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Artist Spotlight: Wendy Maruyama

The Penland community is like the galaxy: ever expanding and made up of stars.

Wendy Maruyama standing next to a wooden shrine with elephant masks behind
Wendy Maruyama with her Penland Gallery exhibition “The wildLIFE Project” in 2016

Recently, when the latest episode of Craft in America was released, we were thrilled to see Penland artists Wendy Maruyama and Cristina Córdova both featured. And more recently, when the prestigious 2020 United States Artists Fellowships were announced, we were excited to see Wendy’s name on the list again, this time with fellow Penland instructors Aaron McIntosh, Del Harrow, and Linda Sikora.

Wendy Maruyama has been creating innovative furniture, sculpture, and installations for over forty years, and she’s taught generations of woodworkers as a professor and mentor. Her work is technically masterful and deeply personal. For any of you who aren’t familiar with it, we thought we’d take this opportunity to introduce you to Wendy and her craft.

Wendy first learned furniture making as an undergraduate at San Diego State. She says she was drawn to the program because of the free thinking and the organic forms—“the furniture didn’t look like furniture,” she remembers. At that time, the woodworking field was almost entirely male dominated. “I felt like we women had to be three times more amazing to even be counted,” Wendy recalls. Nevertheless, she went on to Rochester Institute of Technology and graduated with a Masters degree in furniture making, one of the first two women to ever complete the program. And from there, she just kept pushing herself. While her earlier work was built around traditional craft objects, she has since moved beyond the boundaries of studio craft and into the realm of installation and social practice. “Wendy reached a level of mastery, saw the boundaries of technique, and kept pushing beyond them,” says curator Diedre Vissar.

Wendy’s more recent collections include Executive Order 9066, an installation of mixed-media wall cabinets and sculptures that explores the World War II-era persecution and internment of over 100,000 Japanese Americans, and The wildLIFE Project, which addresses issues of poaching and wildlife protection. This later installation (pictured in the first photo above) was one of the first exhibitions to show at the Penland Gallery after it reopened in 2016. Wendy filled the space with exquisitely-crafted wooden shrines and a series of imposing and majestic elephant masks, each between eight and twelve feet tall and stitched together from dozens and dozens of wooden panels. For visitors, the experience of the show engaged the senses and the emotions, masterfully bringing together artwork and advocacy.

Wendy has been involved with the Penland community for over thirty years. She taught her first workshop in the wood studio in the summer of 1982, and since then she’s returned occasionally as an instructor. More recently, she joined us here for her Penland Gallery show and to be the featured artist at the 2016 Penland Benefit Auction. Dozens of Penland artists, including our own director Mia Hall, count Wendy as a teacher, mentor, and friend. As Penland instructor Adam John Manley remembers, “The thing that she instilled in me and generations of students is—don’t ever settle on the thing that you just did as the final product. Keep pushing that.”

Wendy’s latest work has taken another turn, pivoting from emotionally-laden advocacy to the colors, history, and aesthetic of the Bauhaus. Her series of “wooden weavings” inspired by Anni Albers will be part of an exhibition to mark the 100th anniversary of the Bauhaus. And from there, who knows what Wendy will create next? “I feel like I’m an emerging artist again,” she says. “You can’t go back in time age wise, but I think creatively I feel like I’m young again and I’m doing this new work.”

Congratulations, Wendy, on two very well deserved honors! We’re lucky to count you as part of this community.

Six new "wooden weavings" by Wendy Maruyama
Six pieces from Wendy Maruyama’s new series “The Color Field”

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Japanese Metalworking Techniques at the Penland Gallery

Over hundreds or thousands of years, cultures across the globe have developed their own ways of working with basic materials such as clay, fiber, and metal. This global nature of craft is brought to light in a new exhibition at the Penland Gallery, which presents a brilliant exploration of traditional Japanese metalworking as it is practiced today. The show, titled Tradition of Excellence: Japanese Techniques in Contemporary Metal Arts, runs through November 17.

Featuring work by twenty-two Japanese and seven American artists, the exhibition was curated by metalsmith Hiroko Yamada, a jeweler and teacher who divides her time between Wisconsin and Japan. All of the artists make work based in historical techniques and approaches: some of them adhere strictly to tradition, while others reinvent or reinterpret it through contemporary practice. Among the artists are three who have received the highest honor in being designated as Japanese Living Treasures. Also part of the exhibition are three artists who live at or near Penland: Marvin Jensen, a longtime Mitchell County resident and former Penland employee; Seth Gould, a recent Penland resident artist; and Andrew Meers, a current Penland resident artist.

