Exploring Process & Presentation
Curated by Lena Vigna, Curator of Exhibitions at the Racine Art Museum with assistance from Jim Charles
May 22 – July 3, 2016
Digging Deep is the result of interviews with seven Wisconsin artists. In-depth conversations and studio visits illuminated motivations, interests, and processes for making work. Focusing on select artists teaching in jewelry and metalsmithing programs associated with the University of Wisconsin system, this atypical exhibition offers not just finished works of art but also inspirational objects or images, ideas on individual studio practice, stages of production, and insight regarding how the types of work created could relate to what may be worn or used by the artists themselves.
The artists included—Michael Dale Bernard, Jessica Calderwood, Jeffrey Clancy, Teresa Faris, Lisa Gralnick, Yevgeniya Kaganovich, and Stephanie Voegele—explore a wide range of subject matter and utilize a variety of techniques and materials.
As a curator, I am sometimes the de facto spokesperson for the artists represented in a gallery. When I was first asked “how did they ever come up with this idea?,” I tried my best to answer with a well-articulated (in my opinion) response that incorporated stated artist intention, the context of the work relative to past and present, and a relationship to contemporary art and society. But that answer was not good enough—whether or not it was a question that could really be answered, I wanted to try. What I have come to realize is that that question is nearly impossible to answer to any asker’s satisfaction because quantifying and qualifying creativity is incredibly difficult. Even when an artist is transparent about the process, an aura of impenetrability remains. The creative process is individual and comprised of a myriad of components, not the least of which is the very real reality that every single person’s experience—and therefore perspective from which to draw—is unique.
Given all of that, asking questions about why and how artists make what they make reflects curiosity and a desire to connect. We live at a time when social media has made sharing (and over-sharing) a standard activity— but being interested in an artist and their studio is a centuries-old phenomena. Sharing what inspires or how something is made may have relatable aspects even if the exact path between the genesis of an idea and the creation of an artwork could not be conveyed to everyone’s liking.
The desire to ask about function does not stem from the fact that these artists are rooted in contemporary craft as much as it reflects a genuine interest in underscoring the complexity of this type of work—it’s potential for broad and layered meaning. And it reveals something about the way artistic endeavors connect to lived experience (is it assumed that painters put their own paintings on their living room walls?).
Visiting an artist’s studio can be endlessly fascinating. Suited to personal taste and professional needs, each studio is a “goldmine” of information about the artist and their creative process. Through photographic documentary-style images, the “Studio” section offers an in-depth and up close look at the working spaces of the seven artists included in the exhibition.
What motivates an artist to make what they make? In addition to specific themes or subjects they may explore in their work over time or for a specific moment, how do elements from their personal lives makes their way into their studio or their process? “Inspiration” includes a wide variety of objects and images that have been collected to reflect critical moments that have impacted the thoughts—consciously or perhaps, initially, unconsciously—of this group of makers.
Each artist has their own methods and ways of working. “Process/Finished Work” offers sketches, drawings, collages, and idea boards that represent aspects of different working methods. Finished works of art—in this case, sculpture, brooches, and neckpieces, primarily—showcase the investigations of the individual artists.
LIVING WITH IT
Considering that this group of artists, as representing jewelry and metalsmithing, draw from traditions that are generally scaled for the body and made with function in mind, it is interesting to look at the relationship between the artists, their work, and what they wear or use. “Living with It” is a collection of images and objects that touch on this intersection—Does an artist wear what they make? How do they blend their practice with their own personal aesthetics? Do they make work that is not functional to exhibit and work that is functional to wear or use?
How do they present what they make in a non-traditional context?
MICHAEL DALE BERNARD is a metals artist and educator in the Jewelry and Metalsmithing area at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Bernard received his MFA in 2007 from California State University, Long Beach. He exhibits his work regularly and has been collected by esteemed institutions such as the Racine Art Museum. Currently, Bernard uses salvaged materials and stamped forms combined with powder coated elements. Inspired by the urban architecture and “grittiness”of Milwaukee as well as motorcycles, his work has shifted away from the vibrant color that he used while living in Los Angeles toward a darker, rich yet less vibrant palette. While not specifically influenced by it, he admits to being a regular reader of “old science fiction.” Bernard is also co-founder of Artcycle, a program that combines creative spaces and bicycle culture by providing a mobile art studio that transforms the processes of making into a public event.
