A MAS Update: Larry Thomas

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The Midwest Artist Studios Project has spent the past three years traveling the Midwest interviewing 24 artists from 18 cities/towns. This project has been such a joy to create and to see how these artists have touched the lives of art students through online interactions, emails, and social media.

One of the areas we pride ourselves in is staying in touch with these artists and hearing what they are up to these days? For the next two-months the MAS Project will be spotlighting one of our 24 artists by sharing with you what they are doing in their studio as well as in their communities. 

All three of our MAS publications are now available online.

Click here to buy your copy today!

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Larry Thomas

2016 MAS artist from Kansas

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MAS: In what ways have you benefitted from your participation in MAS?

LT: I think probably the most important element for me, is that I’ve gotten to connect with students again, at least to some degree.  Since I retired I’ve missed sharing my experiences with students.  I can only hope the students, and possibly some teachers, got some exposure as to how I proceed through my work. A lot of what I do with collages is similar to what other artists do, but maybe there is one little tip or approach they weren’t familiar with.

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MAS: In what ways has your work and/or working environment changed since your MAS interview?

LT: Since I’ve been a practicing artist for over 40 years, my studio environment has evolved over that time pretty slowly.  There are some things that are just a part of the routine and ritual that I have developed over a long period of time.  That being said, after I did the lesson plan I feel like I’ve improved and become more efficient in creating my work.  The process of having to organize, research, self-analyze and present my art-making method in a text/photo format was a very good exercise for me.  As Socrates said,  “A life unexamined is not worth living.”  I like to think I’m constantly examining and re-examining myself and everything around me.

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MAS: What is one thing you wish you’d said in your original interview, or what is the one thing that you hope the MAS audience remembers about your and your work?

LT: I always hope that my work is compelling and mysterious in some way, and that its not illustrative or trite.

Looking ahead:

image001Opening June 2017, Larry will have a solo exhibition, So You Think You Know. It will be an immersive installation comprised of hundreds of small collages. He has explored the concepts of perception, deception, invisibility and camouflage, both visually and metaphorically, for over 20 years.  For the Nerman Museum’s Kansas Focus Gallery, he has constructed intimate collages employing traditional means like painting, drawing, and printmaking combined with the more contemporary medium of digitally generated images – each work a response to the barrage of information which engulfs us daily. 

photo credit: Larry Thomas at work in his Olathe, KS studio, courtesy the artist

Visit Larry’s website to see more of his work. 

All images copyright of the artist and used with permission.

 

Midwest Artist Studios Project in Ojai, California

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This spring break MAS founder and art educator, Frank Juarez, is participating in a visiting artist program at The Thacher School in Ojai, California. He will be working with Mrs. Liz Mahoney’s beginning to advanced art students. He will be introducing students to the Midwest Artist Studios Project through a series of art lessons, which highlights artists living in the Midwest. In addition, he will be Skyping the artists into the classroom so that they can have the opportunity to interact with them via a critique and/or Q & A.

Some of the artists introduced are Year 1: Todd Mrozinski (WI) and Jane Ryder (IA) as well as Year 2: Jessica Anderson (IL) and Jenniffer Omaitz (OH). 

Timeline:

Please note – images will be added each day of the residency. 

On March 25th, he spent the day getting to know the art students. Mrs. Mahoney’s students are fabulous, talented, and eager to learn more about art.

Day 1

On March 28th Advanced Art students and Intro Art students were  introduced their respective artists, process, and media. Artists discussed were MAS artists, Jenniffer Omaitz (OH) and Todd Mrozinski (WI). After the presentation, students began to either set up their still life for Folded Gestures: Playing with Form and Space lesson or deciding what the subject matter would be for their Shadows: Enter the Light lesson, respectively.

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Day 2

On March 29th, Studio Art students were introduced to the work of MAS artist, Jane Ryder (IA) followed by planning out their composition on paper. They are asked to create their own ecosystem based on observation, personal ideas, and using technology. The Intro Art students began working on their shadow paintings. Colors chosen consisted of a limited color palette with a dark tone, mid tone, and highlight of their choosing. 

