have to show them in this order, because if I flip them the lean becomes more obvious. I’ve since figured out how to avoid this problem in future works, but these will always remind me.

Makers suffer from the desire to do their best given their mental and physical potential.  Luckily, the mind and hand get better.  But in the wake of learning, there will always be concrete reminders of imperfections and failures in the objects produced.  Here-in lies the two most important questions to the longevity of an artistic career:  When is it appropriate to hold yourself accountable to your flaws?  When is it harmful to do so?

My work is usually misunderstood because of its relative visual refinement.  It is a celebration of color and composition as much as an autobiographical statement through the porcelain vessel, not a celebration of a flashy process or technique.  Having said that, I’ve developed a technique to make possible the aesthetic I’m after and that technique has its inherent limitations and flaws.  When I am alone in my studio, those flaws are the things that slowly eat away at my confidence, pride, and overall emotional stability.

White gold luster is such a pain for me.  It often drips on the raw porcelain and then takes a miracle to remove if I can.  Jason and I talked about this issue for a while

White gold luster is such a pain for me. It often drips on the raw porcelain and then takes a miracle to remove if I can. Jason and I talked about this issue for a while

Sometimes the seams between colors spread.  I assume it is a result of expansion and tension in the kiln.  It is only an eye sore, not a structural thing.  But it irritates me more than any other problem I have.  I stress about it every day.

Sometimes the seams between colors spread. I assume it is a result of expansion and tension in the kiln. It is only an eye sore, not a structural thing. But it irritates me more than any other problem I have. I stress about it every day.

And then the show happens.  All of the things that keep me up at night are not generally noticed.  I’m found enthusiastic but cautious, imagining that I had somehow escaped the public guillotine!!  The successes of the show walk out the door with the crowd and the failures remain with me.  This is unhealthy.

This post isn’t meant to stir depression.  Quite the opposite in fact.  Jason’s ability to personify my conscience gave me the ability to better define the meaning of artistic engagement.  It is not my job to be perfect.  That is the job of industry.  It is my job to engage the material as a soulful pursuit, and yes to achieve the goals I set, but not to drown in small details while missing the big picture.

All of this comes at a time when I announce my new job as Visiting Professor of Ceramics at RIT.  That appointment carries the responsibility of this type of honesty.  If you make things, I guarantee you’ve had the same feelings that are expressed above.  If you want to do this for a living, you must rise above them and enjoy what you do.  Because there is no such thing as a flawless piece of handmade work.  And if there is, would you really want to be it’s author?

Part One: Inside the Artist’s Studio: Introducing Peter Pincus
Part Two: Inside the Artist’s Studio with Peter Pincus: How Long is a Long Time?
Part Three: Inside the Artist’s Studio with Peter Pincus: Centerpiece

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Peter Pincus: Centerpiece

If Sleep, In Spite of the Storm is an exhibition about the intimate relationship, then the two large crematory urns in the middle of the space serve as principal anchors.  This post is about their story.

Peter Pincus' upcoming exhibition, "Sleep, In Spite of the Storm"

The urns installed and photographed in the gallery before any other work was made.

Before any other work was made for this show, I carefully researched, blueprinted, scaled, fabricated, finished, and photographed them in the gallery.  Excessive, right?  Not at all!  They are vessels of spirit that, just like the hand mirror, have a reflective quality for the viewer.  Done right, they oscillate between container, painting, and figure sculpture.  What a job they have.

I intended them to be independent and dependent at the same time.  It started with the form, which took from Sevres Porcelain the idea of symmetric, tight, articulate profile, but stripped the surface of the type of glamorous opulence that defines Sevres.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with opulence!  But it would be distracting in this particular vessel.

Photograph taken from http://www.liveauctioneers.com/item/13368797_pair-sevres-style-25-porcelain-cobalt-urns

Photograph taken from http://www.liveauctioneers.com/item/13368797_pair-sevres-style-25-porcelain-cobalt-urns

I designed the forms and lid system and built them in five separate molds.  Having never made such a large slip-cast vessel before, I planned to fire each section separately and then glue the pieces together at the end.  I couldn’t help myself though, I had to cast one in white and see it.  My wife patiently held the sections together at 6am so I could snap an Instagram photo.

The urn in early morning white.

The urn in early morning white.

I planned to have their surfaces reference Josef Albers, whose theories on color routinely find their way into my work.  I cast one urn in white and the other in black, and composed identical gradients of vertical stripes from white to black on their bellies, leaving a gray rectangle centered on the white and black stripe of each piece.  This is a carbon copy of chapter IV from Albers’ Interaction of Color, “A color has many faces—the relativity of color.”

Not the greatest example, but you get the point.  Taken from http://joshsmilingskull.wordpress.com/2011/04/01/albers-exercises/

Not the greatest example, but you get the point. Taken from http://joshsmilingskull.wordpress.com/2011/04/01/albers-exercises/

Urns in  process.

Urns in process.

When installed, the stripes are turned opposite each other, forcing the gray rectangles to show different faces; lighter on black and darker on white.  Thus the appearance of independence. But, if you separate them the phenomenon doesn’t work. So, they become very dependent on each other to maintain their individuality.

An alternate view of the urns in the exhibition

An alternate view of the urns in the exhibition

An alternate view of the urns in the exhibition

Part One: Inside the Artist’s Studio: Introducing Peter Pincus
Part Two: Inside the Artist’s Studio with Peter Pincus: How Long is a Long Time?
Part Four: Inside the Artist’s Studio with Peter Pincus: Cracks in the Foundation

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Peter Pincus: How Long is a Long Time?

