Studio assistant Nick Moen in the clay studio, behind a wall of his own works-in-progress.
Studio assistant Nick Moen in the clay studio, behind a wall of his own works-in-progress.
Eleanor Annand, detail from “Isolate,” scribed and abraded drawing on paper (see below for image of the whole work).
An artist goes for a walk in the woods. One foot, and then another. It’s a form of precision. “You walk with a reasonable, natural rhythm; let it be natural, just as with the breath,” says the Buddhist meditation master and scholar Chögyam Trungpa, describing the practice of walking meditation. The artist walks. She observes her weight, her step, its repetition. She looks at the world around her and notices, also, the interior.
This is one way to think about artist Eleanor Annand’s recent body of work, completed at a time when she was researching meditation and walking—and taking many walks and hikes herself. A former Penland core fellow, Annand now lives in Asheville, North Carolina, and sustains a busy life as a full-time graphic designer. And so, to the dreamy image of an artist walking in the woods, we have to add another image to the story of Annand’s process: the artist wakes up early, goes down to her basement with her tea—and creates before the workday begins. “I don’t binge on creative time,” she says. “I prefer more of a slow and steady approach. A couple of quiet hours in the morning are ideal.”
Annand’s current work, on view until May 11 at the Penland Gallery, is made up of paintings on steel and works on paper. The steel pieces are coated with approximately four layers of enamel spray paint. The paper, coated with ten to twelve layers of paint on top of a layer of gesso. After the coated field is dry, Ele uses a scribe to make her low-relief mark. Marks, we should say—Annand’s works are often tidal surges of mark making (and abraded marks)–a discipline attached to the precise and generative act of seeing that can be experienced in meditation.
Eleanor Annand, “Isolate”
But Annand does not expect you to approach her painting and be enlightened. (Neither does she expect this as an end-result of her own process.) On this point she is clear-eyed. “I see most things in life as grey,” she says, “not black and white. These works aren’t about an incident but about the general emotion I carry from something.” Annand pauses and takes a sip of chai between thoughts. “There is not an answer in my work, but an acceptance. Not a wanting.”
How did Annand, trained in graphic design and letterpress, arrive at this steady point as an artist? Annand took her first workshop—in weaving—at Penland while still in college. Later, after working in graphic design for several years with clients like IBM, Annand took a break from professional life to get back into her hands by taking a fall 2009 workshop in Penland’s print studio. At this point, she applied for and received the two-year Penland core fellowship.
This was 2010. Annand’s first eight-week workshop as a core fellow was with printmaker Phil Sanders. “All of my work was figurative at the time,” she remembers. Sanders would open the workshop with an hour or two for individual drawing time, and he would orbit the room, witnessing. She recalls him pointing to a moment of abstraction in one of her figurative drawings, and saying something to the effect of ‘I think you’re more interested in what’s happening here.’ He was right—Annand’s work has moved, over the years, toward the abstract. “I still won’t commit myself to letting go of the figures,” she says. “I think that they are moving toward a different part of what I make, in illustration.”
To pay attention to what you’re doing—this is the most important thing I learned from Penland, adds Annand. To pay attention leads to true expression. Having a healthy sense of self-awareness has led me to make work I believe is authentic and honest.
Eleanor Annand, “Pyre,” painting on steel
Our conversation wanders back to walking, how the rhythm of walking sharpens and creates an attention to the rich periphery. She mentions her painting, “Pyre” (above).
“It’s not like I walked into the woods and found a pyre and decided to recreate it,” Annand smiles. “It’s about introspection, and making honest marks. I’m sure that something on my walks, some kind of distraction, helped bring the form inside.”–Elaine Bleakney
I’m up at the wood kiln if you guys want to meet…
said core fellow Will Lentz’s email. So we caught up with Will and the winter clay residents outside, joyfully unloading the kiln on a cold sunny day back in February. A long table was set out for the bounty.
Fast forward (about the length of three snows) when Will and I met to talk about the winter, which he spent–in part–working for former core fellow Jason Bige Burnett in Burnett’s Bakersville studio. Jason, Will noted, had been giving Will assignments, infusing Will’s winter with another space for intention and exploration. In particular, Will had been ruminating on box forms he’s been making–an opportunity for “release from the surface,” new design, and interconnectivity.
But Will’s winter wasn’t all about the box–he also dipped into vigorous making, testing out the possibility of producing a line of shapely ceramic mugs with a racer stripe. Café racers. As Will raced to unload the wood kiln, he chatted with the winter residents, thoroughly enjoying objects in the light.
