Tag Archives: art

In the Studio w/ Guillermo Guardia

[CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE VIDEO]

A couple of months ago, I interviewed ceramic sculptor Guillermo Guardia about his artwork. I was so inspired by his story and how he overcame the challenges of sculpting a perfect human body by sculpting bodies made of puzzle pieces. The new subject was symbolic of his journey.

When we finished the interview, Guillermo extended an open invitation for me to visit his studio and try the craft for myself. How could I pass up an opportunity to see a talented artist in action and learn hands-on about his process?

I couldn’t.

As the arts and entertainment reporter for the Herald, I often speak to artists about their inspiration and process. But after the interview, I’m always left craving something more. And this was it — my missing piece. I needed to see the artist in action.

And after much planning, I’m excited to present the first episode of “In the Studio,” a monthly Web series where we take you in the studio with area artists to show you a behind-the-scenes look at their craft and workspace.

Each month, we’ll visit another artist’s workspace, and I’ll share my hands-on experience with the new art form.

Since Guillermo’s offer sparked the idea, I thought it would only make sense for him to be the first artist.

Working with clay

Sitting in Muddy Waters Clay Center, Guillermo handed me a wad of clay. It was tough, damp and intimidating.He said we would make a dog and a llama, and I tried to convince myself that it couldn’t be too difficult.

I reminded myself that Guillermo typically taught children, so it couldn’t be too difficult, right?

Wrong.

I circled clumps of clay in my hand trying to form two round balls — one for the head and one for the body. While Guillermo made his effortlessly, I struggled to smooth out the lumps. As soon as I had smoothed one side, I’d pushed the opposite side out of whack. I laughed. I didn’t have time to get it right. I set aside my uneven pieces and moved on to the legs.

Rolling a slab of clay between my hand and the table, I thought back to making snakes out of Play-doh as a kid. “Why couldn’t we make snakes,” I thought. “I could handle that.”

I wondered how this long snake-like piece would become legs, but Guillermo quickly explained. We tore the long piece into four even parts. That was the goal anyhow; mine were all different sizes. Turns out, I’m not too great with dimensions.

I started putting my lopsided dog together. Again, I struggled while Guillermo worked with ease. We made two flat pancake-like circles for floppy ears and a little nub for a tail. When it all came together, I laughed and tried to see the dog in my jumbled cluster.

Next, we tackled the llama. “Great,” I thought, “even more pieces to struggle with.”

But, with one animal under my belt, the llama came together more smoothly.

The pieces were similar to that of the dog, except slightly different in size. I tried attaching the legs, but they weren’t stable. Guillermo offered to help, and I watched his hands as he worked. His fingers molded the clay proficiently.

Sculpting was second nature to Guillermo. He didn’t think; he just let his hands move and transform the clay.

He handed me my llama and with his kind heart he assured me that it was fine. I finished the face and tail. Then, we used a small sculpting tool to poke holes for the eyes and make lines along the body for the fur.

This time when we finished, I saw a llama, albeit slightly disfigured. I was proud of my little guy. We also made a tiny penguin with big eyes and angry eye brows, which turned out quite cute. With each piece we made, I gained more confidence, and I was able to relax and enjoy the process.

Despite my inability to form accurately proportioned smooth shapes, I had fun molding the clay and learning from Guillermo.

If we had more time, we could have fired the figures in the ceramic kiln and painted them. But, Guillermo said if I let them dry they would last forever as long as they weren’t knocked over. So, I thanked Guillermo for the tour and the lesson, grabbed my little figures and made my way back to the office.

The puppy fell apart in my hands. But, my surviving llama, Fernando, and penguin, Frankie, sit on my desk reminding me that art is not about perfection — it’s about experience.

First published in the Grand Forks Herald, Jan. 17.

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Emma Katka: ‘I just want them to feel something’

When I met Emma Katka for an interview in May at Urban Stampede, it was obvious the 21-year-old artist was going places. With bright pink hair and extravagant makeup, Katka sat and talked to me about her artwork. She had been chosen as one of three emerging artists for the Grand Cities Art Festival, and I remember her saying she was nervous about the event and kind of freaked out that people would be reading about her in the paper.

But, more than that, I remember her response when I asked her what she wanted to get out of the event, what she hoped to accomplish from being a part of the festival. I was expecting an answer about selling her pieces or getting her name out there. Instead, she paused and her voice changed from one of a nervous young adult to one of a passionate artist. “I just want them to feel something,” she said. “I want them to feel an emotion from one of my pieces.”

That’s when I realized this was someone who was going to go places with her artwork. I got back to the office and wrote a full story about the inspiring artist I’d just met, which I unfortunately had to cut down to a short five-inch vignette. A week later, I pitched a story about the artist to my editor. Katka had mentioned her abandoned house adventures, and I immediately knew I wanted to be a part of that and tell her story. My editor loved the idea, so I began talking with Katka about the possibility of accompanying her on an adventure.

She obliged, and we spent several months working out a time and date. When we finally figured out a time I was ecstatic. I couldn’t wait. I’d never been in an abandoned house and didn’t know what to expect.

I hopped in the car with Emma and her photographer friend Kristin Berg. We set out on Highway 2, heading west toward Devils Lake. We drove for about 30 minutes before Emma said, “OK start looking… This is where it gets serious.”

Kristin pulled out her camera and looked across the fields, scoping out any possible abandoned houses. Emma pointed to her left and said, “There’s one over there.” She explained that it wasn’t that great and that she’d become picky since realizing she has a “sixth sense” for spotting abandoned houses.

We pulled off on a gravel road and continued driving for several miles before Emma recognized a familiar set of trees and remembered a house she’d visited before. When we finally pulled up to the house, I got butterflies in my stomach.

