Tag Archives: rochester artist

The Assembled Image

Get ready for our upcoming exhibition, The Assembled Image. The Assembled Image is an exhibition featuring collage and artwork inspired by collage. The artists included in this exhibition make artwork by assembling various individual pieces to make a cohesive whole, and each artist has their own connection to the notion of collage.

The Assembled Image at Main Street Arts

The Assembled Image at Main Street Arts. Left to right: Denton Crawford, St. Monci, Andrea Pawarski, Lynne Feldman, and Gerald Mead

Artists include: Denton Crawford, Lynne Feldman, Gerald Mead, Andrea Pawarski, and St. Monci.

Exhibition Dates: March 7–April 30, 2015
Opening Reception: Saturday, March 7, 4-7pm

For more information, check out our Facebook event page: The Assembled Image Opening Reception

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Melissa Huang

Painting is a very relaxing process for me. It’s the one thing that  clears my mind and allows me to focus. Painting is great for brainstorming and letting your mind work through all of the thoughts and concepts swimming around in your head.

My studio space is currently set up in the living room area. The natural light is something I really enjoy.

My studio space is currently set up in the living room area. The natural light is something I really enjoy.

A lot of my artwork focuses on things like trinkets, porcelain dolls, and other beautiful childhood objects. I’ve always been a collector, and I filled a bookcase full of fossils, crystals, and ornaments when I was younger.

Artists like Audrey Flack have greatly influenced the way I view still lifes. Symbolism is very important in Flack’s work, and I try to focus on the symbolism in my work as well.

Melissa Huang, Self Portrait, Oil on canvas, wood frame, sculpy objects, 48" x 36" plus frame, 2012

Melissa Huang, Self Portrait, Oil on canvas, wood frame, sculpy objects, 48″ x 36″ plus frame, 2012

I enjoy painting from life, but find creating photographic reference images to work from really helps my process. By rearranging objects and photographing them in different situations and different angles I can find compositions that capture the emotional intent of the piece.

My oil paintings are intentionally soft and feminine with melancholy undercurrents. Broken dolls and figures intertwine with bright and colorful flowers that could represent new life, or possibly death. We are intruders, viewing these figures from an intimate perspective.

Melissa Huang, In the Flowers, Oil on canvas, 24" x 18", 2014

Melissa Huang, In the Flowers, Oil on canvas, 24″ x 18″, 2014

Melissa Huang, Muhammad, Oil on canvas, 20" x 20", 2014

Melissa Huang, Muhammad, Oil on canvas, 20″ x 20″, 2014

Melissa Huang, Sammy Mouse, Oil on canvas, 20" x 20", 2014

Melissa Huang, Sammy Mouse, Oil on canvas, 20″ x 20″, 2014

Recently I’ve been using gold leaf in my paintings. During my study abroad in Florence I visited as many churches as possible, and saw many beautiful altarpieces with gold leafed panels. The subjects of the paintings were made more important by the glimmering leaf. I wanted to lend a similar sense of importance to the subjects I painted.

JordanMaya

Melissa Huang, Philip, Oil on canvas, 48" x 36", 2013

Melissa Huang, Philip, Oil on canvas, 48″ x 36″, 2013

Melissa Huang, Garden, Oil on panel, gold leaf, 6" x 6" (each), 2014

Melissa Huang, Garden, Oil on panel, gold leaf, 6″ x 6″ (each), 2014

Using gold leaf in my work allowed me to play with a sense of depth versus flatness, as well as brought a more graphic quality into some of my paintings. If you’d like to learn about the gold leafing process I’ll be leading a gold leaf workshop at Main Street Arts on Saturday, February 21st, from 1–3pm. This workshop relates to the current Solid Gold exhibition, featuring nine artists using gold leaf, gold paint, and gold lustre.

Working on paintings on gold leafed panels

Working on paintings on gold leafed panels

Melissa Huang, The Aviary, Oil on panel, gold leaf, 6" x 6" (each), 2014

Melissa Huang, The Aviary, Oil on panel, gold leaf, 6″ x 6″ (each), 2014

Come see Melissa’s paintings in person during Solid Gold, or check out her upcoming exhibition Upstairs at Main Street Arts.

You can see more of Melissa’s portfolio at www.melissahuang.com or on Instagram: @melissahuangart. Take a look at our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post, by painter Amy Vena.