Top photograph by Robin Dreyer. Photograph of mugs from Will Lentz’s Instagram account. Writing by Elaine Bleakney.
Today is the birthday of our food services manager, Richard Pleasants. Richard has a large fan club, which includes some extremely clever people. Two of them (code names DTB and IPH) were up late last night installing this sign on Richard’s customary parking place. The sign is made from steel and brass sheet metal. The spatula is forged steel. He is kind of like a snow leopard: lithe, white haired, and on task.
Betsy DeWitt, from Upon Closer Examination, archival inkjet print of a 4″ round photomicrograph
Like Batman, Marie Curie, and Wallace Stevens who came before them, our studio coordinators live intense double lives, serving as the veritable rocks for the Penland studios during the day and making their own art (at night? When? How do they do it?)
Dean Allison, Ally, cast and blown glass
Susan Feagin, Square Bowl, mid-range clay, screen printed slips, sgraffito, colored glazes, 2011. Photo by Walker Montgomery.
We’re very excited to announce the opening of the Penland Studio Coordinator show at Green Plum Gallery, 130 Oak Avenue (Upper Street) in Spruce Pine, April 21. A reception will be held on April 25, 5:00-8:00 pm. Artists include:
Amanda Thatch (Textiles, works on paper)
Betsy DeWitt (Photography)
Ian Henderson (Metals)
Daniel T. Beck (Sculpture)
Sean P. Morrissey (Works on paper)
Susan Feagin (Ceramics)
Dean Allison (Cast and blown glass)
Marvin Jensen (Furniture)
Amanda Thatch, detail from Begin Again, textile
Sean P. Morrissey, Pile #2, collage on panel, 60 x 30
The show, dubbed In the Beginning There Was Marvin: 8 Coordinators, 15 Studios, will be on view these dates and hours:
Monday, April 21: 4-7 pm
Tuesday, April 22: 4-7 pm
Wednesday, April 23: 4-7 pm
Thursday, April 24: 4-7 pm
Friday, April 25: 5-8 pm (reception)
Saturday, April 26: 10-5 pm
Sunday, April 27: 11-3 pm
Ian Henderson, Partum, bronze, gold-plated silver, ash
Some of the works included in this blog post will be on view. Some won’t. Expect the marvelous.
Taped down on a table in resident artist Robin Johnston’s studio is a map of the stars. Next to it is smaller map, loose and folded and used, with a handwritten note in the margin: WE SAW FIREWORKS. A map handed out on the Fourth of July last summer, Robin tells us. Robin and her husband and her son (age 2) watched the sky light up above Penland.
The moments of immanence that the artist experiences are collapsed into the work, to be revived or reimagined by the spectator when she enters its arena…–Ann Lauterbach, The Given and The Chosen
Fireworks, family, the night sky, perception in summertime–Robin is collapsing these moments in her newest work. No, it’s more accurate to say: she’s recording them across the stretched map, each weft piece to be marked with a star’s position before it’s dyed and then the weaving begins. In the final part of the process, Robin will embroider the star charts of each season on the finished piece. This will take months and months. “I love tedious work,” she says quietly, grinning.
If you don’t believe that Robin loves tedious work, please note:
She’s the artist who gathered around 4,000 walnuts, soaked over a hundred of them, wrapped yarn around each one, unwrapped the dried strands, and used them to weave 143 Walnuts, the piece hanging on the wall in the photograph below. Against another wall in her studio, next to an installation of walnuts still attached to strands suspended from the ceiling, is an old walnut picker. Her grandmother used it first–a handle attached to a metal cage, rolled over a carpet of grass to collect the fallen nuts on her sheep farm in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina. “Robin’s work deals with measuring time, capturing moments as they pass, and the sense of loss that accompanies their passing,” her website tells us.
One last note: “immanence” is the opposite of transcendence, and Robin Johnston is an artist residing in what’s in her earthly grasp: 4,000 walnuts, millions of stars, the moth wing-resilience of ikat tape, the fact that indigo is insoluble in water and must first be reduced to a form called indigo white. When the thread is dipped and then pulled from the vat, Robin explains, a molecular change occurs. The indigo reverts to its insoluble form. It retakes its blue from the air.
Photographs by Robin Dreyer; writing by Elaine Bleakney
Musician Casey Driessen has posted a music video for one of the tunes on his new album, and the entire video is our neighbor Kenny Pieper and his assistant Jamie Campbell blowing glass in Kenny’s studio. As a music video, it’s pretty unusual. As a glassblowing video, it’s quite good–with snappy music!