Even here we can forget to stop, look, and see where we are. Thank you for the reminder.
Writer, historian, critic, and gallerist Garth Clark will speak at Penland School of Crafts on Sunday, July 27, at 8:15 PM. Clark is spending several weeks at Penland as this year’s Andrew Glasgow Writing Resident. He will speak about the recent explosion of ceramic activity in the fine arts and offer other thoughts about issues in contemporary craft. The lecture takes place in the Northlight building, and it is free and open to the public.
Clark is co-founder of Garth Clark Gallery in New York and Los Angeles, founder and former director of the Ceramic Arts Foundation, and founder of the CFile Foundation, a global community working to bring ceramics into the mainstream of visual art. He is the author of over sixty books and several hundred reviews and essays. He is a fellow of the Royal College of Art (London); his honors include several honorary doctorates and lifetime achievement awards as well as the “Art Book of the Year” award from the Art Libraries Society of North America.
An accomplished lecturer, Clark has spoken in thirty countries at over 100 major venues including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and the Sorbonne University in Paris. His two most recent books are Mind Mud: The Conceptual Ceramics of Ai Weiwei and Lucio Fontana Ceramics. He is the editor-in-chief of CFile Online, an online forum for ceramics in art, design, and architecture.
The Andrew Glasgow Writers Residency is a program of Penland School of Crafts that provides focused time in a retreat environment to writers who will benefit from interacting with a craft community. The residency is named in honor of Asheville resident Andrew Glasgow, who served as the director of the American Craft Council and the Furniture Society, and as director of education and collections at the Southern Highland Craft Guild.
This is artist, former core fellow, and now Penland yoga instructor Rachel Garceau, putting together a ceramic installation outside the Pines. Made from slipcast porcelain, the piece is modular and variable, and Rachel has installed several versions in different places. The pattern represents the dots and dashes of Morse code. In this case, she’s spelling the words, “I can’t just limit it to a note.”
This phrase was said to her by instructor Dolph Smith, who was telling her that he’d been asked to write a sentence or two about Penland. He had a lot to say on the subject, so instead he sent a page or two along with the explanation, “I can’t just limit it to a note.”
Among Dolph’s many skills and interests is Morse code. He was trained by the Army, which stationed him as a signal interceptor in Berlin during the early days of the cold war. “Morse code is almost like handwriting,” he explained, “so we could identify individual operators, write down what they were transmitting, and also triangulate their locations. It’s all very archaic by today’s standards but it was interesting work.”
So, in honor of their shared affection for Penland and Morse code, Rachel used Dolph’s words for this installation.
Here’s a recording of Dolph speaking the phrase in dits and dahs.
For those of you who are completely puzzled by all of this, here is an explanation of Morse code.
As everyone probably knows by now, this fantastic cocktail service by Julia Woodman with goblets by Kenny Pieper is the featured artwork for this summer’s annual benefit auction. This put cocktails on our minds.
Our friend Nate Allen (chef and co-owner of Knife and Fork restaurant in Spruce Pine) is a cocktail aficionado, so we asked him to create a special drink for the auction. He came up with the Penland Hummingbird–a refreshing mixture of North Carolina’s own Cardinal gin, Luxardo maraschino, lemon juice, and an infusion of locally-gathered bee balm flowers (beloved by bees and hummingbirds). We’ll serve the drink at the auction and Cardinal is generously donating the gin.
So, for your entertainment, here is a video of Nate making the cocktail at his newly opened Spoon bar using Julia’s shaker and Kenny’s glasses. The recipe is at the end of the video.
If you would like to see more (and sillier) videos of Nate making cocktails, he made a series of them a few years back.
Last week I talked with visiting artist Ruganzu Bruno outside of Penland’s wood studio. It was Ruganzu’s second week at Penland—a time for making his own sculpture after a wild week of collaborative effort. During that first week, Ruganzu and volunteers handpicked by Penland and the McColl Center for Art + Innovation in Charlotte built an eco-friendly play area behind Penland’s Ridgeway building. The rapid evolution of the play area (which stars a soaring Luna Moth) can be viewed in the slideshow above.
Thanks to the efforts of Penland’s community collaborations team, Ruganzu and his volunteers attracted and involved the energies of many in the Penland community, including students in Penland’s Kids Camp. Their playground now includes the bamboo-frame Luna moth filled with recycled bottles and coffee cans and a new tire-swing structure.—Elaine Bleakney
How are you finding your time at Penland?
The space, the quiet, being away from the city and chaos—this is more like a world for artists, and I feel privileged to be here. Having come with students from Charlotte from different backgrounds for a week to work on an eco-playground was rewarding. We got here and we got moving and working together—and then the students found it hard to leave. The knowledge of people at Penland—everyone has so much knowledge and experience, it’s a rare feature.
How did you all decide on the works that would be part of the playground at Ridgeway?
It was a collective decision. I had visited Penland last December. I was making another playground plan in Charlotte for a neighborhood project called Brightwalk that had the same principles. In May I met again with parents and teaching artists, and they were so fond of the Luna moth that I switched my design, working in this idea. I consulted the kids in camp at Ridgeway too—they told us how they love to swing, and so we thought about how much of the playground we could create for swinging. I met Tom Dancer and Matt Anders—they knew all the types of wood and how lasting it was, even how old the wood was. So I call the new swings ‘The Dancer Swings’ after Tom: he’s the one who told me that locust wood might work instead of a chain I had designed for the tire swing. When he told me this I was thinking ‘Okay, how do I change my design?’ But in the end we discovered that the wood worked, and so there was new innovation.
How did you make the leap from studying painting, such a solitary act, to working collaboratively on public art?
I trained in painting and sculpture, and was finding collectors—it was selling. But it was not rewarding. Art needs to be in a community. Sometimes as artists we think that all we can do are pieces of aesthetic value for rooms, museums, galleries. For me, I got interested in environmental issues, especially in my country—Uganda is one of the countries affected most by climate change. It’s so hard because Uganda is so green; it’s hard to convince even a local person that we’re being affected. Most people don’t really care, so I was seeing art as an entry to activism. It also happened that when I was at university I saw that artists were communicating to other artists or to the people who collect art—the elite, people who have been to good schools—but it didn’t really go to a local person. So for me this was the realization.
What was your experience with art as a child like?
I grew up in a district of Uganda where the mountains and nature were all around. We had lots of potters—and that environment nurtured me. I had a really good artist mentor, teacher, and friend, so I started surviving on art. I grew up as an orphan. I was selling my small pieces, working on what I would call commercial art, and that was my background. I don’t know when it was I started drawing—I’m not one of those artists who can tell you that. For me, the economics in my district taught me about art because I could see that artists could actually make money. So I had a way of finding my feelings about my losses as an orphan and I knew that art would be my solace.
Is making art still a solace for you?
I think so. I think my need to make playgrounds relates to my childhood—there was something I was missing—it wasn’t play, it was more the economy, the need to have enough. I see a lot of kids in the U.S. with so much and they feel like they have no choices. I had so little and I saw that I had to choose what would make me happy.
I find in my work that I’m trying to address the consumerism. I’ll be doing a project in Denmark next year called What Is Eating You. I’ll be using some African rituals to show how we can solve issues. Back home, if I wrong you, it’s possible that we don’t rush to court, and we go to the chief. One of the tribes in Uganda actually uses food as conflict resolution. That’s what I’ll be doing in Denmark, in schools.
Thank you so much for being here with us.
I would love to come back. I want to try out everything here! I would love to see a Penland structure in Uganda, there would be so many people lining up to enter.