Thursday, April 26, 2018

Spotlight on Studio Workshops: Interview with Paige French

Paige French
With experience in everything from photography to ceramics and, of course, textiles, Paige French brings an unique approach to art. French will be leading a four-part series of studio-based courses at the Georgia Museum of Art that will explore weaving and fiber arts through various techniques and materials. The class is open to artists of all levels.

We spoke with French this week to learn more about the upcoming workshop and her own works as an artist, and we were met with both answers and engaging stories.

How did you come to work with textiles as an artist?
I taught myself how to sew. I would steal my mom’s sewing machine, because when I was 13 I realized clothes didn’t fit me, but all these other girls, their clothes fit them. I ruined a lot of clothing, which my mom was not happy about, but that started my interest in seamstress work and design. I think there are principles across so many art forms like composition, color theory and the rule of thirds that can even be applied to fashion. The concept of how things present based on what textures are combined and what colors are used, all of those things are relevant no matter what media you’re working within.

Paige has continued to sew, weave and interact with textiles throughout her life. These interests are often incorporated into her commercial and personal work such as shoots she has done for books on interior design. Paige has also featured her textile works over the years on her early professional blogs, at her own home and on more modern platforms such as Instagram. As she has said herself, some artistic concepts transcend all types of art. The care and manner in which she brings her art into the world suggests that her works are not limited by context.

How does a visit to the museum inspire your work?
I am incredibly floored, entering into a museum is like a spiritual experience. Especially at the Georgia Museum of Art because of the way it’s designed, with the outdoor patio and sculpture garden, it really does invite you in. It’s so sparse and minimal, which allows you to have a really powerful interaction with the pieces.

Is there a particular Georgia Museum of Art exhibit that has evoked this feeling for you?
I remember I was invited to photograph the Ann Bonfoey Taylor exhibit at the museum in 2013. Having the opportunity to come into the museum and photograph these artifacts — artifacts in the sense of lives lived and time spent rather than physical age — was huge for me because of the work that I’m doing. In the context of this digital age, it can seem like I put [what I create] out there and “poof,” it’s gone. But that exhibit helped me to realize no, it’s actually lasting and it matters.

What can people look forward to doing and learning in this workshop?
The first day is going to be personal introductions, going up and observing the works and then talking about how we’ll be studying circular and rectangular compositions. The second day, participants will be making sketches of what we want to bring to life; weaving based on paintings, sculptures or whatever else is on display or that we look at from the archives. From there, participants will learn basic weaving knots and stitches, and begin to create their pieces throughout the rest of the workshop.

The workshop is supposed to draw inspiration from museum pieces on display and in the archives; what is your favorite (or a few favorites) of what you’ve pulled for the students?

The specific pieces are still to be determined, but Paige states there will likely be an emphasis on abstracts.

One of my goals with looking at pulled works and at the current MFA exhibit will be to see those concepts of color theory, composition and texture. Really just honing the students’ eyes to what is applicable across so many different formats of art. That’s my ideal; I want to introduce them to the fact that you can do this.

What sort of ways do you see these pieces inspiring the class?
The students will be making sketches of the exhibits to find out what they want to bring to life in the weavings they will make later in the class.

Paige plans to show students how to recognize patterns and themes in any kind of art, and to use those elements in works, specifically textile works, of their own. In the past, she has taught a number of workshops on everything from weaving to cyanotypes with students of all ages. Often, those classes also began with looking at art or art books to inspire students. She explained her reasoning for me, showing just how important this component is in terms of creating art:

Let’s look at these [art books], spend some time with them and then make notes about what stands out. What is compelling to you, and why? If you could make any type of art in the world, what would it look like and how would you get to that point?” I kind of just asked them to open up the books and their selves with the firm belief that “Hey, I believe you have the potential to create art just as much as any other human being.”

“Studio Workshop: Fiber Arts” with Paige French begins May 3. The cost of the course is a $15 materials fee, which will cover all necessary supplies for all sessions (May 3, 10, 17 and 24). Call 706.542.8863 or email to register. Limited to 15 participants.

Savannah Guenthner
Intern, Department of Communications

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Publication Turns Abstracted Idea into Concrete Realization

The Clinton Hill publication
In addition to organizing many exhibitions, workshops and events, the Georgia Museum of Art also annually publishes a number of exhibition catalogues and other publications. The most recent of these publications is unique not only in its content, but its construction. The catalogue, “Clinton Hill,” was written by museum director Dr. William U. Eiland and surveys the life and career of Clinton Hill, a multitalented artist who was a Renaissance man of the abstract.

The structure of the physical book contains a number of unique elements that catch the eye of any who pass it. The front cover includes a die cut, allowing parts of the interior pages to be seen. The front and back covers are glued on in separate pieces, leaving the spine visible. The title of the book is printed on the folded edges of the signatures, with binders’ thread exposed over it. The book is also printed on two different types of paper: a high-recycled-content stock in a birch color, printed with a single Pantone color (including vintage photographs of Hill at work), and a silk-coated white art stock for the color plates. Hill’s work in collage and with handmade paper inspired its design, by Almanac of St. Louis.