Curator Hiroko Yamada has taught at Penland School regularly since 2005. Over the past five years, she has helped organize several exhibitions and workshops aimed at introducing Japanese metal work to Western audiences and metalsmiths. “My mission,” she says, “is to bring together artistic skills and knowledge that will help both Japanese and American artists grow in their work and achieve new levels of excellence.”

What is hard to convey about this show is the astonishing level of excellence displayed by this work—in technique, design, and sheer artistry. The exhibition includes vessels, jewelry, and small sculpture. All of the work could be called decorative, with each piece creating its own special kind of beauty. Although few people who see this exhibition will arrive familiar with terms such as shakudo, kinkeshi, or mokume-gane, it’s unlikely that anyone will leave unmoved by this display of the incredible work that can be made by artisans committed to the highest levels of craft.

Also currently on view at the Penland Gallery is a small show of glass work by Shane Fero and photographs by Deb Stoner. Around the building are outdoor sculptures by ceramic artist Catherine White and steel sculptors Daniel T. Beck and Hoss Haley and an interactive mixed-media installation by Jeff Goodman.

The gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10:00 AM-5:00 PM and Sunday, Noon-5:00 PM; it is closed on Mondays.

Yoshio Ueno | Mokume-gane Kettle | 2018 | Copper, silver, shakudo, gold; mokume-gane, rokusho patina | 8.25 x 6.75 x 5.5 in

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Hoss Haley | Correction Line

When visitors walk into the new exhibition at the Penland Gallery, they may feel a bit overshadowed. The six large steel sculptures by Hoss Haley are almost out of scale with the room, and their complex forms seem precariously balanced—as though they might tumble, roll, or shift at any moment. Titled Correction Line, the show runs through September 15.

The exhibition’s title refers to a land-surveyor’s technique that Haley was familiar with from his childhood on a Kansas farm. Beginning in the late 18th century, Midwestern land was divided into 640-acre squares that did not take into account the curvature of the earth. The solution was to periodically shift the placement of the squares, introducing what was called a “correction line.” Haley remembers this as a feeling that the orderly geometry of his family’s fields did not quite reflect the shape of the earth. “I had a sense as a child that I was on an orb even though everything around me was flat,” he says. The forms in this show are characterized by planes and straight corners that resolve into sections of spheres, possibly evoking the geometric and geographic tension that was addressed by the correction lines.

Haley’s farm roots also connect directly to his choice of material. Steel is ubiquitous on a farm, and farm steel is constantly rusting and being repaired. Early in life, Haley developed a facility for working with the material, and he has retained a lifelong love for the aesthetic of rust. This aesthetic and a remarkable level of skill are both evident in the pieces in this show, all of which Haley and his assistant fabricated in his Mitchell County studio.

Although these pieces are large for a gallery exhibition, they are not the largest that Haley has executed during his more than 20 years working in North Carolina. He designed and built the beautiful fountain in Asheville’s Pack Square, and he has created large public works for Mecklenburg County, the Charlotte Area Transit System, and the Charlotte Douglas International Airport. His work is also in the collections of the Asheville Art Museum, the Mint Museum, and North Carolina State University. He has had a long relationship with Penland School of Craft as a resident artist and instructor.

Also currently on view at the Penland Gallery is a show of contemporary jewelry made from a variety of materials. Around the building are outdoor sculptures by ceramic artist Catherine White and steel sculptor Daniel T. Beck and an interactive mixed media installation by Jeff Goodman.

Stop by to see it all with your own eyes the next time you’re at Penland! The gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10:00 AM-5:00 PM and Sunday, noon-5:00 PM (closed on Mondays). For more information call 828-765-6211 or visit penland.org/gallery.

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Natural Dyes at the Penland Gallery

installation view of "Further Evidence" at the Penland Gallery

For most of human history, the colors used in art, craft, and materials of all sorts were derived from plants, minerals, and insects. Since the industrial revolution, however, synthetic dyes and colors tailored for specific materials have been the norm. In recent years, the craft world has seen a renewed interest in natural dyes, and they are now the subject of a new exhibition at the Penland Gallery titled Further Evidence: The Art of Natural Dyes. This riot of color will be on display through July 14, with an opening reception from 4:30-6:30 PM on Saturday, June 15.

Curator Catharine Ellis explains that the recent interest in natural dyes has been inspired by the local food movement, by an interest in personal and environmental safety, and by an increased scientific and technical understanding of dye processes and materials. Ellis is a weaver and textile designer based in Waynesville, NC and is the co-author, with textile engineer Joy Boutrup, of a recent book titled The Art and Science of Natural Dyes. The Penland Gallery exhibition brings this book to life with innovative, colorful work in cloth, tapestry, and paper.

