Monday, October 30, 2017

Asleep in the Deep: many ways to use clay!

Asleep in the Deep is my first experiment in combining clay monoprints with clay sculpture.  Here I have covered the wooden box with a clay monoprint.  The mermaid, who represents a deep dream state, is made from paper clay with oxides, stains, and underglazes. The little bubbles in the monoprint seems to be coming out of her mouth, as if she is breathing while under water. The ceramic natural forms inside the box are paper clay with glazes.  If is fun to combine three different ways to use clay, both two-dimensional and three-dimensional.  

The design of the clay monoprint is watery, and the colors go well with the mermaid, although this wasn't planned in advance.   

The glazed ceramic pieces inside the box were natural things such as seed pods and  branches which were dipped in paper clay slip.  When fired, the organic material burns out, leaving the ceramic shell, which can then be glazed. 

The box itself was a gift from my friend Melvin Chappell, who knew I would find an interesting use for it.  I never imagined it would be this!

This cabinet has been lined with another clay monoprint:

The sculpture I have in mind to go inside of it will be coming out of the kiln by Thursday.  I have other ceramic nature pieces I will add as well, and a small birds nest with some broken blue egg shells in it.  It will be an interesting cabinet of curiosities! The clay monoprint will function more like a stage setting than a backdrop. I'll post it when it is finished.  

I have been on a kick now with using pieces of clay monoprints, ever since Main Line Art Center asked artists to contribute 8" x 8" work for a fundraiser.  I cropped several clay monoprints into 8" x 8" sections, and then had wonderful leftover scraps.  My first project was a collage on the door in our kitchen to our basement steps:

It feels like the protector of a stairway that is steep and narrow, offering both safety and a reminder to be careful.  It is also the stairway that leads to my studio!

I decided that the first door collage is finished, so started a new one on the inside of the door to my studio, seen when it is closed.  I'm not sure how finished or unfinished this one may be.  So far it feels like a self-portrait.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

On the Trail of Violet Oakley

I love this selfie together with Violet Oakley's "Eve at the Feet of Mary", a proposal for a fountain, 1945-49.  It is one of her many wonderful drawings in charcoal and white chalk on brown paper, now at Woodmere Art Museum through January 21, 2018, part of their ambitious retrospective "A Grand Vision:  Violet Oakley and the American Renaissance."

Fellow Dumpster Diver George Felice and I started our Violet Oakley pilgrimage at the First Presbyterian Church in Germantown, Philadelphia.

This church contains a ten panel mural frieze, Oakley's last mural series, produced from 1945-49 when she was in her seventies.  It was a collaboration with Edith Emerson, who was first her student, then her collaborator and life's partner.  Here we saw the painting of Eve at the Feet of Mary (according to Dante), that we later saw in the drawing.

 Every panel was signed in her distinctive way:

We especially enjoyed the panel of Eve in the garden:

 George and Eve:

 Me and Eve:

I especially loved her trees over the doorways honoring the women of the bible, including some lesser-known ones.  She was a feminist to the core, even to her theology. 


Even in the panel of Mary Magdalene washing and annointing Jesus' feet, the woman feels more central than Jesus himself, and is painted with more tenderness and sense of personality.

We couldn't leave the church without looking at the spectacular stained glass in the main sanctuary.  Some of it is by Tiffany, although I'm not sure about this one.  Seen on a sunny day at around 11:30 a.m., it is located so that light pours in illuminating the child in an uncanny and mysterious way, that is mesmerizing. 

It was fun to go from the church to the Violet Oakley retrospective at Woodmere Museum, which highlights not only her prolific accomplishments as a muralist, portraitist, stained glass designer, and illustrator, but also her deep civic involvement both in Philadelphia and globally.  When The Plastic Club was formed in 1897 as a place for women artists to meet, exchange ideas, and exhibit their work, Violet Oakley was there from the beginning.  Deeply committed to peace and social justice, her portraits of the delegates to the League of Nations are fascinating.  She achieved international fame at a time before women had the right to vote.

Here is a self-portrait from 1920, submitted as part of her admittance to the National Academy of Design:

Most touching to me was the watercolor portrait of her done by Edith Emerson, her life's partner, in 1952 when Violet was seventy-eight:

Edith was somewhat younger than Violet, and was director of Woodmere Art Museum from the early 1940's through 1978.  They were definitely a 'power couple'!  It was great to learn more about Violet Oakley, as well as about Edith Emerson, in a setting where their relationship was not glossed or whitewashed.



Monday, October 9, 2017

It was a Dream and a Vision, and now a Reality!

Jesse White and I are at the opening reception of "Clay Monoprints:  Dreams, Visions, and Alternate Realities - An Exhibit of Works by Susan Richards".  Jesse is the Director of Arts and Spirituality at Pendle Hill, A Quaker Study, Retreat, and Conference Center in Wallingford, PA. 

It takes a very special place to even have an Arts and Spirituality Program!   I am grateful that Jesse asked me to exhibit my clay monoprints. 

She is a great curator.  I enjoyed working with her to hang the show in The Tree Rooms Gallery, and appreciated how she thought about creating coherence between walls as well as within them.  I love the result!

These two are so perfect together on their own wall:

All but one of the others hang unframed:

They are printed on an industrial substrate called Reemay, which is heavy and fabric-like enough that they can hang on their own like Chinese scrolls, and don't really need to be under glass. 

I also included a dried and fired clay slab that had been used for printing, together with the last print that had been pulled from it when it was in use:

This is what the slab looked like, as it was drying out and cracking, before it was fired:

Since the pigments we add to slip (a very thinned form of clay) in order to paint with clay are water-based and not intended to be fired, as are e.g. glazes, the slab fired monochromatically, almost like a photographic negative of its final print.   Hopefully being able to look at the slab up close together with its last print helps people conceptualize how the prints are made.

There is a reason the gallery is called The Tree Rooms Gallery.  The windows look out on the beautiful Pendle Hill grounds.

The reception was very well attended.  It was great to see old friends and to make new ones.  Here I am greeting John Meyer, the Communications and Outreach Coordinator, who designed the wonderful flyer:

Susan Turkel and Mark Hillegonds looking at the clay slab:

My brother-in-law David taking a photo of a mixed-media clay monoprint - a clay monoprint with added ceramic pieces and seed pods.

John Benigno, from my DEEP SIX group was there with his wife Chris, as was Melvin Chappell, another DEEP SIXer.

Sue Long, from our Women With A View artists group:

I guess I talked with my hands, during my artist's talk:

I had tools in the blue tote bag to help illustrate how clay monoprints are made.  The bag was made from my print Unexpected Doorway at

Making clay monoprints has been an unexpected doorway for me, as has this exhibit.  I know that making clay monoprints will be part of my art practice as long as I am able.  I am grateful to Mitch Lyons for so patiently developing clay monoprinting and for teaching and sharing it so generously.