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Day 3

On March 30th students continued to work on their assigned projects. Some students used today to catch up while others began to add color to their projects. It is interesting to see how they take the information presented and make the work their very own with their own ideas and interpretation. 

 

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Day 4

On March 31st, the art students had its first Skype session. Intro art students had the opportunity to talk to MAS artist, Todd Mrozinski (WI) about his work, process, and a brief critique/ Q&A with the students. Below is an excerpt from their session. 

 

About Todd’s work

The shadow series started on the one year anniversary of my father’s death. Wanting to connect with him, Mrozinski started to paint his portrait based off of a black and white photo from when he was a young priest. He had not painted a traditional portrait in years and soon was frustrated. Disgruntled, he laid on the couch until his wife entered the studio. She saw the large amount of dark acrylic paint mixed on the palette and asked if she could cover the canvas so it would not go to waste. He agreed and took a nap. When he woke up, he noticed the warm light coming in through the front door. He looked out at the tree shadows and realized, in that instant, what he needed to paint. He took the dark canvas off the working wall, laid it on the ground, knelt down and traced the tree shadow directly onto the canvas. He realized as life is to light, death is to shadows, one cannot be without the other. His dad was showing himself in a different form and he felt his presence profoundly. The shadow series began.

Mrozinski’s work is a record of what is going on around him in the present moment. His subject matter is his family, friends, house and yard which he records and adorse on a daily basis. The beauty and power of shadows, the mysterious and ever changing light that creates them and their ambiguity and implied meaning continue to inspire me and infuse my work. Each painting begins by tracing the object’s cast shadow directly onto the canvas and is an actual size record of time and space. He is constantly amazed how a single outline can capture a gesture, mood and personality and how color and edge can create space, focus and mood. Each painting becomes a light infused container that preserves a moment, painted directly though the malleable and flowing medium of oil paint. Through drips, skeins and piles of paint, the surface becomes activated and glows with a light from within.

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Day 5 (Final Day)

On April 1st, the week concluded with Studio Art students skyping with MAS artist, Jane Ryder (IA). Students asked about the artist’s approach to her chosen medium (gouache), ways to stay motivated, artist’s current work, a brief critique between students and artist and a Q & A. The Advanced Art students kept working on their project, “Folded Gestures: Playing with Form and Space”.  I can’t wait to see the final outcome from the Intro Art, Studio Art, and Advanced Studio art students. I would like to end this post with a huge thanks to Mrs. Mahoney (art teacher) and The Thacher School for having me and for their hospitality. This experience was fabulous and memorable. 

About Jane’s work

Jane’s paintings are a right-brained approach to observing, dissecting, and recording the objective subject matter found in the lakes, rivers, prairies, and forests of south central Iowa. As her intimacy with the land surrounding her evolves, so does her approaches for depicting the complexities of varying terrains and the plants and animals that occupy them.

Each of her gouache paintings is a fictitious ecosystem that has been broken down into a series of vignettes. Each vignette describes the decay, growth, and interaction between the flora and fauna of that imagined place. Although bold colors, re- peating patterns, and flattened space make the paintings appear fantastic in nature, each scene is based off an observation.

She is constantly inspired by the complexities of the natural world. Her work is an ever evolving narrative about the interconnectedness of all things and the functions of an organism in a community of plants and animals.

Get your copy today – Year 2 Midwest Artist Studios Project

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The catalog contains 66 pages with studio images and full interviews with our featured Midwest artists: Mellissa Redman (MI), Kate Robertson (MI), Jenniffer Omaitz (OH), Ellie Honl (IN), Jessica Anderson (IL), Jason Ackman (IL), Krista Svalbonas (IL), and Emmy Lingscheit (IL).

The workbook contains 96 pages with color illustrations and grades 6-12 lesson plans inspired from our studio visits with our Year 2 Midwest artists. This includes access to our Backroom on our MAS site, which gives you access to artist videos, a gallery of images, and the option of contacting the artist for a Skype session with your students. 