They grabbed the camera equipment, and we headed inside the house. Behind the door with broken windows, the ceiling lay in pieces on the floor. As I carefully made my way through the rubble, chills ran down my spine.

Emma asked me to slip on her vintage lace dress and directed me while she worked her magic. I held up a broken mirror and looked at my reflection. I was posing for a photograph but I felt transported back in time.

Looking at Emma’s finished artwork, I barely recognize myself. I don’t see the photographs as pictures of me but rather powerful artwork that convey emotion and tell a dark, sad story.

I am extremely blessed and thankful to have had the opportunity to not only go on an abandoned house exploration with Emma but actually be a part of creative process. To learn more about Emma’s creative experience photographing abandoned houses, read the full story here, or to hear more about my personal experiences in the abandoned house, read my column here.

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Rosenquist: A true inspiration

A couple months ago, I received a press release from the North Dakota museum of art about a well-known artist named James Rosenquist, who would be coming to the museum for his 80th birthday celebration. I hadn’t heard of Rosenquist, but I decided to pitch the idea to my editor. Before I could even get my pitch typed and printed for our brainstorm meeting, she said I’d be covering the Rosenquist event. But, she wasn’t talking about the birthday celebration in October. She was talking about the opening reception for his exhibition that coming week. So, I jumped on the story and contacted Laurel Reuter, director of the museum, to set up an interview about Rosenquist.

I went to the museum the next morning and watched Rosenquist’s installers hang the painting, “Through the Eye of the Needle to the Anvil” which is 17 by 46 feet. As I took it all in, Laurel explained to me that the piece was an homage to his mother. She said the high heels on the left of the painting represent his mom and the painting was about ideas starting small and growing into paintings, novels, inventions… From my interview with Laurel, I found out that she personally knew Rosenquist and his curator Judith Goldman. She said Rosenquist was North Dakota’s most well-known painter. And that he learned to paint large scale when he was a bill board painter.

I later contacted Judith and she told me more about his artwork and his painting. I researched Rosenquist and read excerpts from his biographies and slowly began to realize how much of an impact this man had on the art world. I wrote my first article and received great feedback from the community.

A month or so went by and I prepared myself for another Rosenquist story. This time I would interview the artist himself over the phone from his home in New York. Nervous to interview such a remarkable artist, I had done a ton of research and prepared well-thought out questions for a Q & A, but I quickly learned that I wouldn’t be doing a Q & A. Rosenquist answered my first question and then said he’d prefer to just talk and tell me what he wanted to, so I let him talk.

He told me about his connection to North Dakota and how living on the plains made him see things differently. He spent much of his childhood in Mekinock, N.D., before moving to the cities and eventually New York. Although he lived in the large cities most of his life, he said the open plains had a great impact in his art and his creativity. He told me a story about sitting on his front porch as a boy and seeing a four story horse walk by. He said he later learned it was his neighbors white stallion which had gotten loose. He was seeing an optical illusion from the heat.

After talking to Rosenquist, I wrote up another story and waited about a week. Then, it was time for Rosenquist, his wife Mimi and Goldman to come to New York for his 80th birthday celebration at the museum. I rushed back from my Godson’s baptism in the Twin Cities, so I could make it to the celebration in time and finally meet the artist himself. It was remarkable to see him standing there with old friends and distant relatives admiring his work, which took up the entire east gallery in the museum.

I didn’t get much time to talk to Rosenquist but I was able to talk to his son and a good friend if his who is also a painter. We talked about his artwork and their lives in New York and I couldn’t help dream of moving to a big city filled with art.

When I first received that press release, I honestly had no idea who Rosenquist was. Now, I know he is a remarkable artist who has greatly impacted the art world with his amazing, intricate, large scale collage pieces.

To read more about his artwork, read my stories at gfherald.com or visit his website.

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The story behind the art

It’s been a busy few weeks at the Herald. My work load has pretty much doubled, and I couldn’t be happier. I finally feel like I always have something to do. Yay!  And, there’s even more exciting things coming in the future, possibly a monthly video feature!

But, before I get ahead of myself…

Last week, I had the opportunity to write a story about a very talented artist named Guillermo Guardia, also known as Memo. He is  from Peru, and he is the artist in residence at the North Dakota Museum of Art. I came across his artwork when he sent me a press release for a joint exhibit at the Hotel Donaldson in Fargo. I started researching his and the other artist’s work. Both were very interesting, but I decided to pick one to pitch to Melinda as an artist profile story. I picked Memo because of his residency.

Memo is an amazing ceramic sculptor. He sculpts a lot of different subjects puzzle piece torsos, llamas, baby devils and faceless figures. And, they are all absolutely wonderful! Herald photographer John Stennes and Forum photographer Dave Wallis took some amazing photographs of his work, so be sure to check out all the photos with the full story here.

Aside from examining his beautiful artwork, my favorite part of the interview was hearing Memo tell the stories of how these different pieces came about, especially the puzzle piece torsos. Memo had always wanted to sculpt the perfect human body, but he struggled for years, never satisfied with his artwork. He tried several different methods, becoming very frustrated, confused and lost, wondering where his career and artwork would go. One day he took his frustration out on the piece, carving lines into the figure. Those lines turned into pieces, and those pieces turned into puzzle pieces, he said. His frustration ultimately made these beautiful puzzle piece figures, that were deep in thought and wonder.

As Memo told the stories of how these pieces came about, he seemed to drift back in time. His arm lifted, making carving motions in the air and his eyes beamed with the understanding and acceptance of these new subjects. He had finally found a subject, and it was all his own. Memo has invited me to join him in his studio for a demonstration, and I am gladly taking him up on his gracious offer. We have no set dates, but I will be sure to post something about the experience.

Now, please, head on over to GFHerald.com and read the full story because it’s honestly one of my favorite stories yet.

 

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