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Studio Visit: Will Lentz

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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.
lentzBut 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.

 

 

 

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Weaving Wednesday

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We stopped in the textiles studio this morning where Robin Johnston’s weaving class was hard at work at the looms. Robin took some time to show us around the kitchen. A ferrous vat of indigo was stirred, a piece of cloth dipped. Another vat totally slept through our visit. And someone was dyeing with lichen in a silver pot.

 

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5 Notes (A studio visit with Robin Johnston)

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1.

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.

 

2.

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

 

3.

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.

 

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4.

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.

 

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5.

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

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Eleanor Annand at the Penland Gallery | April 4 – May 11, 2014

Penland Gallery’s first Focus exhibition of the year opens Friday, April 4, with Eleanor Annand: Drawing and Painting. Working on steel and paper, Annand makes paintings and drawings where the mystery of emotional experience is dispatched and–in keen marks scribed into layers of paint–intensely explored.

 

Eleanor Annand, Pyre,
Pyre, painting on steel, 36 x 30 x 1.5 in.

 

 

My process requires focus, time and presence, three things that in today’s world are not easy to come by. The works in this exhibition employ the use of repetition as a means to clear my mind and allow for focus. My intent is to translate complex emotions into marks on paper and steel that communicate raw honesty. Some of the pieces also use simplified symbols to reinforce these emotions. I believe, that though we do not encounter the same things in life, we do share similar experiences. These common themes create connections we can use to find deeper understanding in one another. In this work I am offering my honesty and rawness of emotion as an extended hand to my audience.–Eleanor Annand

 

Eleanor Annand, Pyre, detail
Pyre, detail

 

All works included in Eleanor Annand: Drawing and Painting are viewable and available for purchase online at the Penland Gallery.

 

Eleanor Annand, Failed Logic,
Failed Logic, painting on steel, 24 x 24 x 1.5 in.

 

eleanorannandEleanor Annand grew up on the southern tip of the coast of North Carolina. She received her Bachelors of Graphic Design from North Carolina State University where she focused on typography and letterpress. After a range of design and letterpress experience from IBM to Yee-Haw Industries, between North Carolina and Colorado, she landed in the Core Fellowship program at Penland School of Crafts. In the Core program Eleanor investigated printed, drawn, carved, and painted lines on paper, metal and enamel. In 2012 she relocated to Asheville, NC where works as an artist and designer. Her work is on display at Blue Spiral 1 Gallery in Asheville and Light Art + Design in Chapel Hill, NC.

 
 

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Lydia and Megan

friends

I didn’t ask if they had coordinated their outfits. I did ask if they’d met before they came to Penland (they had, at Pilchuck).

Johnny Cash came on and we were about to be enveloped in his sound. “What are you both working on?” I asked Lydia (above, on the right).

“Oh, a piece I’m making–but I need these little pieces for it. So I asked Megan to do them. She’s really good at them.”

 

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Studio Visit: Rachel Meginnes

rachel meginnes at penland

In December, Rachel Meginnes’ sewing machine broke. She asked her friend, fellow resident artist Robin Johnston, if she could borrow hers. Nervous about roughing up Robin’s machine by sewing on paint (which is how Rachel broke her own machine), she stopped herself. “I thought about building up texture with more paint instead of by sewing,” she said. “I’m interested in pulling color from the cloth in ways I haven’t before.” From a busted sewing machine, Rachel’s process busted too.

Correction: processes–there are many. Rachel is a relentless pursuer of textures–“texture” having arrived to us from texere in Latin: to weave. Weaving is where Rachel started, and her creation of textures extends from a consideration of fibers, patterns, and their possibilities. How might an artist trained as a weaver accommodate painting methods and material foreign to the loom? Where would that take her? Rachel has gone far, far out with these questions–not unlike the child in the outfield who forgets, the second she looks up and sees all kinds of blue roping through the clouds, about being in a baseball game. Behold the wall of current Rachel Meginnes experiments:

 

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“If they fail, they fail,” says Rachel, about these ideas: gessoed paint build-ups, magazine transfers on cardboard, abraded surfaces, color behaving and misbehaving, thread and weave, articulate paper folds, that ominous X. Looking at each moment of texture, one begins to see the depths of Rachel’s experiments. “What happens when I can’t sand away?” she says, noting one of her techniques. Rachel’s studio time this past winter has involved voicing her  internalized methods and then veering away–toward discomfort, change, and not knowing what will happen. As a testament to her endurance in this process, check out her bowl of paint-shocked pins:

 

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Enduring a winter of self-imposed counter-intuitive experimentation might sound, well, painful. Perhaps the pain, for Rachel, is eased by an adherence to the grid–that endless, giving pattern she uses repeatedly. As I entered her studio, Rachel was applying white strokes of gesso to a fabric made from handwoven scarves that she had bought in bulk, cut up, and then re-pieced. She began to talk about the observational part of her work: watching, day to day, how paint affects not only the surface but the stretch of the fabric. I was immediately reminded of Agnes Martin: how the grid is a constant chance for alteration, for something else to happen. Rachel readily cites Martin, Robert Ryman, and Mark Bradford as influences.

The studio isn’t all action. Set away from a table populated with tubes of paint, there’s a small desk next to a well-tended bookshelf. On the desk, quiet arrangements: a draft for a dragonfly, an old issue of American Craft featuring the image of Ruth Asawa, who said once: “An artist is not special. An artist is an ordinary person who can take ordinary things and make them special.”

 

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Photographs by Robin Dreyer and Elaine Bleakney; writing by Elaine Bleakney

Read Kathryn Gremley’s 2014 essay on Rachel Meginnes’s work from Surface Design Journal here

 

 

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Studio Visit: Audrey Bell

 

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Audrey Bell remembers her father bringing home old typesetting drawers, fiddling with the compartments inside, and then filling them with objects. She laughs after saying it, maybe because it’s such an obvious connection to what she’s making now: wood compartments populated by figures and objects, habitats within cabinets, drawers that aren’t drawers, and frames that aren’t frames.

 

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Here’s one (at left) she finished this winter. The painting moves: lines in the bodies, the woman’s hair, a sweeping slant of sky, shapes and colors brought out from the wood. The dark stain of a shadow. There’s a hairline of aqua tracing this shadow–another kind of container. This is microwork, drawing one very close to the wall, asking a viewer to consider what is the nature of the mark or the surface? And then you step back: funny yellow dart, yellow of the toy store blaring yet somehow in check with the shifting subtle tones in the painting and the wood.

 

The painting and the wood in this work–it’s a palette reminiscent of Andrew Wyeth, one of several artists Audrey notes as an influence. Influence is tracked in Audrey’s world. This is an understatement. Um, just take a look at her journal:

 

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Audrey is wild about Giotto’s geometry, colors, and figures; old masters like Hans Holbein and Jan van Eyck (subjects of drawings she’s done this winter and letterpressed on cards). She tells us about a painting she saw on a recent trip to D.C: Honore Sharrer’s Tribute to the American Working People. “Oh my god I wish I’d done it,” says Audrey, paging through her journal for Sharrer’s name. “Pea-green next to vibrant–I don’t know–green-green?” she says, describing Sharrer’s use of color.

 

Sharrer’s painting took five years, and Margalit Fox’s 2009 obituary for Sharrer in the New York Times closes with the fact that she used “more than 200 delicate, ‘double-zero’ paintbrushes” for the work. It’s a detail from the world of concrete things, 200 double-zero paintbrushes, brought to the foreground by the writer. In Audrey’s work, a similar instinct for the double-zero: a tenderness for it.
Photographs by Robin Dreyer, writing by Elaine Bleakney