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“Coming Full Circle”: Q & A with Stained Glass Artist, Brooks Koff By student intern, Nydheri Brown and Writer-In-Residence, Jamie La Londe-Pinkston

Sib’s artist, Brooks Koff, was kind enough to sit down with us and chat about her journey as an artist, her life as a teacher and mother, and her Sib’s fellow artist and brother, Michael Van Hout.

The Sibs Show closes May 27th, 2017.

Begin Transcript

NB:What drew you to do a show with your sibling?

BK: Actually, Mike [Michael Van Hout] set it up. He asked Amy [Amy Grant, owner of Art in Bloom Gallery] about me showing in the gallery, and then it was her brainstorm to pair us together.

NB: Do you guys cooperate on a lot of stuff?

BK: No, not really much at all. I went to school for nursing. I’ve been doing this sort of work for twenty years. He’s [Michael Van Hout] been an artist for many more years than that.

JLP: What drew you to art after nursing?

BK: I was always crafty as well as he growing up. He was you know very much an artist drawing all the time and my mom always did craft sort of things. I was drawn to that, but I never pursued art as an option. So, before my daughter was born, I took a stained glass class. Then ended up working in the hobby store half-time while I was pregnant with her. Then started a painting career painting sweatshirts and t-shirts cause that was cool. So I did that for a number of years, and knew I wasn’t going back to stained glass, because I had kids around. Yeah, kids and glass, not a good combination.

When I really started drawing, I took a drawing class when I was pregnant with my son, my third child. So not until I was in my thirties that I started drawing.

JLP: So that must have been like a reawakening in a sense.

BK: It was great to learn, to be schooled in that sort of, to draw and all of that. I volunteered as an art teacher for twenty years for my kids’ school.

JLP: Was the reason you didn’t go into art might have been because Michael was doing that? I find that with siblings sometimes you feel like you can’t do the same things.

BK: The funny thing is that I always knew he was going to be an artist, but he didn’t discover that until he had dropped out of college. And then was twisting wire into shapes and someone said, “Hey, you can make a career out of that”. It was that realization for him that he could do that. It wasn’t that I was opposed to it; I just never been told it was OK to pursue that. It was never, “You should do this!”

NB: What other kinds of art do you like to do?

BK: I taught art for a number of years and I love doing that–teaching kids art. Drawing is a big thing with me, because people think they can’t draw. But it’s actually just that they haven’t learned, and they don’t stay with it. So when you get to sixth grade usually you’re like, “I can’t draw” (in a kid’s voice). People identify she’s a drawer, she’s a drawer, and I’m not. The ones that they are pointing to just love to draw and do it all the time. It’s like anything. Like soccer or any sport. You practice it really hard, you’ll do really well at it. Drawing is the same way.

I like drawing and crafting. Making jewelry. Doing anything.

NB: Which one of these pieces did you enjoy working on the most?

BK: Well, that’s hard to say, because when you finish them it’s like a wow, and that’s when I get enjoyment, the wow at the end of it. Blue Skies is amazing to me, because it has a lot of movement in it, like a Van Gogh-esque kind of play in it. There’s one called the Funky Bird that is just funky and strange and fun. I’ve been doing flowers for a long time. So the bird one was something.

JLP: We were just saying…

NB: Yeah when we were coming up with the questions, we were saying that [Blue Skies] looked definitely–

BK: And I was going to call it that. And my husband said, “You’re going to do a nod to another artist as a title?” And I was like “Yeah!”  And I called it Blues Skies. Coming up with titles is not my thing.

JLP: I’m terrible at that. Like I just take the first line [of a poem] and make it the title, and then I put a space and that’s it.

NB: Call it what it is! Titles are confusing. It’s a crab! Call it a crab!

BK: Yeah.

NB: How do you arrange your color palette? Do you pick certain colors for each one like green and blue…?

BK: Yes, when I go to do a piece I will be inspired by what the glass is. Unless I know I am going to do a sun, and then I go see what sort of yellows I have. But a lot of times I let the color of the glass direct me as to what to do.  

I feel like I have a good sense of color. So I’ll draw those glass pieces that I think might go and I will hold it up even, and do a comparison and decide, yeah, yeah, or no, that doesn’t work at all. I’m gonna go with this. But I usually have something in my mind of what color I am going to do. But not always. Sometimes I will play with it.

NB: Do you color the glass?

BK: No, it comes in sheets. So it’s sheets of…there’s a sheet of this color, there’s a sheet of that color. And some of them are this big and some of them are that big.

JLP: We were looking at this one [You are my sunshine], and some of it’s textured and some of it’s not. Do you make the texture, or does it come like that in a sheet?

BK: This green is textured like that, so it’s real bumpy and wavy. There’s a number of glass pieces that are like that. There’s one—the turtle—is bullseye glass; and so you see, it’s different textured glasses. Usually this other is like spectrum. It’s just a flat sheet of that color. This is kind of bubbled, kind of rippled—this yellow here (pointing to an example). So yeah, it just comes like that.

JLP: That’s neat that you can work with texture as well as color to create a sense of movement or depth. Like the sun really does look like it’s boiling over [You are my sunshine] , because it’s got the little bumpies.

NK: We wanted to know…a lot of the stained glass we looked at…they’re like mosaics. So how did you develop that style?