Published by the Midwest Artist Studios™ Project, 2015

Catalog design by Erika Block of Creative Studios

Limited Qty: 100

(Stock code: MASCATWKBK15)

Click here to purchase this catalog & workbook

This project is supported by a grant from the Kohler Foundation, Inc. and the Wisconsin Art Education Association.

Orders will be shipped within 7-10 business days of your purchase. 

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Year 2 MAS Catalog and Workbook is now available. Get your copy today!

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IMG_7506Year 2 MAS Catalog and Workbook is now available for purchase. This publication features 8 amazing artists from Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. They are Mellissa Redman (Grand Rapids, MI), Kate Robertson (Ann Arbor, MI), Jenniffer Omaitz (Kent, OH), Ellie Honl (Bloomington, IN), Jessica Anderson (Jackson, IL), Jason Ackman (Rushville, IL), Krista Svalbonas (Chicago, IL), and Emmy Lingscheit (Urbana, IL). These artists’ careers range from emerging to established working in mixed media, sculpture, painting, printmaking, installation, performance, photography, and collage.

To purchase your copy click the link.

MAS publication is only $40.70 (includes shipping/handling).

(includes a catalog with artist interviews and studio shots. As well as a workbook containing lesson plans exposing, educating, and engaging students into various studio practices and media. In addition, to a series of artist videos, a gallery of images, and the opportunity to Skype the artists).

There is a limited quantity available.

I am happy to announce that this year’s publication is printed by NASCO arts & crafts in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin. There is a beautiful ad inside this publication.

If you have purchased last year’s MAS publication I would LOVE to hear from you.

Thank you for your support.
Frank Juarez

art educator & founder

Here is one of my recorded Skype sessions with MAS artist, Todd Mrozinski

Year 2 MAS publication would not be possible without these contributors.

Layout by Erika L. Block.
Photography by Pat Ryan (unless otherwise noted).
Curriculum development by Frank Juarez.

The Midwest Artist Studios Project is supported by a grant from the Kohler Foundation, Inc, and the Wisconsin Art Education Association. 

Mellissa Redman – Grand Rapids, Michigan

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I am extremely excited to be heading into Year 2 of the 3 year project, the Midwest Artist Studios™ (MAS) Project. I will be traveling from July 26 through August 1, 2015 to the following artists/cities/states – Mellissa Redman, Grand Rapids, Michigan; Kate Robertson, Ann Arbor, Michigan; Jenniffer Omaitz, Kent, Ohio; Ellie Honl, Bloomington, Indiana; Jessica Anderson, Jacksonville, Illinois; and Jason Ackman, Rushville, Illinois. In mid-August I will be visiting the John Michael Kohler Arts Center’s Arts/Industry to document Emmy Lingscheit, who is one of our featured 2015 MAS artists and a current artist in resident. In late September, I will finish our documentation/research by visiting Krista Svalbonas, Chicago, Illinois and Emmy Lingscheit, Urbana, Illinois. 

The artists selected were based on their responses to an online survey focusing on Art Education, body of work, and a Skype interview. 

Throughout our visits I will be introducing you to 8 amazing and talented artists from the Midwest working in printmaking to painting, sculpture to mixed media and collage to installation art.

Click here to read a collaborative reflection from this past school year’s MAS Project. 

Join me on this MAS adventure via facebook.com/midwestartiststudios or subscribe to the blog, midwestartiststudios.com

– Frank Juarez

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Here are two of the questions asked on our survey and the artist’s response.

Please share one positive Art Education experience that you had in middle school, high school or college.

I interned for the West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology from 2013-14 and during that time I saw young teens who were not particularly interested in being in yet another program, let alone an arts program become truly excited about community projects they were involved in. The defining factor for the success of WMCAT is not the facilities or the glamour of the studios, but the genuine interest of the instructors and the hands on approach they have toward their students. These kids were what the school system would have considered not worth the time, but I found them really charming and attentive once given the right amounts of attention and motivation to see a project to it’s completion.