Many of the pieces incorporate various approaches to shaped-resist dying or shibori, techniques that can create patterns after the cloth has been woven or patterns that are embedded in the individual threads before they are put on the loom. Two pieces in the show include words that are part of the woven design. Other works have designs and imagery created through tapestry weaving, stenciling, stitching, or piece work.

Artwork by Ana Lisa Hedstrom
Indigo-dyed paper by Ana Lisa Hedstrom

A series of remarkable wall pieces by noted shibori artist Ana Lisa Hedstrom were made by folding paper, dying it in indigo, and then unfolding and flattening to reveal geometric patterns in blue. An installation by ink maker Tim McLaughlin display materials and tools used for ink production along with glass vials of ink and journal pages written in extraordinary script with a fountain pen. The whole exhibition is a testament to the commitment this group of artists has to understanding and creating art with the colors of nature.

Running concurrently with this exhibition is a smaller Focus Gallery show of functional pottery by former Penland resident artist Shoko Teruyama, whose work is ornately shaped and patterned in vivid colors. The Visitors Center Gallery has an ongoing display of objects that illuminate the history of Penland School, and the Lucy Morgan Gallery presents a selection of work by dozens of Penland-affiliated artists. On display outside the Penland Gallery are large steel sculptures by Daniel T. Beck and Hoss Haley. There is also an interactive, outdoor installation by Jeff Goodman titled The Kindness for Imaginary Things.

The Penland Gallery and Visitors Center is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10:00 AM-5:00 PM and Sunday, Noon-5:00 PM; it is closed on Mondays. For more information visit penland.org/gallery.

Two works from "Further Evidence"
Left: dyed and quilted piece by Kim Eichler-Messmer. Right: dyed and woven piece by Amanda Thatch.

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Sculpture and Sound at the Penland Gallery

view of the Penland Gallery filled with a display of modular cardboard sculptures
Installation view of Eleanor Annand’s sculptures in the new exhibition “Compose | Decompose”

“Compose | Decompose,” a new exhibition of mixed-media sculpture and sound installations, opens today at the Penland Gallery. The work has been created for this show by Penland resident artist Eleanor Annand and Make Noise, an Asheville collective that designs and builds electronic instruments and collaborates with musicians to create new worlds of sound. The exhibition runs through May 12 with an opening reception this Saturday, March 30 from 4:30 to 6:30 PM. The reception will include a musical performance by Make Noise artists Walker Farrell, Meg Mulhearn, and Jake Pugh.

Although the work has been carefully crafted, this exhibition is less about presenting collectable items and much more about creating a unique environment and experience for the viewer. The work Eleanor Annand made for the show is primarily constructed from laser-cut cardboard that has been intricately designed to allow her to hand-fold hundreds of pieces into different shapes; other pieces are made from cast paper elements. “This work plays with disruption, entropy, light, and shadow,” Annand says. “Embracing a lack of permanence, I worked primarily with cardboard and recycled paper scraps to create modular units that can be arranged in a myriad of ways. Compose, decompose, compose, decompose, is a cycle in my process that mimics cycles of life and which I am exploring further in the impermanence of my materials.”

Top-down view of a Make Noise synthesizer
Make Noise, “Shared System.” Visitors are invited to listen to a piece of music recorded on this synthesizer and to experiment with their own compositions on others.

Accompanying Annand’s work are sound installations that use Make Noise synthesizers to create a series of aural environments that visitors can experience through the use of headphones. Modular synthesizers, not unlike Annand’s sculptures, are comprised of multiple units that can be combined and adjusted in countless ways to create different sounds. The sounds in these installations were created by various artists using instruments designed by Tony Rolando.

Explaining their intent, Make Noise has said, “We want our instruments to be an experience, one that will require us to change our trajectories and thereby impact the way we understand and imagine sound. Also, we think what we do is fun and we hope you like it, too.”

Running concurrently with this exhibition is a smaller Focus Gallery show of functional pottery by Joseph Pintz, whose work is characterized by sturdy, earthenware forms and richly layered surfaces. In addition, the Visitors Center Gallery has an ongoing display of objects that illuminate the history of Penland School, and the Lucy Morgan Gallery presents a selection of work by dozens of Penland-affiliated artists. On display outside the Penland Gallery are large steel sculptures by Daniel T. Beck and Hoss Haley, plus a structure designed by artist Meredith Brickell that invites visitors to stop for a few minutes and observe the clouds.

cast paper sculptures installed against a black wall in the Penland Gallery
Detail of “Sequence,” a cast paper piece by Eleanor Annand.