BK: I started with traditional stained glass. It’s very formed fitted. It’s like quilting with glass. You have to have a pattern and every piece has to line up exactly, because the solder can only hold it in place if it lines up exactly. I am not an exacting person. I did some traditional stained glass, but when I discovered this glass mosaic on glass, it totally freed me up completely to explore and enjoy making glass. Because there is no pattern, and there is no “this has to line up here, this has to line up there”. There’s none of that at all. I have a whole lot of freedom. I don’t use patterns at all. I just go to the glass and start cutting. So that gives me freedom too because they’re all my designs, they’re all unique, they’re all one of a kind. They may look similar, but they’re all done differently, individually I guess.

JLP: I’m pretty ignorant on how the glass is put together. We (JLP and NB) watched a YouTube video together where—

NB: What we watched was more like a traditional one. He took pieces of glass and wrapped something around it.

BK: Yes, foil, copper foiling. He had adhesive on it, and he went around the glass piece with it, and so it forms a little edge on both sides of the glass. That’s called copper foiling.

NB: Is it actual copper? Because it was like a different color.

BK: But if he were taking the glass piece like this. It’s like an adhesive copper foiling, and each piece has that on it. Then he lays the pieces together, and then there’s soldering.

NB: That’s what it was.

BK: Soldering holds it together. It’s a solder iron, and he’s melting it together. There’s like a thick coil of what looks like silver wire; and you’re melting the solder to wrap the pieces together. But that’s not what I do.

JLP: What you do—I mean they [traditional stained glass artists] have to measure it like really exact to get it in the frame, but what you do is more organic. So how does that work when you want to get it into a frame?

BK: So I take this frame. Let’s say I want to do a sun on that frame. Sometimes the frame will dictate what I do, and sometimes the glass will. What I would do is—you know what I’m gonna do…a sun on this—so I would grab my yellow, and I’ll cut that circle out. This framed glass has glass in it, so I’ve glued the glass into the frame. This is a sheet of glass [backing]. That’s how it’s a mosaic. So then I start and I glue the middle of the sun and then cut all my rays. You know, see so here, I cut a ray; but I need to make it fit the frame. So I cut it and make it fit the frame. Then I go back and then I cut these [the remaining] pieces for the background and everything is glued in place first and then after it sits for a while or whatever dries, then it’s grouted. The grouting holds it together and finishes it.

JLP: Is the grouting made with that lead sort of stuff?

BK: No, the grouting is like tile grout, except it’s black, black grout.

JLP: So, it’s a lot safer to do like as a woman, because you’re not using lead. That’s good to know.

NB: Did your work on the Airlie Gardens chapel influence anything done here?

BK: Um, that’s hard to say.

NB: Like after you did that [the bottle chapel], did you notice that you started doing things differently?

BK: Um, I don’t think so. But I do love myself a flower. So there were lots of flowers for the Minnie Evans things. That was a great experience to work with kids throughout the county and to have their work there. A side note is that one of my daughters—her stepping stone is right at the entrance to the chapel—and when we put that there, she said, “I’m gonna get married here one day.” And she is doing that in April of next year. She’s gonna get married there, yeah. So that’s really cool to see that full circle. Cause you can’t imagine that. Here she’s a kid at ten years old deciding I’m gonna do that; and it’s actually coming to be so that’s pretty cool.

JLP: How many of us get to live our childhood dreams?

BK: I know! And her own art work, you know. So that was cool. That’s a neat little thing.

JLP: What a beautiful place to have a wedding too. I love that chapel.

BK: Oh man, it’s amazing. Ginny [Virginia] Wright-Frierson who did it—she’s just an amazing artist and she was the one who proposed the grant for it. And drew the different artists into it. But she spent a whole year out there building that chapel. A lot of blood, sweat, and tears on that. But yeah, it’s cool. But I don’t know if it influenced me, or I influenced it.

JLP: Isn’t that how it goes with art? I don’t think it’s ever your own.

BK: No.

JLP: It starts as kind of your idea then you find the art tells you it wants to go its own way.

BK: Yeah, it’s true.

JLP: Do you find that true of yourself?

BK: Yeah I think so. I think so. I wouldn’t have known…this…this is my first show for a gallery I’ve ever had, and so I wouldn’t…I don’t know if I knew that when I was going to college to be a nurse that I would someday have a gallery show. That’s for sure. You know that’s pretty cool. And to share it with my brother. That’s also neat. That’s what I like about this whole thing.

JLP: That’s kind of full circle in a way.

BK: Yeah, it is, it is.

JLP: So what was it like growing up with “Mr. Michael” as we like to call him at DREAMS.

BK: Is this off the tape. No?

JLP: No, it’s on tape! You can tell us off the record…

BK: (whispers) OK, OK I’ll tell you. (normal voice) No, we were really close, because we were close in age. He’s much older. No. He’s older than I am. Let’s make that clear (laughing). So, we were closer in age, because there is a huge span in our family. The older sister is twenty-one years older than the youngest. Same mom. Same dad.

JLP: So there was a bit of surprise there along the way.

BK: Yeah, there were several of those probably. But Mike and I are right in the middle, so I always say I’m the well-adjusted middle child, and I’ll include him on that. But he’s a little neurotic (jokingly). I think we got along really well. I remember I was telling my daughter this weekend that I always remember him coming home from school…And the sisters would make him breakfast, make sure…We kind of, we spoiled him.

JLP: He was spoiled!

BK: He was spoiled, but he’s a really good guy, because he’s real comfortable around women. I think he was surrounded by girls his whole life so.