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Amy Vena: Process

Art is my life-long passion. I’ve always maintained a connection with art, specifically drawing and painting. However, it wasn’t until graduate school that I really investigated using industrial materials as painting mediums. My relationship with high-gloss epoxy resin began in 2011 and has continued since then. Applying resin to both canvas and panel has taught me about the medium and it’s behavior.

photo

Amy Vena, In her studio

My painting process is inspired by both contemporary and past artists. Similar to Abstract Expressionist painters of the mid-21st Century (like Helen Frankenthaler), I strive to produce paintings that are active and contain energy. The focus is to achieve expression through tonal variation, depth, and color.

Most importantly, creating artwork is fun and spiritual. When I am in the studio I work through thoughts and problems until everything drifts away. Thoughts about life turn into brushstrokes. Eventually, my mind is quieted by work. Space, healing, and peace are all achieved while painting.

Image 1

By Amy Vena

The pieces contributed to Solid Gold were recently created. They are part of a transitional phase coming from a previous series inspired by images of nebulae. These new paintings are not meant to be representational images. They are  abstract, diverging from themed work. They focus on color and movement.

By Amy Vena

By Amy Vena

I often incorporate objects into my artwork prior to applying epoxy resin. Leaf skeletons and gold leaf add subtle detail. The actual process of creative development is pretty standard between pieces:

  1. Lay gesso and modeling paste on canvas to create the foundation texture and organic ambiance
  2. Use Acrylic Inks to develop a composition
  3. Create or enhance depth in certain areas working the entire painting
  4. Apply aerosol spray-paint
  5. Saturate each end of the value spectrum
  6. Allow the paint to dry
  7. Apply the clear or colored resin
  8. Create striations with iridescent acrylic/epoxy resin mixture
photo copy

By Amy Vena

Layering is one of the most valuable elements in my creative process. It takes patience and time. The application of epoxy resin bears the heaviest risks. Epoxy resin is toxic, and all precautions must be taken when handling the medium. Mixing must be closely monitored, as the epoxy resin will not cure if mixed incorrectly. Complexity level is something to consider when deciding to work with epoxy resin, but when done correctly the medium is fantastic and exciting.

Painting is a journey, and I am excited to see where each new painting will lead me.

For more information please visit Amy’s website, amycvena.com. You can see Amy’s work in person during our current exhibition, Solid Gold. #amycvenaart

Take a look at our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post, by multimedia artist Jeanne Beck.

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Jeanne Beck: Coming Home Through Creating

www.jeannebeck.com

Jeanne Beck at work in her studio in Rochester, NY’s Hungerford Building

It seems to me my whole life has been a slow, steady evolution of coming home to myself. I suspect a lot of women of my generation feel that way. My earlier life didn’t offer a lot of stimulation or opportunity to study music or dance or art, all of which interested me greatly, but I did read voraciously. I fantasized about writing novels and started writing short stories at age 12, but then I became absorbed in teen-age concerns. I turned to keeping a journal, which I wrote in faithfully from 7-12th grade. I’ve done personal journaling in some form for most of my life and have a storage box filled with composition notebooks and more recently, sketchbooks too.

Book of the Ancients 6, 18" x 18", mixed media collage, gold leaf, acrylic paint. Cut, collaged, screen-printed and stenciled.

Book of the Ancients 6, 18″ x 18″, mixed media collage, gold leaf, acrylic paint. Cut, collaged, screen-printed and stenciled.

When I decided at mid-life to become a visual artist, I made a total commitment to it. Lose, win or draw, I have invested myself fully in my own creative potential. And, as a result, this midlife adventure has become the most passionate, committed period of my life. Since I began exploring visual art, I have been drawn to combine more than one medium or techniques, as well as create multi-layered surfaces.

The Writing in Air pieces utilize a variety of processes and techniques to create a dimensional , cut and manipulated surface that suggests  cursive handwriting. Purchased by SUNY Geneseo for MacVittie Student Union.

The Writing in Air pieces utilize a variety of processes and techniques to create a dimensional , cut and manipulated surface that suggests cursive handwriting. Purchased by SUNY Geneseo for MacVittie Student Union.

Melding media and techniques to express a concept drives most of my choices. So I might stitch thread structures and dip them in paper pulp, for example. Layering and combining materials and methods is a fluid process and varies with each new idea. I like to envision my pieces accumulating layers over time and bearing the marks of use and age to build their own personal history.

Distressing the leafed surface with layers of acrylic paints and screen printed texts creates a patina of aging. Private collection, Boston, MA.