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Personal | Universal

exhibition view of "Personal | Universal"

The new exhibition at the Penland Gallery has stories to tell. Titled “Personal | Universal: Narrative Work in Craft,” the show includes pieces by eleven artists working in a variety of media who have created images or objects that hint at a story of some kind. The exhibition runs through July 15 with an opening reception on Saturday, June 2 from 4:30 to 6:30 PM.

In a sense, this exhibition is posing a question: how much does it take to make a story? These pieces are primarily visual, they don’t have sequences like a comic book, and most of them do not contain text. Yet they are filled with references and possibilities that suggest something that may have happened or may be about to happen; they may nudge the viewer toward a memory or experience of their own. Gallery director Kathryn Gremley says, “In this work, the artist provides the narrative genesis, and the viewer completes the story.”

The exhibition includes work in ceramic, glass, painting, collage, printmaking, metal, cast plaster, mixed-media, and found objects. Among these pieces is a work by sculptor David Chatt, titled “1982,” which is an iconic boom box cloaked in white beads that have been painstakingly stitched together to form a tight skin on the object. Corey Pemberton, who is currently a core fellowship student at Penland School, is represented by two wall pieces—each of them depicting a young woman sitting in a room—that combine painting with photographic images and collaged materials such as wood veneer and wallpaper. Shawn HibmaCronan has created a large wreath made entirely of used, leather work gloves that carry the patina of thousands of hours of labor. Each piece pulls the viewer into a different little world.

Work from “Personal | Universal” by Shawn HibmaCronan, Corey Pemberton, Anne Lemanski, and Shoko Teruyama

Running concurrently with this exhibition is a smaller show of ceramic work by Jenny Mendes. This show will include sculpture focused on animal and human forms and highly-decorated functional pieces. The Visitors Center Gallery has an ongoing display of objects that illuminate the history of Penland School, and the Lucy Morgan Gallery presents a selection of work by dozens of Penland-affiliated artists. On display outside the Penland Gallery are large sculptures in stone and steel by Daniel T. Beck, Hoss Haley, and Carl Peverall, plus a structure designed by artist Meredith Brickell that invites visitors to stop for a few minutes and observe the clouds.

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Now on View in the Penland Gallery

Tom Shields, “Mediation,” cast iron, 60 x 18 x 39 inches (photo courtesy of John Michael Kohler Arts Center)

The year’s first exhibition at the Penland Gallery is a collection of work by artists who, in the words of gallery director Kathryn Gremley, “have erased dividing lines or untethered themselves from material and creative constraints.” Titled I dwell in Possibility after a poem by Emily Dickinson, the exhibition includes work in ceramic, glass, metal, painting, photography, printmaking, and wood with considerable mixing of media. The fifteen artists represented will be teaching workshops at Penland in 2018. The show runs through May 13.

Ruther Miller, “The Evocation and Capture of Aphrodite,” hand-embroidered wool on fabric, 36 x 30 inches

Walking into the exhibition, visitors will be greeted by a three-foot tall, precisely rendered image of a young woman—leaves and geometric shapes float by her in the foreground. The piece can easily be mistaken for a painting, but closer inspection reveals that it is made entirely from embroidery thread. The artist, Ruth Miller, spends about a year stitching one of these pieces.

Photographer Dan Estabrook is represented by a series of tintypes, which are images created on a metal plate. Although tintypes have traditionally been treated simply as a type of photograph, this artist has chosen to also approach them as metal objects. Using a jeweler’s saw, he carefully cuts up different tintypes and recombines them to create metal collages.

A cast-iron teapot by Frankie Flood, who is a faculty member at Appalachian State University, has a surface texture that looks like the inner surface of tree bark, while the surface of a wooden platter by Matthew Hebert has been carved into a 3D image of a manhole cover. And an animated video by Noah Saterstrom is accompanied by several of the paintings he used to create it. These are just some of the wonders and possibilities presented in this exhibition.

Also on view in the Focus Gallery is an exhibition titled GATHER | Eat, Drink, Enjoy, which showcases elegant, functional glassware by Courtney Dodd and Nickolaus Fruin. Together, the artists have formed “Shaker + Salt,” a line of exquisitely-executed plates, bowls, cups, and more that are meant to be shared, enjoyed, and laughed over at the table. The exhibition highlights these pieces as they might be used at a dinner party, complete with a fully set table and cocktail recipes to go with each set of glasses. Admire the entire arrangement, and then lean in close to catch the special details that set each piece apart.

Place setting from “GATHER” by Shaker + Salt