In the foreword of the publication, Eiland describes Hill’s art as “works of intense vision, of radical experimentation, of lyrical loveliness . . . unknowable things of the unbridled imagination, of the human spirit, of the abstracted idea, and of its concrete realization.”

With an artist whose work inspires such passion, it is fitting that the publication is an out of the ordinary project suitable for the man who lived and worked “without apology or circumspection.”

Copies of “Clinton Hill” are available for purchase at the Museum Shop, on Amazon or on our website for $40.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Awakening the Divine at the Georgia Museum of Art

Some of the mandalas created by participants at "Awakening the Divine"

There it is again.

Beep! Beep! Beep! How does the relentless ring of an alarm always seem to invade the best of dreams? Morning people spring out of bed prepared for the day, while others need a miracle to make it out of the house on time. The Georgia Museum of Art recently offered a workshop for all kinds of people to wake up —in the spiritual sense. “Awakening the Divine,” a mindfulness workshop, was also scheduled for the convenient evening hour of 6 p.m. For many, the experience was a much more welcome wake-up call than their daily alarm.

The workshop began with a short history of mandalas. Many different cultures have created circular designs throughout history. Humans were likely first inspired to draw circles from looking at the sun and moon. This workshop drew inspiration from Images of Awakening: Buddhist Sculpture from Afghanistan and Pakistan,” an exhibition that highlights the Buddhist artistic heritage of ancient Gandhara. Many other religions around the world have also found significance in mandalas. From Tibetan monks to Navajo Indians, the ritualistic production of these designs is often intended to produce healing.[1]

Psychologists today have discovered the many positive effects of creating mandalas. The instructor of the workshop, licensed physiologist Debra P. Avis, included a few in her presentation. This practice may prevent writers block or aid in decision-making. Mandalas symbolize the self in Jungian psychology.[2] By creating a mandala, an individual works to find a place in the world. In conjunction with mindfulness, a well-studied practice with many benefits, the process teaches one to focus on the task at hand. At the end of the workshop, visitors left with completed, unique mandalas — as unique as their individual dreams and aspirations, which they may now pursue with renewed focus.

Gone are the days when art museums were only spaces to observe a painting on the wall (though the museum does offer ample time and space for this activity with Slow Art Day on the calendar for April 14). Additionally, curators of education create experiences that call upon visitors to interact with art in new ways. In recent years, the Georgia Museum of Art has increasingly offered opportunities for visitors to participate in art making. Workshops in acrylics and tapestry weaving employ local artists and give members of the Athens community an opportunity to benefit from the resources on campus. Whether it is making mandalas, paintings or tapestries, visitors can find what makes their days a bit brighter at the museum.

McKenzie Peterson
Intern, Department of Communications

[1] Krippner, S. (1997). The Role Played by Mandalas in Navajo and Tibetan Rituals. Anthropology of Consciousness, 8(1), 22-31. doi:10.1525/ac.1997.8.1.22
[2] Psychology of the Mandala. (2018, April 11)

Thursday, April 05, 2018

MFA Candidate Spotlight: Ally Christmas

Ally Christmas, Metadreaming, 2018

The Georgia Museum of Art will soon host the annual Master of Fine Arts Degree Candidates exit show. The exhibition will display the creative works of 16 students slated to graduate from the Lamar Dodd School of the Art in May. This week, we continue to spotlight a few of these unique artists with information on Ally Christmas.

Christmas hails from the suburbs of Washington, D.C., where her artistic journey began during high school. She went on to study analog photography during her undergraduate years at the University of Virginia. After graduation, Christmas spent the following year working on her own pieces and mentoring other students.

She found herself intrigued by the University of Georgia’s interdisciplinary master of fine arts program and soon took the plunge into the American South. “The southern culture here is just so much more welcoming,” she says of her experience in Athens, a place she has come to be inspired by and love.

Christmas’ choices of medium and style have continued to evolve in this open environment. Analog photography has given way to video and digital imagery, which she is excited to present at the MFA exit show. Christmas’ contributions to the show will be a central video piece accompanied by digitally created imagery. Through these works, she conveys “the return of the ‘real’ through the glitches or errors in a work of art.”

Christmas hopes viewers will find themselves in the digital sphere through her work. The layers crossed to enter this mindset, she says, will cause the audience to consider what connects them to the world within the screen.

Whether these layers are of the self, multiple selves or both is a question Christmas has explored throughout her MFA. Her video and digital imagery pieces will lead the audience deep within her question and, perhaps, to its answer. The question may be personal, but it will easily inspire the viewer to wander a similar path.

To see Christmas’ work, along with that of all the other MFA candidates, you can visit the exit show, on view April 7 – May 20, 2018.

Savannah Guenthner
Intern, Department of Communications