Distressing the leafed surface with layers of acrylic paints and screen printed texts creates a patina of aging. Private collection, Boston, MA.

Seemingly random numbers cut in fiberglass screening punctuate the aged surface of this piece. They are a list of street numbers from the houses where I've lived over the course of my life. They are as I remember them, but I have no idea whether the memories are accurate. Purchased by SUNY Geneseo for MacVittie Student Union.

Seemingly random numbers cut in fiberglass screening punctuate the aged surface of this piece. They are a list of street numbers from the houses where I’ve lived over the course of my life. They are as I remember them, but I have no idea whether the memories are accurate. Purchased by SUNY Geneseo for MacVittie Student Union.

I am drawn to aged surfaces and tend to try to and create them in whatever medium or technique I’m using. Rust, decay, and layers peeling away attract me. They also relate to my interests in memory and aging and what happens to personal histories over time.

Most of the scattered  images on this piece refer to The Palmer Method of Cursive Handwriting instruction. Once  a part of elementary school curriculum, cursive handwriting  has become almost obsolete.

Most of the scattered images on this piece refer to The Palmer Method of Cursive Handwriting instruction. Once a part of elementary school curriculum, cursive handwriting has become almost obsolete.

The earliest concept for my current series of language-inspired pieces started in 2007. I had done extensive research on Etruscan and other forms of ancient writing remnants and the marks  intrigued me as visual elements. Then my focus shifted to an interest in 19th and 20th century found journals, diaries and bits of cursive writing.

This work lists all the names of the teachers I can remember from my elementary school in Pittsburgh, PA. Book of the Ancients 9: Bethel Park Elementary, won a prestigious 2013 Niche Award.

This work lists all the names of the teachers I can remember from my elementary school in Pittsburgh, PA. Book of the Ancients 9: Bethel Park Elementary, won a prestigious 2013 Niche Award.

Green World IIMy metallic leaf series began in 2011 with the idea of “fluttering pages.” The exploration of ancient texts and languages to gather ideas for this series led me to an unexpected realization, “ancient” is a relative term. To someone entering adulthood today, the 1950’s and 60’s seem ancient. Amused by that recognition, the first works in this series focus on remembered bits from my childhood. We often refer to ‘turning a page’, ‘ getting on the same page’, ‘starting a new or closing an old chapter of our lives’ in our everyday conversations. These pieces offer a visual take on such ideas.

Green World II is a new organically-inspired, dimensional  work with layered kozo fibers over a  richly textured, painted surface.

Green World II is a new organically-inspired, dimensional work with layered kozo fibers over a richly textured, painted surface.

The pages series still doesn’t feel finished and I will continue to work on new ideas. However, I am also working on a new series of organic, two and three-dimensional works using handmade paper, pulp and wire armatures.

You can see more of Jeanne’s work in our current exhibition, Solid Gold, or visit her website: www.jeannebeck.com.

Check out our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post by artist Colleen Pendry.

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Phyllis Bryce Ely: Look Out the Window

“Look out the window.” My mother said that to me again and again. If I was bored, she would say, “Look out the window, what do you see? Make something to tell me about.” If I complained of long trips in the car she would say, “Look out the window.” Over time we drove and we drove and I looked and looked, and in my head I practiced drawing lines and shapes. I tried to count the different kinds of blues and greens I could see. I thought about how I could mix colors of paint to match what I saw. I wondered about the bright and dark places in clouds, and I wondered why the full moon followed our car so perfectly. That’s when I began to feel the need to move the images in my head onto paper and canvas.

Me and the Moon, pastel, Canandaigua nocturne

Me and the Moon, pastel, Canandaigua nocturne

Becoming an Artist
I have a distinct memory of deciding I was an artist while sitting on the dull brown carpet of our living room floor in front of our black and white television watching Captain Kangaroo and waiting for the “Magic Drawing Board” segment. Every morning I waited with oatmeal cartons, crayons, paper, scissors, and glue—anything the Captain may tell us we needed for the day’s project. My mother kept me stocked and ready. When Magic Drawing Board finally appeared, I loved watching the dark lines appear out of nowhere on a white board. In moments, a complete drawing would emerge. To me, that was truly magical. I clearly remember deciding I would be just like magic drawing board and I set about the business of making art.

