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Off the Clock: Penland Studio Coordinator Show

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Clockwise from top left: Jay Fox, Ellie Richards, Amanda Thatch, Susan Feagin, Betsy DeWitt, Ian Henderson, Daniel T. Beck, Nick Fruin

 

The job of a Penland studio coordinator is a many-faceted one. Our eight coordinators order materials and keep studios clean and equipment running smoothly. They manage budgets and large inventories of supplies. They work with our programming office to plan upcoming workshops, and instructors to provide for specific classes, and individual students to solve problems on the fly. It’s a demanding and unpredictable job, which makes it all the more impressive that these eight individuals are also working artists in their own right. We are thrilled and proud that they have come together to put on a group show of their work at the Asheville Area Arts Council. Appropriately, the exhibition is called Off the Clock.

As curator and Penland friend Elaine Bleakney writes:

OFF THE CLOCK features eight artists, all full-time studio coordinators at Penland School of Crafts in Penland, NC. The work on view here was made in the off-hours by friends and colleagues who see each other daily and exchange interests, affection, knowledge, and regard for each other.

This is not a group show in the traditional sense. These artists are not strangers, and the works are not estranged from each other, despite their singular presences. Rather, looking from artist to artist, the viewer might pick up a magical sense that the works were made on the same set of evenings, in studios closeby. One of these artists might have looked up from her work and gazed out the cool, green window. She might have seen one of the other artists riding by on a bike, and waved.

 

Penland studio coordinators

Penland’s studio coordinators: Jay Fox, Susan Feagin, Nick Fruin, Ian Henderson, Ellie Richards, Amanda Thatch, Betsy DeWitt, Daniel T. Beck

 

Off the Clock will be on view at the Refinery Creator Space at 207 Coxe Ave in Asheville through September 16, 2016. It features the work of Daniel T. Beck (iron/sculpture), Betsy DeWitt (photography), Susan Feagin (ceramics), Jay Fox (print), Nick Fruin (glass), Ian Henderson (metals), Ellie Richards (wood/sculpture), and Amanda Thatch (drawing/textiles).

There will be a reception for the show on Friday, September 2 from 5 PM to 8 PM, and the artists will present a public talk on Saturday, September 3 from 4 PM to 6 PM. More information about both events is available on the exhibition’s Facebook event page.

Visit the Asheville Area Arts Council website to learn more about Off the Clock.

 

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Elephants at the Gallery

gallery-maruyama

 

The Penland Gallery proudly presents Wendy Maruyama: the wildLIFE Project, a mixed-media exhibition that draws attention to the plight of elephants. Through a moving installation of large-scale objects, shrine forms, and informational panels, the show creates a powerful aesthetic environment and makes a compelling case for the preservation of animals in the wild. This touring exhibition originated at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft and will be on display at the Penland Gallery through September 4. All are welcome to join us for the opening reception on Saturday, July 16, 4:30-6:30 PM, which will celebrate The wildLIFE Project as well as a show of paintings by Kreh Mellick in the Focus Gallery.

Furniture maker, artist, and educator Wendy Maruyama has been making innovative work for forty years. While her earlier work was built around traditional craft objects, in recent years she has moved beyond the boundaries of studio craft and into the realm of installation and social practice. The wildLIFE Project was inspired by a trip to Kenya where she saw elephants and other large animals in the wild and met with wildlife advocates to learn about the impact of poaching.

In this show, the elephant is memorialized in monumental form through a series of masks, eight to twelve feet in height and constructed from wood panels tied together with string. Several shrine forms are also on display, one of which is based on a traditional Buddhist altar. This beautifully crafted furniture piece incorporates an image of an elephant, flowers, a candle, an incense burner, and a handmade bell that rings every fifteen-minutes to memorialize the elephants that are being killed for their ivory. Another piece, titled Sarcophagus, is a wood and glass box that encases a stack of tusks made from blown glass. Maruyama made these objects in collaboration with glass artists Nancy Callan and Dan Friday during a residency at Pilchuck Glass School in Washington. A third shrine incorporates video, and the wall panels complement the artwork with photographs, text, and graphics.

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“Orkanyawoi,” Wendy Maruyama

Curator Elizabeth Kozlowski has followed Maruyama’s work for many years. She says the artist views this body of work not only as an art project but as an advocacy tool. “The social-practice component of her artwork is successful in combining art, advocacy, education, and community. Her work manages to pull you in with stirring visuals and keep you engaged with multiple layers of content.”

Wendy Maruyama was a professor of woodworking and furniture design at San Diego State University in California for more than thirty years. Her work has been exhibited in New York City, San Francisco, Tokyo, Seoul, and London and can be found in many museum collections including the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Dallas Museum of Art in Texas, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City. She has received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a Japan/US Fellowship, a Fulbright Research Grant and the California Civil Liberties Public Education Grant. She has also been an instructor at Penland School of Crafts several times.