JLP: He sounds like he was a good brother, like he deserved all this extra love. Like he didn’t pull your pigtails and—

BK: No, no, we got along. Well, there was that one time where we didn’t get along very well. I mean he lives to this day to regret it. We were switching classrooms at the same Catholic school. And he pulled my chair out, and I didn’t know it. And I went to sit down and hit my head on the back of the chair.

JLP: Oh! He probably didn’t mean for that to happen.

BK: No, he didn’t. He thought I’d notice, but yeah it was not good. But other than that! When you grow up, you grow to appreciate your brothers and sisters a lot more than when you’re a kid. When you’re living with them, you can’t appreciate them very much.

JLP: But it sounds like you were close.

BK: We were, we were. Close in age, and because we enjoyed each other. He was a talented guy even early on. I have five children, and it took my having my fifth child to realize that kids come out who they are a lot of times. You as a parent come around them to try to provide as best you can for each one, but they’re really born who they are. So that was an interesting insight after seeing my kids, because you have the same parents but you’re so different. We have so many different personalities running around in our family. And you know we have the same parents, but personality-wise we’re very different.

JLP: You and Michael have both taught art, and how did your experience—like you said with your fifth child, realizing children are who they—how did that affect you as a teacher?

BK: Well, I love teaching art because, even though you present the same thing to each child, their expression of it can be so different. And it’s just so rewarding to see that. Like, hey, look at these dogs or whatever, and they’re all different. So I appreciated that a lot that art can be explored. You can present something, but what somebody does with it can be very different. Sometimes that took pressing in, directing kids more than they would have wanted (laughing). But I think that’s what made me a good teacher, because I got something out of them they didn’t know was in them. I think that for teaching art you have to have that sort of thing too where it’s not just “do whatever you want,” but you know, “if you laid it this way” you know, “look what it does.” So it’s that sort of thing. Exploring art versus just handing them stuff to do. And there’s a lot creativity in that, but I think it helps to do a little bit of both.

JLP: I always think of it as a the Kid and the Ed. When you’re writing you have to be the kid, and then you have to come back and be the editor. And the editor cleans up all the mess the kid makes. But you got to let the kid come out first. Like not saying no to your ideas.

BK: Right but then you need directing. “That’s beautiful. How about if you duh duh duh duh.”

JLP: My favorite art…do you have a favorite art exercise, Nydheri? Cause mine was always when I was a kid Drawing on the

BK: Right Side of the Brain. That book, that book was a like a (explosion noise)!

JLP: Yeah I had a teacher who turned…I think it was like a Van Gogh chair…

BK: Upside-down.

JLP: Yeah, and I had a teacher who was like, “You’re gonna draw this chair.” And I was like, “I ain’t gonna draw this…it’s like Van Gogh.” She’s like, “No, we’re gonna put it upside-down, and you’re not gonna think of it as a chair.”

BK: Right, exactly.

JLP: And I was like, “Oh! I can draw!”

BK: And it turned out amazing. I did that same thing with my son when he was in second grade, and the whole push was we’re gonna do art notebooks. So we bought them all sketch pads. Everybody had a sketch pad. The first exercise was an upside-down drawing, and his was a hare, like a rabbit. And it was incredible. It was like “Oh my gosh! It’s amazing!” So I had gone to collect him, and he had drawn on the cover.

JLP: Hey, but that was a good opening!

BK: I was like…oh! (laughing) So that was pretty funny. Yeah, that’s a great exercise.

JLP: What about you, Nydheri?

NB: I don’t know…

JLP: One that opened you up? Like, “Oh, I can do that!”

BK: I got one. I took a drawing class for my brother, and we were doing measuring thing, so you see like they’re getting proportion. That’s six thumbs high and that’s…

JLP: Oh, so that’s what they’re—I always just thought that was a pretentious thing they did in movies.

BK: Yeah it is (jokingly). No, it’s not. It’s actually trying to see how proportionally…like how that whole canvas thing…it’s like, you know, if you did three at the bottom, and probably like eight or nine at the top or whatever. So that was that, but I couldn’t do it. Then, like he did line contour drawing, and that was an opening. For me, that was a launch into being able to draw was being able to look at something, and just drag your pencil. Have you ever done it?

JLP: Yeah.

BK: Either contour drawing or blind contour drawing. For me that exploded my being able to draw.

NB: This semester at DREAMS I wanted to draw, to cut a pineapple on a lino [linoleum] block, but all I had was a picture. And it wasn’t big enough to go on the thing [the block], so I copied it from my phone. Like without really looking. I just tried to follow it the best I could.

BK: Yeah.

NB: And it came out pretty good.

BK: It does, because that overrides what you think it is, cause when you think pineapple you think it has to be a certain way. But really it doesn’t ever really look that way we think it is. That was in that Drawing On the Right Side of the Brain. Like a cup of water, you know you want to draw it: two circles that go like that and a line across the bottom and the top. But it’s like no, if you looked at it from here, it’s just these circles. Or, you know, it’s how you look at something to draw it.

End Transcript

Light and Shadow by Jamie La Londe-Pinkston

All this May sunshine and “The Sibs Exhibit”—which features new art by siblings, Michael Van Hout and Brooks Koff—has got me thinking about light.

Art is a lot about playing with light, and also, of course, light’s sister, shadow. Master painters and photographs know that light is the real medium. This is certainly true of Koff’s stained glass and Van Hout’s wire sculptures. However, in this case, it is about light passing through an object as opposed to creating the image of one.