Uncle Deek and the Endless Paper
My Uncle Deek worked at the Democrat & Chronicle and would bring my sister and me endless reams of fresh, plain newsprint for drawing. I loved when a new pile would arrive. I was small and the paper was large—more magic. Today, I get the same thrill when I visit the astounding paper room at Rochester Art Supply.

My First Studio
My parents built a new house when I was six. Many of the rooms remained empty as they saved money to buy furniture. I thought the empty rooms were great, so many places to make things! I remember my “64 ounce Welch’s Grape Juice can period” when I built giant sculptures and rockets snaking throughout the house (this was the Apollo space era). I had important projects and paintings in every room. That was about the same time my friend and I made “Jackson Pollock art” in her family’s newly finished basement. Without a strong grasp of physics, we weren’t paying attention to the paint flying off our brushes on our backstrokes as we hurled paint at a canvases shouting “Jackson Pollock!” I was sent home, and she was left to clean the basement walls and ceiling. As I remember, the paintings were pretty good.

Getting Serious
Throughout school, my teachers encouraged my artwork (“Phyllis’ creativity should be encouraged”). In high school, I began to think seriously about developing a portfolio and applying to art school. My art teachers coached me through the process and I ended up at RIT with a degree in painting and printmaking in 1981. I still recall conversations, critiques, and ideas that inform my work today. Friendships have endured, certain colors remind me of certain people, and challenges from gifted teachers like Bob Heischman, Bob Cole, Judd Williams, Phil Bornarth, and Ed Miller still resonate.

On My Own
After my RIT years focused on figure painting, I popped into the world ready to make art. I had relied so heavily on the figure that I floundered alone in my studio. Eventually I realized my mother had already told me what to do—I only needed to look out the window. I found myself sitting in Ellison Park, learning that the hills, trees and sky offered me the familiar shapes of the human body. More magic! My favorite place to make art is sitting on the ground in a beautiful place trying to describe my experience with paint and pastel.

Painting at Durand Eastman Park

Painting at Durand Eastman Park

Painting at Durand Eastman Park

Painting at Durand Eastman Park

Today
I have been painting landscapes en plein air in the Rochester/Finger Lakes region for more than 30 years. My paintings offer a narrative of color, movement, shape, light, and pattern through rolling fields, moving water, and dramatic skies. Features of the landscape become characters in the story as I paint the places I love to be. In the studio, I work from still life compositions and use my plein air work as source material to further explore and indulge in the shapes and colors I enjoyed in the field. Whether in the field or studio, my paintings simply explore the idea of place. I feel I am successful when viewers feel a connection to the place I offer or remember a favorite place of their own.

After the Storm, acrylic, Philbrick Park, Penfield

After the Storm, acrylic, Philbrick Park, Penfield

"Little Pine Between, Adirondacks", Acrylic on panel, 8" x 10", 2012

Little Pine Between, Adirondacks, Acrylic on panel, 8″ x 10″, 2012

Small is BIG
My mom wasn’t an artist but I believe an artist’s spirit was in her somewhere. She died of Alzheimer’s in 2012. It occurred to me while writing this blog that in her final months I would draw pictures of the view out her window while she watched. I just made that connection. Watching me draw soothed her.

Artists’ work is always changing, but our small beginnings are fixed. I’m grateful to the people in my life who knew my need to make art was big.

You can see more of Phyllis’s work at her website, www.behance.net/phyllis_bryce_ely. Or stop by Main Street Arts through December 29, 2014 to see two of her landscape paintings in person.

Check out our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post by encaustic artist, Virginia Cassetta.

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Virginia Cassetta: The Road Taken

I was raised in a very traditional Italian family and and when I graduated high school the only road open for me was either attending nursing school or becoming a teacher. I chose a career in nursing, although in my heart I wanted to work in the arts and move to NYC. I married, had children, and pursued a career in healthcare. At 57 I was working at a job I had fought hard to get, only to discover that it was not for me, and not where I wanted to be. I began to take night art classes at MCC, and the rest, as they say, is history.

I came home from work late one afternoon, stepped out of the car, dropped the weighted briefcase, undressed from my suit of armor and began to run through the fields naked (we lived in the country at that time). I came upon my husband, who was quietly reading his daily newspaper, sat down next to him and said, “ I am going to change my life”. And then I did. I quit my job, my husband took early retirement, and we relocated to Portland, Maine for 3 years, when in 2004 I obtained my BFA in Sculpture. We relocated back to Rochester, NY and in 2006 I obtained my MFA in Sculpture.