The wildLIFE Project has been shown at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft in Texas and the Center for Art in Wood in Philadelphia. After it leaves the Penland Gallery, it will travel to the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, VA and the San Francisco Museum of Craft and Design.

This exhibition is a great opportunity to visit the recently renovated and expanded Penland Gallery, which also features paintings by Kreh Mellick in the Focus Gallery beginning July 15. As something special, Kreh’s work not only hangs in frames for the exhibition, but has moved onto the walls themselves in the form of large-scale murals. Come by the opening reception on Saturday, July 16, 4:30-6:30 PM to see the exhibitions, or stop by anytime during gallery hours Tuesday through Saturday, 10:00 AM-5:00 PM and Sunday, Noon-5:00 PM.

 

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Photo of the Week: Watering Can!

Nick Fruin in the Penland glass studio

Penland glass studio coordinator Nick Fruin finishing up a demo for Kenny Pieper’s glass workshop. The piece is in the form of a watering can. Here, let’s get a better look:

 

Nick Fruin at the Penland glass studio

 

 

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A Well-Deserved Honor

Award recipients pose after the ceremony

Jean McLaughlin (right) with the other recipients of the James Renwick Alliance Distinguished Educator Award. Left to right: Paul Sacardiz for the Haystack Fab Lab, Chunghi Choo, Jamie Bennett, Jean McLaughlin.

 

Jean McLaughlin, Penland’s longtime director, was honored this spring with a 2016 Distinguished Craft Educators Award from the James Renwick Alliance in Washington, DC. The Alliance is a nonprofit organization that works to promote craft artists and craft education and helps to support the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the nation’s showcase for 20th and 21st century American crafts.

The James Renwick Alliance chooses Distinguished Craft Educators based on the recipient’s reputation for excellence and innovation in education, their influence on future artists in an education program, and their significant contributions to American education in the craft field. In nominating Jean for the award, glass artist, Renwick Alliance board member, and Penland trustee Tim Tate wrote, “When Jean came to Penland eighteen years ago, she breathed new life into the institution. She rebuilt or renovated most of the studios on campus. Thousands of students have passed through their doors, and almost every Distinguished Educator the Renwick Alliance has honored in the past has taught at Penland. Jean’s impact is hard to judge as its scope is so large.”

 

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Jean celebrates after the award ceremony with a crowd of Penland friends.

 

As part of the award ceremony in April, the Alliance invited Jean to present a short lecture, which she devoted to an overview of Penland’s renowned craft workshops and residencies. “Penland is a leader in education,” Jean told the audience. “I can hardly lay claim to these accomplishments because they are the result of the minds and hands of many staff members and trustees—but my belief in Penland’s educational model is why I moved to Penland to become its director in 1998 and why I believe that I am here today!”

Congratulations, Jean, on this well-deserved honor! All of us in the Penland community benefit from your care, your dedication, and your vision.

 

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From iPhone to I, Photographer

Mercedes Jelinek teaching at Mitchell High

Mercedes Jelinek explains to her Art 1 students how to edit images on their phones.

 

“Photography is not like painting. There is a creative fraction of a second when you are taking a picture. Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life itself offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera. That is the moment the photographer is creative.”

—Henri Cartier-Bresson, 1957

 

Although darkroom photography is no longer part of many high school art programs, photography itself is more prevalent than ever. These days, most high school students walk around with camera phones in their back pockets, and snapping photos is almost second nature. As a visiting artist at Mitchell High School in Spruce Pine, NC, Mercedes Jelinek’s goal was to show students that these photos could be more than just a way to record and share—they could be a form of creative expression.

“Photos can mean a lot more than just representing likeness,” Mercedes tells her students at the beginning of class on a Wednesday morning. The students are seated in bright yellow chairs around a projector in Jennifer Robinson’s Art 1 class. On the screen, Mercedes is advancing through portraits they took of each other yesterday, each original photograph shown next to an edited version. “What makes this one so good?” she asks. Her students respond with their thoughts about composition, lighting, framing. Despite being taken with simple cellphone cameras, the photos do look good—really good. There’s personality coming through in each one.

 

black and white portraits of three Mitchell High School students

Three of the many portraits Mitchell High students took of each other during their photo classes with Mercedes. From left, images by Tanner, Kassie, and Billy.

 

As a resident artist here at Penland, Mercedes has years of professional photography experience—both film and digital—to share with her students. Her three-day visit to Mitchell High was part of the Professional Craft Study for High School Students, one of Penland’s Community Collaborations programs to bring creative experiences to students in the surrounding counties. During her lessons, Mercedes started with basics such as camera controls and simple editing, but her students were soon talking about how to interact with subjects to make them comfortable and relaxed and how to set up a shot to lead the viewer’s eye.

 

Mercedes photographs a student

During her class, Mercedes set up a photo booth to take portraits of all her students.

 

On her final day of teaching, Mercedes used the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson as an inspiration for her students. Cartier-Bresson is known for The Decisive Moment, a book of black-and-white street photography. “To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression,” he wrote.