Something about that notion strikes me as particularly intimate, because art is the filter that allows a viewer to visit the world of an artist’s mind. With these glass and wire pieces, there is both an emotional passing through and the literal passing through of light.

With Koff’s pieces you enter a vibrant, saturated world that is not like other stained glass universes, because the lines are not straight and the texture is varied. It makes the work more organic and animated. Sometimes the glass flows like water; other times it bubbles or sparkles. In Blue Skies, the Van Gogh-esque swirls trace the flight of a dragonfly. In Tea Pot, steam rises in choppy strokes, whistling with visual urgency. All this movement changes in varying degrees of daylight, leaving me with novel impressions all afternoon as I work in the gallery.

Then there is shadow. When the light shines through Van Hout’s wire sculptures, the shadows they cast let you know they are alive. I love to watch them move along the walls and the pedestals where they sit. I see spirits of pelicans and turtles fly and swim. I see the Grateful Dead sway and swagger to the silent music that is light itself.

What’s more is that you can interact with some of these sculptures by cranking a handle. The wings and fins flap and the so do their shadows!

It is this sense of play that is so special about the exhibit. It invites you into the dance, and you can become a child once more, open to possibility, casting your own story onto the world.

There will be a closing reception for “Sibs” on Friday, May 26th from 6 to 9 p.m.

But I invite you to please come and see it on a sunny afternoon when those two siblings, light and shadow, are busy chasing each other through the gallery.

Beautiful Student Art that Makes an Impact

Art in Bloom is always seeking ways to interact with our Wilmington community in a positive way. This is why we are excited to partner with DREAMS of Wilmington, a youth development organization that is dedicated to building creative, committed citizens, one child at a time, by providing youth in need with high-quality, free-of-charge programming in the literary, visual and performing arts. You can check out their program more, here: http://dreamswilmington.org/

As some of you may already know, Art in Bloom has featured DREAMS student artwork in the past. Last spring, we were happy to host DREAMS in Bloom, a student art show juried and curated by three DREAMS Art in Bloom interns. It was a very successful show, and we thank all of those who participated and came out to the opening and closing receptions.

http://www.artsnownc.com/meet-jurors-dreams-bloom/

Now we are happy to announce that we have a permanent display here in the gallery presenting DREAMS student artwork, cards and DREAMS merchandise for sale. All proceeds from these sales will go directly to DREAMS students. The talent of these students is phenomenal, and you never know, your purchase of a print or other work of art may turn out to be a very sound investment to your collection.

 

 

“A Portrait of the Artist, Carole Osman” by student intern, Nydheri Brown

 

O-Jizo-San Shrine, Pastel, 19,5″ x 25″ by Carole Osman

Carole Osman was kind enough to allow Art in Bloom to interview her. It was a lot of fun, and Carole was a great host.

When Jamie and I walked in, Carole’s house had a welcoming floral scent from the fresh cut flowers from an ikebana arrangement that Carole was working on in the kitchen. We were amazed by Carole’s vast collection of objects from around the world: Germany, Turkey, Japan, Korea—even rare furniture from North Korea—and from other countries Carole had lived or visited over the years. She toured us around her home, and allowed us to preview several of the pieces that she planned to show at Art in Bloom. Inside her studio, she had an easel set up where she was working on “Auspicious Symbols,” and surrounding her work space were photos of schools where she had taught, and her ceremonial tea equipment.  After visiting her studio, we sat down at her kitchen table for the interview while she prepared tea and served us cookies.

  1. How did you print the lace in “Riverside”? Did you use the additive or subtractive method? Or another method?

Carole told us that she used the additive method. Basically, what this means is that Carole cut the hexagonal shapes out of stiff waxed paper, inked them, and placed them onto the paper. Then, she ran the paper and the inked lace through a large flat-bed etching press. She repeated this same process three or four times to achieve the desired effect. Carole said that one of the advantages of the method is that it allows you to experiment.

  1. What drew you to do a pastel on the O-Jizo-San? We read that the O-Jizo-San are depictions of a Buddhist saint who protects unborn children and kind people.

Carole told us that these statues are “ubiquitous to Kyoto,” and she “felt connected to” these mothers who personalized them. Sometimes the mothers would put bibs on them, crochet beanies, or even put out little ducks in a row by the statues. She decided to draw them, because she was curious about why the mothers did this.  “Did their child die, are they wishing for the health or success of their child?” She said it “made me really wonder about the spirit of someone…putting that energy into it.”

Carole told us that an artist’s statement is essentially “becoming intimate with the subject,” and that is what happened for her with the O-Jizo-San. She started feeling connected to the mothers who personalized them, taken care of them.

She said another reason she felt connected to the O-Jizo-San at the time was because while she was painting it she was looking after her mother.

  1. What inspired “It’s a Bee’s Life”? Is this a free-hand design or is it based on a photo or a scene in real life?

Carole saw a lifeless bee on the ground near her studio in Germany, picked it up, and decided to paint and recreate it. Now when she looks at it, she thinks she was ahead of her time, since the bees are facing a threat to their survival.

Carole loves nature, and believes “nature is really very healing”.

  1. A lot of the city scapes you depict seem to be taken from the angle of looking out of a window. Is this your way to remember scenes from the places you lived or visited?

