Tag Archives: North Dakota

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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Barton’s Place

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Surrounded by hundreds of art from around the world, I tried to take it all in. I imagined spending hours and hours chatting with the artist Barton Benes about his collections. He’d share stories of each piece of art, where it came from and how he acquired it through a trade with a collector, dealer or artist in another country.

Instead, I sat at his table and chatted with his long time friend, Laurel Reuter, director of the North Dakota Museum of Art. The two had met many years before and had shared many conversations over the same table when it was in Barton’s New York apartment. After Barton’s death in May 2012, the table and the artist’s many collections traveled 1,500 miles to be a part of Barton’s Place, a recreation of the artist’s apartment in the Mezzanine Gallery at North Dakota Museum of Art.

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Laurel told me how some of the pieces came to be… the stuffed rooster came from the museum assistant director, Matthew Wallace… the bull’s head came from a bull in the Running of the Bulls in Spain… the African pots and masks were acquired from a dealer… As she looked around the small space full of Barton’s life and memories, Laurel recalled a curious man, who could always make her laugh, even in the darkest of times. She remembered a conversation the two of them had about his belongings and what would happen to them when he passed. He didn’t want them to be picked our by family and friends and thrown out. Laurel suggested giving them to the museum to create the museum’s first period room, a 21st century artist’s studio. Laurel said the suggestion became a dream Barton held on to. 

Now, that dream is a reality. The North Dakota Museum of Art opened Barton’s Place early this month. It’ll be on exhibit for an undetermined amount of time, with the hopes of turning it into a permanent exhibit. For more information on the exhibition, read my full article at gfherald.com or visit bartonlidicebenes.org.

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Along with Barton’s Place, a collection of African pots and a batik exhibition are also going on at the museum. Be sure to check it all out before it’s too late!

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And, James Rosenquist’s beautiful painting, “Through the Eye of the Needle to the Anvil” is STILL up! DO NOT MISS this one! The photo does NOT do it justice! Trust me!

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The Ska-Skank Redemption

I had the pleasure of interviewing and photographing the guys of The Ska-Skank Redemption a couple weeks ago. They’re great guys with a lot of talent. If you’re in Fargo this weekend, be sure to check them out at Spirit’s Lounge. You can also follow them on Twitter and Like them on Facebook. They also recently released their first ep “Wicked Bees,” which you can check out on Spotify, Bandcamp or iTunes.

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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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Trading in my reporters notebook

I’ve traded in my reporter’s notebook for a camera. Well, not really. But, I did have a freelance photo gig this weekend. My boss from my sophomore internship contacted me Wednesday afternoon asking if I’d like to shoot the Fargo Beer Festival on Friday night. I didn’t have any plans, so I jumped on the opportunity. I love writing, but it’s nice to get a change of medium every once in a while.

I arrived at the festival around 5:30 p.m., got the camera from Kurt and started shooting. Kurt is the promoter of the event, so he needed PR photos, not journalistic photos, which was also a nice change. I haven’t shot too many events, but I do enjoy it, especially when everyone’s having a good time. I got a lot of photos of people trying new beers and laughing with their friends. A lot of people stopped me and asked to take their photo, which was funny because it’s not like they ever see them. Well, maybe they will but its unlikely.  But, hey it made for some good photos.

I got back from Fargo around 11 p.m. and headed to bed so I could be up early for The Color Run. I wasn’t running, but rather interviewing new runners for a Herald story. I also brought my camera along and shot some more photos of the event. Both The Color Run and the beer festival were nice reminders that I love photography. I may not be that best but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t keep doing what I love.

I don’t own any of the photos from the beer festival (you can view them here), but below are some photos I shot at the Color Run. Enjoy!

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