A scholarship to Florence, Italy, and art residencies served to give me solid working experiences in both sculpture and painting, as well as forcing me to understand what I wanted to communicate in my work. Women, the aging process, identity, nature were all issues that I was drawn to. It has been an ongoing struggle to narrow some of those ideas down and build cohesive bodies of work. My website virginiacassetta.com will give you an idea of some of the artistic methods that I have worked with over the past few years.

Womanscape Series 2012

Womanscape Series, 2012, 21″ x 19″, Thread, oil on linen

This oil painting of “Three Women” incorporated sewing and painting on a linen background. With this series I was able to add sculptural qualities to a painting by first sewing the design onto linen and then paint over the thread in oils.

I was seeking a way to continue this method of incorporating texture into my work when I discovered Encaustic Painting. Encaustics is an age old art that was practiced by the Greeks and dates back to the 5th Century. It involves the painting of hot pigmented beeswax & resin (which hardens) on a structured panel. The hot wax is then manipulated by the process of melting, brushing, layering, fusing, scraping, filling and gouging to reveal imagery that can result in a glossy translucence, or texturally sculptural works. “House II” was one of my first ventures. In this image I use heavy brushes to create the textured look.

HOUSE II

House II, 2012, encaustic on panel board, 24″ x 18″

I wanted to learn more about this technique so I began watching the tutorials from Enkaustikos Paints, and when the opportunity arose I took a week long workshop in Encaustics to develop technical skills and learn how to incorporate other materials into the wax process. It was here that my artistic energies began to unfold, and encaustics’ is now my medium of choice.

In my Small Scapes series, I turned to the landscape for my inspiration and created a series combining the layering of paints to create a translucent effect. With metal tools I drew in much of the detail work.

2014, 6" x 6"

Smallscape Series, 2014, encaustic & oils on panel board 6″ x 6″

The melted wax process is difficult to control. The fusing and multi- layering of pigmented wax (sometimes 5 or more layers) will create visual narratives that tell their own stories, and as the images and colors change, so may my original designs. This is why Encaustics is my medium of choice. I am continually challenged to draw on my hidden creative energies. The end result surprises me and will often change the direction of the series I may be working on.

A series called the Big Bang speaks to positive energies and the motion of life; we are not alone in our universe. This again presents the effects of the layering, fusing, drawing and scraping of images and colors to present the movement of female images and objects in space.

Big Bang, 2014, 23 3/4' x 23 1/2", encaustic & oils on panel board

Big Bang, 2014, 23 3/4′ x 23 1/2″, encaustic & oils on panel board

So where do my ideas come from. I love poetry and much of the Big Bang series came from reading the poetess Sappho. My house series came from reading the Poetics of Space. Womanscape came from my own direct life experiences as a women and how I see women functioning in today’s world. Observation of self and my experiences of being female over the past 70 years has become a metaphor for me; I draw on the female form to express the social, cultural, and religious conditions of a woman’s life. Nature and landscape imagery represents the sensuality, feelings, fecundity, and the colors of femininity.

2014, 6" x 6", encaustic & oil on panel board

Half Moon Scape, 2014, 6″ x 6″, encaustic & oil on panel board

Night Scape is new and in development. I am intrigued with the comets, planets, and star formations. Following the Big Bang, this series brings me closer to our ever expansive universe and our spiritual interactive roles within.

Night Scape, 2014, 24" 25", encaustic & oils on panel board.

Night Scape, 2014, 24″ 25″, encaustic & oils on panel board.

For the past 13 years I have been engaged in exploring, discovering and experimenting with various art mediums and media. I see this as a lifelong engagement with the artistic process. I have a newly remodeled studio room in my garage at home, I recently put together my own website, I am on Facebook, and have two new shows coming up in 2015. At this new age of 70, I have not looked back and glad I choose art as my road taken.

You can see more of Virginia’s work at her website, virginiacassetta.com. Or stop by Main Street Arts through December 29, 2014 to see one of her encaustic landscapes in person.

Check out our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post by jewelry artist Vanessa Rivera.

Paintings and Prints by Dennis Revitzky

Rochester printmaker Dennis Revitzky has a solo show featuring landscape paintings and prints from Rochester, the Finger Lakes area, and beyond, Upstairs at Main Street Arts! His wooded landscapes feature beautiful pinks, purples, and greens that look great in the gallery space.