Why is Art Education today?

Art education impacted my decision to pursue art as a career. I was homeschooled from fifth grade until I entered college, but I attended school through fourth grade. The art classes I was involved in helped me to hold on to my creativity through very difficult family circumstances that would have otherwise extinguished my interest in the arts. Once I was homeschooled, my mother recognized that I was artistically inclined she put me in summer programs which fostered education through the arts.

Mellissa Redman 

Web: mellissajredman.smoothfolio.com

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The precursor to her current body of work was her father’s cancer diagnosis in May of 2011. She took this into her artwork as a way to record her feelings at the time, and it slowly evolved into a series of work on its own. The creative process turned from an escape to a cathartic experience. Coping with life is part of our existence as humans. It is an emotional process, affecting each individual differently. The concept of “masking” the true self is something that is well known by nearly every human being. In many ways, it can be described as an elaborate act, a play of sorts; in others, a survival tactic that maintains order and control. She believes both examples of these methods of coping can have positive outcomes.

The portraits in these pieces are not meant to represent any specific person or people group, rather humanity as a whole. Therefore, the expressions of the faces of these figures are neither threatening nor inviting. They are to be viewed as pensive and introverted; facing the viewer, yet clearly not acknowledging him/her for his or her own thoughts. The patterns she uses throughout the picture plane look may appear to be familiar to a viewer, but only in the way that they simply mimic the human fingerprint or loop/whorl pattern in which human hair grows. In addition to the patterning, she alters the smooth surface of the pieces with resin drips and pouring. Additionally, the patterning represents the complexities within oneself as anxieties multiply and are internalized. When light passes through the translucent screen-printed patterns, the portrait in the layers beneath the resin is interrupted. She begins with washes of watercolor that she builds up to increase color saturation. Over this, she uses colored pencil to flesh out the figure’s skin tone and facial details. The only other part of the body shown in this series is the neck, which she has made uniform in each individual piece to create homogeneity.

Once the portrait is completed, she screen prints a transparent thumbprint pattern directly onto the piece and cover the surface with a coating of clear epoxy resin. More transparent screen-printed patterns are printed in between layers of the resin, before the piece is completed. All of the pieces contain at least three layers of resin to achieve the correct amount of layering. The rest of the body is unimportant to this work as the focus is on the head. Behind the head of the figure is a colored disc. Although in art history, a flat disc behind the head of a figure was regarded as a holy symbol, its additional function is to represent a person’s aura (her reasoning for including it is the latter definition). She has modified the aura to act both as a compositional element to frame the face and head, and also to obscure it. Her goal with this series of work is to make the hidden external, to depict how swallowed fears and anxieties would appear if made tangible and visible. Though it’s well known that there are plenty of destructive, unhealthy, and dangerous coping strategies associated with emotional turmoil, she tends to think that there are an equal amount of positive experiences that can be gathered. It is these experiences that give us growth of character, a will to live. These are the experiences she hopes to convey in her work.

Bio

Mellissa Redman earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Painting and Drawing from the University of Akron. A native of Akron, Ohio, Mellissa volunteered her time or artwork to the local YMCA and YWCA chapters, the University of Akron Ballet Institute, the City of Akron, The Chapel: Akron Campus, and the Akron Children’s Hospital. She now resides in Grand Rapids, Michigan where she recently received a Master’s Degree of Fine Art in Painting at the Kendall College of Art and Design. Though she works with water-based media, her paintings also include drawing, printing and collage.

 

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All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.

