Creative process is the focus of the next Featured Artists exhibit at the Hillsborough Gallery of Arts. The exhibit IMAGINED is the collaborative effort of four artists, Michelle Yellin, O’Neal Jones, Alice Levinson and Pam Isner, each working in a different medium and each approaching their materials and their creative process in a unique way. The result is a visually rich and conceptually intriguing mix of images, objects, techniques, and ideas.
O’Neal Jones, master woodworker uses traditional wood joinery techniques in the construction of his furniture and wall art. To these traditional techniques he has added shoji panel design. The shoji, wooden panels backed by paper or fabric are strengthened with kumiko, small interwoven lattice slats. Jones explains,” I use the I use the kumiko construction process as a palette of shape and image possibilities. Drawing inspiration from nature and music, my goal with every shoji design is to portray an image as simply as possible while maintaining the shoji structural integrity. With this directive of simplicity, I am able to use the least amount of well chosen woods with the greatest amount of impact. Being an outdoor person and avid hiker has shaped my belief that the best use for wood is a tree, yet it is also my choice of material with which to design and build. It is with this reverence for the material that I work toward making the most of this precious resource after it comes to the shop.
Pam Isner creates unique glass assemblages, using surprising found and repurposed glass. Describing her process of creating her magical works she writes: A Simple idea surfaces. Fleeting glimpses of images form, But how to capture them? Imagination, we all have one. The task is how to tap into it. Being a literal type, I start often with the likeness of a creature and end up elevating it with an encrustation of adornments imagined and executed in real time. I may never capture those images that come and go so quickly, but alchemy between the essence of things imagined and the beautiful glass I work with often result in something new and surprising. I like surprises.
Michele Yellin’s animated, fanciful paintings are rich in narrative. Working primarily in acrylic and watercolor, Yellin’s warm, vibrant canvases are windows to an imagined universe of people, animals, and places, familiar, but not quite known. Yellin explains,” When I create art, I make images of a world imagined. It’s not that I am not interested in what lays before me, but rather I am more interested in showing what is not obvious, or perhaps, not even there. Is what I create imagined and made up? Sometimes. Moreover, since I can perceive only so much due to my limited senses, I am not entirely sure that what I create is purely made up or, perhaps, is real on some other level. I imagine, I do the work, and the imagined images become real on the surface of the canvas.
Alice Levinson uses a range of traditional surface design techniques in creating her non-traditional cloth constructions. Her work process is intuitive and encourages spontaneity and experiementation. Levinson explains,”I am the daughter of a master seamstress and grandaughter of a tailor. Perhaps that explains my affinity to working with cloth, needle and thread. I am drawn to the tactile nature of fabric and find delight in its’ hand. I experiment freely with dye, paint, and printing techniques to create cloth complex in texture and rich in visual interest. I am by nature an observer of people and the natural world. These observations lead to musings, scribbled phrases, gestural sketches. These suggest themes, visual motifs, a palette. I reach for the cloth and then the magic begins. As I begin to handle the materials and work the cloth, image, line, pattern find their way though my hands into the work in a remarkable way. My task is to stay open and responsive to the ‘voice’ of the cloth and allow the creative flow. This is not easy, but is always satisfying. The time for critical review, re-direction, and editing will come later. My primary task as an artist is to honor and facilitate this process led by the materials and my intuitive response to them. For me
This is the hallmark of art-making. The process is primary. The outcome is secondary. Some people call this the ‘playfulness’ of artmaking. Most children are natural artists, engaging with their environment in a free, non-judging ie, creative manner. For the rest of us, the work is learning to relinquish the habit of critical thinking. An exercise I endorse and one I continue to practice.