"Paintings and Prints by Dennis Revitzky"

“Paintings and Prints by Dennis Revitzky”

Dennis Revitzky’s paintings and prints have strong natural elements. Tangled trees, winding streams, and cliffside villages are a common sight in his work.

Dennis Revitzky, "Tangled Trees, Mendon Ponds", oil & mixed media on canvas

Dennis Revitzky, “Tangled Trees, Mendon Ponds”, oil & mixed media on canvas

Prints by Dennis Revitzky

Prints by Dennis Revitzky

Paintings and prints by Dennis Revitzky

Paintings and prints by Dennis Revitzky

Make sure to stop by to see Dennis’ incredible monoprints and paintings in person! You can see more information on the exhibitions Upstairs at Main Street Arts here.

Exhibition Dates: October 3–November 29, 2014

Inside The Artist’s Studio with Bradley Butler: Part Two

Bradley Butler

Detail of Inner Interior (2012)

I have always been attracted to a darker palette. Muddy colors, mixing lots of black and white with my colors, using copious amounts of India ink and powdered charcoal… This led me down a path of slightly grey, almost “dim” work that masked the color that was present in my paintings. For a while, I was trying to mask this color as a way for people to discover it as they stared into the surface. Images and colors would show themselves after your eyes adjusted to the darkness on the immediate surface. You would begin to notice that it wasn’t a flat black or grey you were looking at but a rich grouping of blues, reds, browns and greens.

Bradley Butler

Detail of Sliding Frame of Reference (2011)

Bradley Butler

Detail of Underneath The Expanse (2012)

My work as of late has been a reveal of the colors that were always there but were just hiding beneath the surface. I still “muddy up” the palette and most likely, will always do that;  but more color—vibrant at times—has been showing up in my compositions. I see my recent work (March–October, 2014) as a refined approach to color and also to mark-making. Using brushes I have not picked up in years, leaving marks I would have otherwise covered in the past, and trying to think differently about the way I begin a painting. These are all ways in which I have “forced” a change. Other natural changes have resulted from this as well.

studio shot bradley butler

Two new 30in x 30in canvases are in the works in the studio.

detail of new work by Bradley Butler

Detail of 30in x 30in painting in progress

The paintings have become more consistent, and I feel, more impactful. There are still subtle and understated areas but they pack more punch now… The mystery and depth I am after is still there and will always be there (I hope), but with a new palette. I still use the same colors, I just mix them differently and set different expectations for myself. The colors I use are Golden Brand acrylics because that’s what Kathy Calderwood told me to use when I took her class in college. I use cadmium red, napthol red, cadmium yellow, phthalo blue (green shade), ultramarine blue, titanium white, and mars black. At times, additions or substitutions are made but that happens rarely.

Bradley Butler

My current palette as I work in the studio. This is a popular mix for me lately: ultramarine, pthalo, and cad. yellow with varying degrees of black and white… I also let the colors run into each other to see what happens!

Part three in this series will be coming soon. Until then, stop into the gallery to see The Opposite of Concrete where six of my paintings are featured, along with great work by 4 other talented artists.

Read part one of Inside The Artist’s Studio with Bradley Butler, here.

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.

Carl Chiarenza: The Opposite of Concrete

Photographer Carl Chiarenza is one of five artists who will exhibit abstract artwork in our upcoming exhibition at Main Street Arts, The Opposite of Concrete.

Carl Chiarenza, Somerville 10, 1976

Carl Chiarenza, Somerville 10, 1976

Chiarenza recently showed his work at the Rochester Contemporary Art Center as part of their Makers & Mentors exhibit. In an interview for the show, A Conversation with Carl Chiarenza, Carl covers everything from how he began taking photographs to his opinions on the art world’s preoccupation with money.

Carl Chiarenza’s unique perspective on photography, collage, and abstraction itself is one of the strengths of our upcoming exhibition here at Main Street Arts.

Carl Chiarenza, Noumenon 148, 1987

Carl Chiarenza, Noumenon 148, 1987

The Opposite of Concrete features 5 different approaches to making abstract imagery through painting and photography by Carl Chiarenza, Karen Sardisco, Sarah Sutton, Patricia Wilder, and Bradley Butler (gallery director at Main Street Arts).

Carl Chiarenza, Rossini, 2013

Carl Chiarenza, Rossini, 2013

Check our Upcoming Exhibitions page or our Facebook page for updates.

Exhibition Dates: September 6–November 1, 2014

Opening Reception: Saturday, September 6, 2014 from 4 to 7 p.m.