Among the pots and vessels featured in Sleep, In Spite of the Storm, you will find a perfume bottle standing on top of a hand mirror.  In my (very) biased opinion, these two are the most complex and compelling objects in this show.  And they better be, because I’ve been working on them for a long time.

Perfume Bottle and Hand Mirror.  2014

Perfume Bottle and Hand Mirror. 2014

It all started when I paired perfume bottles and jewelry boxes for my graduate thesis exhibition in 2011.  I thought the perfume bottle could become an abstracted figure, and the jewelry box could become a landscape, and that together they could create a seductive atmosphere.  In theory it was great, but I left that body of work feeling  underwhelmed.

Perfume Bottle and Jewelry Box from Thesis Exhibition, 2011.

Perfume Bottle and Jewelry Box from Thesis Exhibition, 2011.

For starters, the perfume bottle as an abstract figure was a forced idea, if an idea at all.  I couldn’t get far enough away from the wheel to make it transcend the pot.  And by stacking the bottle on the box, I changed the way the jewelry box worked.  It stopped being a container and turned into a pedestal.  Neither object heightened the other.  The two were not a great match.

Another Perfume Bottle and Jewelry Box from Thesis Exhibition, 2011.

Another Perfume Bottle and Jewelry Box from Thesis Exhibition, 2011.

So I spent time sketching the perfume bottle by itself as a way to gain distance from the relationship I’d forced.   I also restricted myself from actually making a perfume bottle because I knew it was important to grow in my hand and mind first to avoid retracing my steps.  I spent the time looking at dresses and figures and paintings, while I made a ton of bottles and cups – of course!

When I finally made the right sketch, the challenge was figuring out how to make the thing.  What a pain!  If you are interested in how I did it, go back to my early Instagram posts where I documented the process step by step (most steps are there).

 

Peter Pincus and his ceramics

Peter Pincus and his ceramics

The hand mirror came to mind in its own time.  It was the first thing I could think of that conceptually aligned with the perfume bottle, was found in a similar location and completely heightened the bottle while not turning into a pedestal in the process.  To boot, it was an exceptionally undervalued object.  Opportunity… check!

But here’s the catch.  Slip casting a hand mirror doesn’t work.  Believe me, I tried… and tried and tried.  It took time to realize that the hand mirror was best suited as a wheel turned object.  So I found rich, dark chocolate, dense earthenware and had at it.

Scraping a finished edge of the hand mirror before drying and firing it.

Scraping a finished edge of the hand mirror before drying and firing it.

So here they are.  Three years from when I last made a perfume bottle.  Finally.

Detail

Detail

Part One: Inside the Artist’s Studio: Introducing Peter Pincus
Part Three: Inside the Artist’s Studio with Peter Pincus: Centerpiece
Part Four: Inside the Artist’s Studio with Peter Pincus: Cracks in the Foundation

Inside the Artist’s Studio: Introducing Peter Pincus

Hello All, and welcome to my guest blog extravaganza!

Allow me to bend your ear about my upcoming show Sleep, In Spite Of The Storm.  In just a few short weeks, July 12th at 3pm to be exact, the doors at Main Street Arts will open and I invite you all to attend.  If you do make it, you’ll find an installation of brightly colored porcelain pots, vessels and containers, which are presented in this case as sculpture.  It’s an admittedly challenging exhibition for most gallery goers, hence my guest blogging for the next month, which will hopefully clarify my intentions.  It’s going to be a wild ride, so stick with me.

Two cups waiting for their pedestals at Main Street Arts

Two cups waiting for their pedestals at Main Street Arts

But before we get into all of that, let me introduce myself.  My name is Peter Pincus.  Born and raised in Rochester, NY, I now live and make ceramic art in Penfield, NY.  Yes, Rochester has claimed me, as it does so many others who love the seasons, the manageable, accessible city size, the budding artistic community, and of course, Wegmans!  I’m a proud husband, father, artist and teacher.  I received my undergraduate and graduate degrees at Alfred University, and I now work all around town, as the Studio Manager and Resident Artist Coordinator of the Genesee Center for Arts and Education and Adjunct Professor wherever I’m needed.  My work travels all around this great nation with regularity, however it doesn’t often land here at home.  That is why I’m investing as heavily as possible in Sleep, In Spite Of The Storm.

Peter Pincus

Now for the big question…  Do I make pottery?  No.  Well, yes and no.  I’ve focused for fifteen years on the study of pottery, but my work rests in a grey area that is closer to a painting of a pot than a pot itself.  I know what you’re thinking – that sounds like the musing of an academic.  And it is!  That’s the beauty of making, you get to present ideas through materials.  I see pottery as undervalued in my place and time, and therefore I present it to you in a different light.

The underside of a perfume bottle.

The underside of a perfume bottle.

I actively post on Instagram (@peterpincusporcelain) – check it out for pictures that will give you a glimpse into my studio process from beginning to end.

That’s all for now folks!
Part Two: Inside the Artist’s Studio with Peter Pincus: How Long is a Long Time?
Part Three: Inside the Artist’s Studio with Peter Pincus: Centerpiece
Part Four: Inside the Artist’s Studio with Peter Pincus: Cracks in the Foundation