Ellie Honl – Bloomington, Indiana

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I am extremely excited to be heading into Year 2 of the 3 year project, the Midwest Artist Studios™ (MAS) Project. I will be traveling from July 26 through August 1, 2015 to the following artists/cities/states – Mellissa Redman, Grand Rapids, Michigan; Kate Robertson, Ann Arbor, Michigan; Jenniffer Omaitz, Kent, Ohio; Ellie Honl, Bloomington, Indiana; Jessica Anderson, Jacksonville, Illinois; and Jason Ackman, Rushville, Illinois. In mid-August I will be visiting the John Michael Kohler Arts Center’s Arts/Industry to document Emmy Lingscheit, who is one of our featured 2015 MAS artists and a current artist in resident. In late September, I will finish our documentation/research by visiting Krista Svalbonas, Chicago, Illinois and Emmy Lingscheit, Urbana, Illinois. 

The artists selected were based on their responses to an online survey focusing on Art Education, body of work, and a Skype interview. 

Throughout our visits I will be introducing you to 8 amazing and talented artists from the Midwest working in printmaking to painting, sculpture to mixed media and collage to installation art.

Click here to read a collaborative reflection from this past school year’s MAS Project. 

Join me on this MAS adventure via facebook.com/midwestartiststudios or subscribe to the blog, midwestartiststudios.com

– Frank Juarez

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Here are two of the questions asked on our survey and the artist’s response.

Please share one positive Art Education experience that you had in middle school, high school or college.

It is a challenge to narrow it down to just one! As the daughter of an art educator in Wisconsin, I know that I was privileged to attend public school at a time when art education was a valued and better-funded part of the curriculum. The first art education experience that I can remember had a profound affect on me, because it made me realize that my unique perspective was valued. When I was in kindergarten, my teacher showed us how to make a penguin from cutting and gluing together pieces of construction paper. Having just visited the Chicago zoo where I was mesmerized by the crazy “eyebrows” of rockhopper penguins, I used my leftover pieces of orange paper to create the unique feather plumage. When the teacher saw this addition, she showed my project to the class and I felt an overwhelming sense of pride and validation.

Why is Art Education important today?

Art education is important today, because art teaches students valuable skills that most other subjects don’t. Because art never has one right answer, it empowers students to think for themselves and to consider all possibilities. Art nurtures creative problem solving, curiosity and flexibility, and encourages students to take risks and to embrace ambiguity. Art is a reflection of the culture in which it was created, so studying art has the potential to teach students about history, society, and the makers’ unique point of view. It also has the ability to teach students about themselves and how to express things that cannot be said with words alone. With a fast changing global economy, being able to find creative solutions to new problems will be very important. People that possess creative literacy, will have the skill set to find innovative solutions. Beyond the job market, learning how to create and appreciate visual aesthetics creates a better quality of life and improves society as a whole.

Ellie Honl 

Web: www.elliehonl.com

ellie headEllie’s artwork is about the human desire to find stability in an unsteady present and unpredictable future. Through her artwork, she tries to understand why things are the way they are and strive to find logic in the random. She works intuitively allowing herself to experiment with unpredictable processes to discover new marks and imagery. Many times these initial investigations look chaotic and they provide a problem for her to resolve. She imposes order through geometric forms and color, while making connections through lines, written explanations, and collage elements. These acts of resolution are based on research into theories of geometry, psychology, space, and her own history.  Through a multidisciplinary approach, she creates prints, objects, and moving images that oscillate between rational and irrational, organized and disordered. Printmaking’s unique ability to retain the original image helps her create variables that grow organically and allows her to combine and alter visual elements using a wide variety of media. This layering, warping, and re-presenting information reflects her research in how people make sense of the world around them.

Bio
Ellie Honl is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Printmaking at Indiana University in Bloomington, IN. Combining printmaking, time-based media, and alternative photographic processes, her artwork has been widely exhibited across the United States and is included in many national collections. She has been awarded residencies at Vermont Studio Center and the Kala Art Institute, and has been a visiting artist at numerous universities and art centers. She has previously taught at Arizona State University, the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, and the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. She received her MA and MFA in Printmaking with a minor in Intermedia from the University of Iowa where she graduated with honors, and received a BA in studio art from St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN. Ellie is from Stevens Point, Wisconsin where her mother is an art teacher in the public school system.

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All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.