Carole loved to paint landscapes when she lived in the country—often, en plein air. Then, she moved to the city of Kaiserslautern in Germany where she lived on the 3rd and 4th floor of a four story villa. She studied the way the sky came down and touched the rooftops, and these roofscapes became her new landscapes.

  1. I thought “Who Am I” looked a lot like the inside of a dollhouse, because the animals in the picture look like toys, and the girl in the dress looks like a doll. Was that your intention? Also, who is the person in “Who Am I”? We thought the painting looked like a saint, and so we looked up images of saints and found Saint Therese. Is it her, and if so, why did you choose her?

It turns out our guesses were correct, because the painting is based on a shadow box of memories from Carole’s life. The box includes a holy card of St. Therese from her aunt’s funeral, three toy horses for her daughter who loves horses, and a Barbie doll and another doll. Carole said everything in the box has a meaning and all is kept inside.

Thank you so much Carole for your time and sharing your work with us!

A Mug of My Own by Jamie La Londe-Pinkston

A couple of months ago during the American Craft Walk, I purchased a stoneware mug by ceramicist, Traudi Thornton. I must have spent twenty minutes “trying on” each cup to see which one belonged to me. I have small hands, which through years of writing, crocheting, drawing, and chopping veggies for kimchi have become arthritic and a bit weak in the wrists. What can I say? I’ve expended myself on the things I love.

Of course, like Goldilocks, I eventually found my perfect match—a small tankard-shaped cup, with a handle big enough to fit my index, middle and ring fingers, and an indentation at the top of the handle to rest my thumb. I find it satisfying to believe this mark was surely pressed by Traudi’s own thumb. Store bought mugs certainly have their charms, but they often miss such details—these moments where you find the human hand in the work. It is a kind of intimacy, shaking hands across time.

Taking tea with my own special mug is a joy I look forward to each day. Tea resides in a special place in my memory. Growing up, there were few times when I could be close to my mother. She grew up in South Korea in the aftermath of the Korean War. Korea had been ravaged, cut in half, and plunged into poverty. Without saying too much, my mother had a difficult childhood. As an adult, these traumas manifested themselves into terrible anxiety and an often bottomless depression. Her struggles with mental illness combined with a language and culture barrier—I was raised in America—placed many walls between us. But we always had tea.

I felt quite special, and a bit full of myself to be honest, that I could drink tea—black tea!—when I was just four or five years old. Unlike other little girls, my pink, plastic 80’s tea set was filled with real hot tea accompanied by real sugar and real milk in the sugar and milk pots. Teatime was a special treat for both my mother and I—a good excuse to take a break from housework or school work. As I got older, we loved to go to thrift stores or small Asian grocery stores to look for beautiful ceramic bowls and cups. Having known poverty, my mother has always been tight with money, but she loves functional art. I suppose she sees it as a kind of investment.

My new daily mug is certainly one my mother would enjoy. I can see the influence of Korean ceramics in it—maybe a rustic, Joseon Dynasty tea bowl influence? There are rippled sides from when the wet clay was shaped on the wheel. There are even what appear to be flecks of ash in the glaze. This incredible blue glaze, which is darkest on the center groove marking the circumference, fades toward the top and bottom, naturally, like sky mirrored on water. This glaze is also thick, giving an encaustic look to the piece as if the glaze was actually wax. The inside and the bottom of the cup is rust colored with black bits of stubble. It is like drinking out of a well planted in the sky.

If my mother does come to visit during the summer, I will have to swing her by the gallery and show her the rest of Traudi Thornton’s beautiful bowls, cups and vases. And maybe, just maybe, I will let her borrow my cup.

 

Cucalorus Film Festival 10×10 Challenge

Click here to view our four-minute film.  Thanks to the 2016 Cucalorus Film Festival and Connect Conference for the chance to participate in the 10×10 Challenge.  Art in Bloom Gallery was paired with filmmaker and visual artist, Johnny Bahr III on Tuesday, Nov 8th, and we had four days to make our film.  The film debuted on Sunday, Nov 13th!  Thanks to the artists, musicians, virtual reality team, and others who contributed to the film.

Sumi Ink Painting by Janette K Hopper

I am making no attempt to practice traditional Japanese or Chinese painting techniques. A Zen Buddhist monk brought Sumi to Japan in 1333. Zen Buddhists Priests used Sumi in their teaching and religion. Early Sumi painters were trained in Zen Monasteries. Very prescribed forms and symbolism developed and a very specific way of grinding the ink, holding the brushes, and working with the brushes was used to paint these certain images such as orchids, bamboo, plum blossoms, and chrysanthemum. The artists strove for improvement in their own lives, believing it showed in their paintings. Much patience was required to capture the life spirit, balance the forces, and practice both vitality and restraint.

Though I did not consciously study traditional sumi art or techniques, the very nature of what I was doing became like those works, though for me they were just my experience. First I chose Japanese paper Sumi-e, Kozo roll of 18 X 30 inch paper, a pad of 48 sheets of Hosho. I ordered the finest Sumi ink made from all natural ingredients promising a range of cool tones from deep black to soft gray and promising not to dry shiny. I ordered a Nyosui Sumi brush. I have long been a practitioner of ink washes alone and in combination with charcoal and pen and ink and Chinese white. This was to be my first experience with Sumi.