In asking her students to take photographs of “decisive moments” as their final assignment, Mercedes enabled them to bring together the technical concepts they had practiced such as lighting and exposure time with their own view of the world. “Go set up the shot absolutely perfectly, then have somebody walk through it,” she instructed them. “You decide the perfect moment to take your shot.”

There was nothing uncommon about the laughter that followed, or the knots of two or three teens talking in groups, or the students wandering on the grassy stretch in front of the school. What was uncommon was the particular care and attention taken to document it all.

—Sarah Parkinson

 

black and white photographs by Mitchell High students

A few of the “decisive moment” photographs taken during Mercedes’s class. Clockwise from top left, images by Rylie, Madison, and Devlin.

 

See more photographs from Mitchell High School Art 1 students on the MHS Art Instagram.

All of Penland’s Community Collaborations programs are funded by grants and donations. The Professional Craft Study for High School Students is able to bring artists like Mercedes to Mitchell High School thanks to the generous support of the Samuel L. Phillips Family Foundation Education Partnership Endowment.

 

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Welcome Back, Horner

Horner Hall at Penland School

After more than a year of renovation and new construction, Penland’s venerable old Horner Hall, home to the Penland Gallery, is fully functioning again. This is the front of the building with the newly-installed sculpture, New Growth, by former Penland resident artist Hoss Haley.

 

Horner Hall at Penland School

Much of the building was gutted, the floor plan was altered, and all the spaces were completely renovated.

 

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A new exhibition hall and a courtyard were added to the North side of the building.

 

Horner Hall at Penland School

The second floor, which had been used for student housing for many decades, was refashioned into staff offices.

 

Horner Hall at Penland School

The building reopened in mid-March, just in time for the opening of the first scheduled Penland Gallery exhibition, This is a Photograph, curated by artist, photographer, and long-time Penland instructor Dan Estabrook (at left, with glasses).

 

 

Horner Hall at Penland School

The gallery walls and pedestals (custom-built by former Penland resident artist Daniel Marinelli) are covered with beautiful work, and we hope you’ll come visit. The gallery is open Tuesday – Saturday from 10:00 – 5:00 and Sunday from Noon – 5:00. Closed Mondays. Lots more gallery information here.

 

Here is a time-lapse sequence of Hoss Haley and crew assembling New Growth on March 25.

 

 

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The Penland Archive: Linking Past and Present

Dan Bailey Penland image

Carey Hedlund’s office is packed from floor to ceiling with shelves and boxes, each carefully labeled and filled with a piece of Penland history. When you enter the room, your eye spends a few moments taking in the sheer density of the files before settling on a large framed photograph on the far wall. The image, created by Dan Bailey in 1983, is a piece that Carey cites as one of her favorites in the Penland archives. It’s a familiar view of the Penland knoll with The Pines behind it, but with a long-exposure twist: the photographer took a light and moved it in concentric rings so that the knoll looks like it is covered in a layer of glowing topographical lines. There are no people in the picture, but the gentle kinks of the ribbons of light record the path of a person walking a hill at night.

Carey’s own path to Penland was similarly circuitous: “a long and twisted one” as she describes it. Growing up, she spent time at the Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan, where she learned crafts such as ceramics and metalsmithing. She’d heard of Penland by the time she was in high school, but it wasn’t until the fall of 2014 that she finally arrived for the first time as a new member of the Penland staff. In between, she got an undergraduate degree at Oberlin College, spent a few years in the visual collections of MIT’s architecture program, obtained a graduate degree in landscape architecture, worked for two decades as a landscape architect, teacher, and illustrator, and eventually found her way back to working with collections.

portrait of Carey HedlundAs collections go, the Penland archives are a bit unusual. “There are some archivists who believe that objects have no place in a collection,” Carey explains. “But how would you tell Penland’s story without them?” Indeed, in addition to the many thousands of pages of old publications and photographs and letters, the Penland archives include a rich array of objects, from textiles and pottery to more humorous items like a knit doll of an eccentric woman who worked at Penland years ago. “I’m still seeing things for the first time,” Carey adds. “Whenever I pull a box out and start reading, I find something that’s fascinating or funny or moving. There are real people in those boxes.”

For Carey, one of the primary challenges now is to make the existing Penland archives more pertinent and accessible. “It’s not a collection to hold close to myself,” she said, “it’s a collection to spread out and share.” She would like to see the archives cataloged in an online database where they would be visible. “That would also make them sustainable,” she notes.

One of the things that drew Carey here was Penland’s deep living history. “All archives are about a certain continuity,” she explains, “but there really is this fascinating tie between the early history here and what we do now.” Carey sees Penland as a school, but also a web of people and connections that make up a rich community. Reflecting on her first year here, she concludes, “It was a joy to find work in a rural community—that was a goal. The mountains are glorious. And Penland itself is what most people say: an incredibly beautiful place with an incredible energy.”

–Sarah Parkinson

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