Working primarily with metal and enamel, JESSICA CALDERWOOD uses a combination of traditional and industrial metalworking processes as a means to make statements about contemporary life. Calderwood received her BFA from the Cleveland Institute of Art and her MFA from Arizona State University. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, published in national publications, and featured in public and private collections. She has participated in artist residencies with the John Michael Kohler Arts/Industry Program and the Mesa Arts Center. She is currently an Associate Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. Inspired by her times wandering in Moroccan gardens, Calderwood uses floral imagery as it relates to ideas of gender and femininity. She has also made a connection between the decorative soft clusters of grapes that populated her home as a child and bulbous organic forms she has included in recent work.
Born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, JEFFREY CLANCY holds a BFA from Kutztown University and an MFA from San Diego State University. His work has been included in various publications and he has exhibited internationally, including being featured in the provocative 40 Under 40: Craft Futures exhibition at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in 2012. He currently teaches in the Jewelry and Metalsmithing Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Interested in the relationship between history, craft, theory, and process, Clancy finds himself drawn to objects, such as pewter water pitchers and silver bowls, that are not the kinds of objects that surrounded him in childhood but are invested with rich social and cultural meaning.
Interested in ideas of impermanence and the boundaries of memory, TERESA FARIS uses metal and wood to create work that investigates connectedness and the “human struggle of trying to measure and preserve time.” Faris received her BFA from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her work is published and exhibited nationally and internationally. She is co-author of the Women of Metal Exhibition and Oral History Project, and is the recipient of numerous awards. She also participated as an artist-in-residence with the John Michael Kohler Arts/Industry Program. The companion of Charmin, a 24-year old cockatoo whom she has lived with for 23 years, Faris combines her own metalwork with wooden toys that Charmin deliberately and actively modifies. The daughter of a metal worker and taxidermist that she identifies as an “incredible craftsman,” Faris does think that her interest in working with her hands and with jewelry, as well as her perspective on human and animal relationships, was shaped by events in her early years.
Born in New York, LISA GRALNICK received an MFA from State University of New York at New Paltz. Gralnick has received numerous awards, grants, and fellowships for her work which is exhibited nationally and internationally. Her work is also included in the collections of significant national and international institutions, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Museum of Arts and Design, New York, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Racine Art Museum, The Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. She is currently Professor of Art at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Gralnick was exposed to art at a young age. She links her “analytical mind and precise mechanical skills” to her father, a dentist. Motivated by an interest in the complexities of the human condition, Gralnick has been making work that emphasizes beauty in an object yet also the dark, deep, complicated aspects of being human. She has extensive personal collections of medical atomizers, surgical instruments, tools, and locks that reflect her appreciation for design and form, as well as her compulsion to investigate the uncomfortable.
YEVGENIYA KAGANOVICH is a Belarus born, Milwaukee-based artist, whose hybrid practice encompasses jewelry, metalsmithing, sculpture, and installation. With a BFA in Metal/Jewelry from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and an MFA from the State University of New York at New Paltz, Kaganovich exhibits her work nationally and internationally. Currently, she is Professor of Art and Design at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, heading the Jewelry and Metalsmithing Area. Objects have long been important to Kaganovich and she explores various materials and processes for making. Personal heirlooms—such as a small metal container that she remembers being fascinated with as a child—holds importance to her as an object yet she also responds to things that can be worn.
STEPHANIE VOEGELE was born in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. She received her BFA from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and her MFA from the University of Georgia. She exhibits her work nationally and internationally, has won fellowship awards, and participated in the SIERAAD International Jewellery Art Fair in the Netherlands. She teaches in the Jewelry and Metalsmithing Area and Art & Design First Year Program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Influenced by the colorful décor of her family childhood home, as well as spending time making art with her grandmother, Voegele combines materials in her work—many of which have been found at thrift stores and vintage shops. She often uses thread handed down from her grandmother to stitch together elements into wearable adornment.