I made these works during the month of July while a resident at the Montana Artists Refuge in Basin, Montana. I am grateful for the creative research grant that I received from Central Michigan University to do this artwork in the mountains. I began with the small tablet. I had my supplies in my backpack and I simply walked out somewhere in the mountains until I saw what I thought was it and then I sat down and made my sumi painting. It took all my concentration and I couldn’t control it and the experience was love at first act. From the beginning I did two a day. My day was not complete without it and the time I did it made me feel whole. I put them up on my wall and they began to become a group. Then one day it rained and I thought I want to try my verticals. I worked on them first on a long table but then I pinned them on the wall and slipped a pad under where I would work and taped it to the wall to keep ink from coloring the wall. Using this approach, I could get enough distance to see what I was doing. I had to stand on a chair or stoop down to work.

I had discovered a beautiful place up what the locals called Cataract Creek. The creek looked like giants had thrown giant boulders at random and the water had to run under and around and over them. Above that were vertical cliffs and above that trees going all directions cutting into the sky. It seemed infinity both horizontally and vertically. I began on the vertical roll trying to put in that space. I drew with the point of the brush striving for simplicity. I put varying amounts of water into the ink and painted in different values. The different values of grey are made by the amount of water in the ink. Traditional Sumis were seldom symmetrical. My compositions too were composed intuitively trying to make a whole yet balance the forms. I wanted the expressive power of the crashing water. The sound of the water was very important and I was relieved each time I was back there and I could hear it. I used atmospheric perspective by decreasing the clarity to give a sense of depth in the distance. I liked how more water changed the paper and the soft forms also seemed mystical. The vertical hangings have foreground, middle and background. Something was opening up for me with the contemplation and concentration and aloneness. I found the newsprint paper I had laid on the tables to protect them while I painted had become very beautiful from the ink that accidentally leaked on to it and I began to write poems. When I stopped making Sumis, there were no more poems. These papers are what remains of that precious time.

In the end I have continued my love of sumi ink and found the difficulty and concentration on nature and filtering that experience onto the Japanese papers produces unique works of art and personal growth.

"Crooked Tree," Sumi, 14" x 11" by Janette K. Hopper

“Crooked Tree,” Sumi, 14″ x 11″ by Janette K. Hopper

Autumn by Jamie La Londe-Pinkston

Autumn is a kind of contradiction.

Autumn can be blustery. Kids return to school and parents resume their additional chauffeur duties. Adults also begin the next cycle of work tasks, gearing up for deadlines or embarking on new adventures. Not to mention, all that holiday shopping!

However, we often forget that autumn can be a time of stillness and reflection.  As the leaves thin, the mind also thins, increasing mental sharpness and clarity. One begins to think about what has changed hue or remained evergreen, and to assess which experiences have borne fruit and which are nothing more than husks to be abandoned.

Change, color, activity one moment, and rest and reflection the next—this is the dance of autumn.

Here at the gallery, autumn has come.  Artwork we have come to know and love has migrated elsewhere, and new work has come to nest in its place.

Amy Grant, our fearless leader—and now recipient of WILMA’s Women to Watch Award for the Arts!(http://www.wilmaontheweb.com/October-2016/The-2016-Women-to-Watch-Award-Winners/)—is looking back on what we have learned this first amazing year while also moving ahead into the gallery’s next chapter.

Regardless of which way the wind is blowing, there is something that endures and is always in bloom here, and that is great art—the kind of art that stops you in your tracks, tempts your gaze to drift away from your phone and your pumpkin spice latte into the world on the other side of our window.

So, we invite all of you to drop in and visit us sometime when you find yourself wanting to catch your breath and enjoy a moment of autumn stillness.

After all, winter is coming, and it is time to stock up on dreams including a look at “A Glimpse of Fall,” oil on canvas by Janette K. Hopper.

Q & A with Janette K. Hopper and Charles Kernan by Nydheri Brown

I wrote Visible Spectra artists, Janette K. Hopper and Charles Kernan, and they were kind enough to answer some questions for me. Before I even knew they were married, I saw a connection between their pieces, because the settings—the trees and waterways—were similar. I’m really inspired by how they use art to speak for the environment.

Ten percent of the profits from this show go to Cape Fear River Watch!

NB: How do you scope out your location for taking your photographs or paintings? Are any of the locations chosen to make a statement, such as landscapes that are not being protected?

JKH: I am inspired by what I see and the light at the particular moment. Some [pieces] I paint plein air and others I finish in the studio, or create in the studio but inspired by colors and effects of clouds, etc. that I have seen and recognize in the paint.

I really appreciate any wild places as I am inspired by the beauty and quiet that I find there. I hope that people will also appreciate the beauty of nature and the landscape because then I hope they will want more parks and to protect the environment.

The idea of giving a percentage of the profits of this show to the Cape Fear River Watch is wonderful because it will help give a voice through my art to protecting our source of water and also recreation and renewal.

I hope to give a voice through my art to encourage everyone to get involved in aiding in the conservation and stewardship of the earth. I did go to a location on the Cape Fear River to inspire several paintings and I just walk around and get inspired by a particular view.

CK: Locations for photography are not normally chosen beforehand (unless you count sunsets).  They are found almost accidently as I explore nature.

NB: (To Charles Kernan) For Sun Rays, how did you get the outline of the rocks to be so dark? Is the contrast due to lighting or did you use a special technique or camera setting to achieve this contrast?

CK: The camera was set to properly expose the sky.  The rocks are underexposed so they are dark, almost black.

NB: (To Janette K. Hopper) Why did you name the painting River Poem?

JKH: My paintings are influenced by the Romantic Movement in Art where the artist believed that their feelings and moods were reflected in the art… It was not just a surface picture of a particular place, but showed a sense of place or a place in the heart to be recognized by the viewer. This painting has that feeling of awe, feeling and grandeur sought out by the painters of that era. It is a double language just as a poem.

NB: Is the tree in Under the Oak (painting by JKH) and Reaching Madrone (photograph by CK) the same tree?

JKH: The oak tree in the painting is inspired by a particular oak next to the Cape Fear River near Fort Fisher. Each tree is so different… Each tells the story of its life. Colors are influenced by light and so the surface color becomes influenced by that…Imagine if I painted four trees at different times of day. Each one would be different colors. Monet did that with hay stacks.

CK: The Reaching Madrone tree is on Orca Island in the San Juan Islands of Washington State.  I came upon it while hiking and thought the red and green bark contrasted with the water and hillside [and thought that] would make a nice photograph.  Fortunately I was correct this time.

 

 

Ekphrastic Poem for Elizabeth Darrow By Nydheri Brown

Color

Based on Updraft, Fan Fare, Adventureland

 

Monarch butterflies migrate

to forests of Mexico.

A kaleidoscope of colorful fans

connected by vertical movement.

Birds of paradise dance

to the music of color.

Listening by Jamie La Londe-Pinkston

Years ago while writing a column for a (briefly published) Houston paper, I wrote an article on the Menil Collection.  As I was doing the research for my piece, a docent there told me the founder, Dominique de Menil, saw art as a dialogue between the viewer and the divine. Due to this ethos, the walls of the gallery feature only minimalistic art tags and no signage to explain the art. If you want to know the name of the artist, you have to peer at a small tag on the wall about the size of your palm. There is nothing there to bias you towards favoring Rauschenberg, Magritte, or Rothko. It is just you, the visitor and the art, and whatever exchange might flow between.

Art in Bloom Gallery shares this sense of intimacy. The art stands alone with you and your thoughts. What’s more is that there is a unique, subverbal vibration that runs through the space. Perhaps, it is the spirit of the horses who once stabled here when the building was owned by farriers.  It is that feeling of refuge, of sanctuary, of welcoming presence. The gallery puts you at ease, inviting you into its ongoing conversation.  I don’t know where I heard the quote “prayer is listening,” but it applies. If you are willing “to listen,” to open yourself, the universe will speak to you here.

As my student, the gallery’s junior blogger and curator, Nydheri Brown, toured the space to search for a topic, she excitedly related the vast association of thoughts evoked by each unique piece.  One of the things I love about working with young people is that they don’t take anything too seriously, which is why they produce some of the most astute observations. No one tells them how to think or “to pray”, they just do. While gazing at Elizabeth Darrow’s abstract mixed media, Nydheri heard a multitude of stories populated by rivers, magic carpets, women in kimonos holding parasols, butterflies, birds of paradise, and forests of dancing creatures.

We adults are often hampered by internal judgments and preconceptions. However, art cannot judge you for what you are thinking; and in some ways, the most accessible pieces of art can be abstract in nature, because they can be experienced in many different ways. There can be a sense of exploration and play. As you gaze at something novel, you see the world anew as a child sees it. The only real challenge is allowing yourself to be present with the art. I suggest taking a beat to breathe, to let the meaning travel up through you. Do not be afraid to feel what enters, be it joyful, absurd, reflective, or sorrowful. Each feeling has its own purpose. After all, your prayers are your own, and so are the answers given.

I will close with this meditation on Helen Lewis’s encaustic work, Navigating.

 

 

 follow me

let your eyes travel
from that vast expanse of glazed

snow     to the momentary
glimpsed

palimpsest of an old map

secret path to someplace dear
but forgotten

when the moment is lost
let yourself be delivered

delta blue into ocean

with only the penciled
river

to guide you back

upstream to memory
only just having gone

through
yourself

 

What art would you choose for your home if you could wave a magic wand?

I asked this question to some of my favorite artists and to others who love art.  “What art would you choose for your home if you could wave a magic wand?”  Some of the responses included art by Paul Klee, Georgia O’Keeffe, Ansel Adams, Robert Rauschenberg, Mary Cassatt, Johannes Vermeer, Francisco Goya, and Traudi Thornton.  If you wish to participate, please email your response to the question to grantamyn@gmail.com.  I am inspired by the variety of responses gathered in one day.  I am creating a collage using maps & images and will host a reception and gallery talk in the future celebrating art in the eye of the beholder.

Thanks,
Amy Grant
Art in Bloom Gallery
210 Princess Street
Wilmington, NC 28401

Summer Fun with Mobile Art by Amy Grant

I am delighted to share that JF Jones is now showing his exquisite metal mobiles at Art in Bloom Gallery.  We have a 14-Leaf Ginkgo Patina Mobile in Gallery 1.  In the next few weeks, we will receive other mobiles including a 49-Leaf Ginkgo Fired Mobile.  Thanks to artist Paul Muldawer for introducing me to JF Jones!  For some summer fun for children of all ages, check out mobile kits by JF Jones.

Writing Memory by Abbey Starling Nobles, Fourth Friday June 24, 2016

Walking into Art in Bloom Gallery on Thursday, my spirit was full of expectations: joy, light heartedness, and excitement. When I walked in, splashes of light entered in my eyes; my heart was full, free, and reminiscent.

After my grandfather passed away and my grandmother had to leave her home, I would practice the art of remembering. My young philosophy was that if I could remember each step in my grandparents home, they would live; memories never dying.

Elizabeth Darrow: “Adventureland,” “Flower Waltz,” “Growing Wild,” “Nocturne.” Somewhere around the gold flowered couch and the wobbly piano bench in the memory of my grandparents home is where I found myself in Art in Bloom. Above the gold couch was this painting of a man at the ocean in a storm looking for something. This dark and saddened scene paradoxically reminded me of Elizabeth’s works. It was not the subject matter in the pieces, but the representation of what I carried with me when walking into the gallery. The surface level notions that titillated my memory and experience; the physical size and colors used in Elizabeth’s works. My memory could almost take the old seafaring man off the wall above the well-sat gold flowered sofa and replace it with “Nocturne.”

Dumay Gorham: Walking up to the piano, the one my grandmother’s father bought for her sat a plastic seagull figurine. About one foot tall, the seagulls stood flying stationary on thin black rod one right after another flying up to the heavens overlooking a brown plastic cliff below them. Walking to the front of the gallery, there it was. I could have run to this metal work, picked it up in my arms, and cradled it like my memories.

Have expectations and let those expectations take ahold of you, waltzing you into a place where you are free to remember. Do not be afraid to remember the people, pain, uncaring joy, but also do not forget the art in things, the art of objects, the art of paradox, the art of falling victim to how memories survive.

Art in Bloom, thank you for filling me with ineffable joy. Thank you for reminding me to hold on tight to my memories: to go to sleep with them, rise with them, walk into life with them, ever on the lookout for how they continue to live.

***

Read more from Abbey Starling Nobles at http://thenoblestarling.blogspot.com

Contact Abbey at abbey.starling@gmail.com.

***

Nocturne“, Oil and Collage in Canvas, 24″ x 36”  by Elizabeth Darrow

Talking with Traudi Thornton, Ceramist by Amy Grant

I had a chance to talk with cermaist Traudi Thornton about her process as she creates all new work for an art opening on June 3rd.   The art show is titled, “Full Circle:  New Art by Elizabeth Darrow, Traudi Thornton, and Susan Francy.”  We are setting up the show this Sunday and Monday.  And, I am delighted and grateful to have Traudi’s ceramics, Elizabeth’s oil and collage on canvas, and Susan’s fine-art prints together in Art in Bloom Gallery.

Traudi shared, “Working with clay validates my existence.  During the plastic state, the relationship is that of master and a much beloved pet.  I tell the clay to stay and push it, but often I have to listen.  We have a rhythm.

Clay needs heat to be transferred to a hard material.  After the first fire everything turns from a state of grey to pink, and a slight estrangement takes place because they now look different than what they did before.

Glazes also look pink or white or grey before they are fired.  I imagine now how the optics will look in their final state, and after making choices the second fire takes over.  Total surrender is demanded by heat and flame.  After the firing is completed, the cooling period leaves my mood fluctuating between doubt and hope.  And, then only after removing the pieces from the kiln, can I say they belong to me.  They passed on into my consciousness.”

What’s Blooming In The Gallery by Linda Abrams Fleming

Hey, this is the voice of Linda Abrams Fleming, new to AIB Gallery. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Debra Bucci, Featured Artist and David Klinger, Wood Craftsman. Debra’s paintings burst with color making me smile from the inside. David’s wood pieces, range from whimsical boxes to exquisite Mezuzahs.

 

Spring has Sprung at Art in Bloom!

Hope to see you at one of our great events in April and May.

 

Holly-Jolly Stroll , Dec 11-12

Art in Bloom Gallery will be open 10 am – 8 pm on Friday and Saturday, December 11-12, during the Holly-Jolly Stroll in downtown Wilmington.   If you are looking for one-of-a-kind gifts, please stop by to view our wide selection of fine art.

Art Raffle to Benefit Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard

Thanks to everyone who bought tickets for the art raffle on Friday, November 27th, the first day of the fundraiser to benefit Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard, an emergency food pantry.  The raffle ends on Saturday, December 12th at 6 pm.  You don’t have to be present to win.  Purchase tickets for $1.00 each at 210 Princess Street or via the Art in Bloom Gallery website.

After-the-Storm Reception, Friday, October 9th, 6 – 9 pm

For anyone who missed last Friday’s grand opening due to stormy weather, Art in Bloom Gallery invites you to an After-the-Storm reception on Friday, October 9th, 6 – 9 pm, at 210 Princess Street, Wilmington, NC 28401.  Light refreshments will be served.  The gallery is now open for regular hours on Tuesday-Saturday, 10 am – 6 pm and by appointment on Sunday and Monday.  For more information, email grantamyn@gmail.com or call 484 885 3037.

Grand Opening October 2

Art in Bloom Gallery’s grand opening is October 2, 6 – 9 pm including an art opening and reception for Elizabeth Darrow: Past and Present. Stop by at the opening or during our regular hours of Tuesday – Saturday, 10 am – 6 pm, if you are in the neighborhood of 210 Princess Street, Wilmington, NC 28401. Sundays and Mondays are available for visits by appointment.

Dumay Gorham to design back gate

Dumay Gorham, sculptor, is designing and creating the gate for the brick fence in the courtyard at the back of the building.  For the gate, Dumay is using horse shoes and farrier’s tools discovered during the renovation.  Stay tuned for the date and time of the grand opening of the courtyard and gate in late October or early November.