A Conversation with Steve Wanna

A CONVERSATION WITH STEVE WANNA

In the Eternity of an Instant: Mixed Media by Steve Wanna
Margaret W. & Joseph L. Fisher Art Gallery
Schlesinger Concert Hall & Arts Center
Please join us for an Artist Talk – August 17th, 2019 12PM-3PM

How have your personal experiences impacted your art?

That’s a difficult question to answer for me because I don’t often tie my personal experiences to my work.  I immigrated to the U.S. as a teenager and have been straddling two cultures ever since. Yet I don’t feel like I belong fully in either. I suppose this sense of not belonging is pretty common among artists. I’m also a contemplative person by nature and that definitely seeps into my work in big ways. My current worldview is largely informed by science, mathematics and Buddhism. I firmly believe in statistics and coincidence—the business of fate and whatnot makes no sense to me. This has the largest influence on my art by far. A lot of my work has elements of controlled randomness, whether in the decisions surrounding the work, the process of making it or the final result itself.

Where did you go to school?

I started out taking classes at Northern Virginia Community College when I immigrated here with my family. I transferred to James Madison University to complete my undergraduate and Masters in Music Composition. After that I went on to the University of Maryland to work on my doctorate in Composition with a focus on electronic music, followed by a year-long postdoc at a studio in Paris. That year was very important in that it afforded me a period of incubation and reflection. A lot fell in place for me over the course of that year. I’ve turned to visual and multidisciplinary art recently, and am self-taught—it’s another way I feel like I straddle two cultures, not fully fitting into either. Robert Irwin is another one who’s work and writings resonate with me.

Who were and our your creative influences?

My formal education is in music. My biggest influences for the past decade or so have been Iannis Xenakis and John Cage. They both approached randomness and stochastics from slightly different perspectives. Both worked with processes that removed them from the making of the work, but Xenakis was willing to manipulate the results of his processes to achieve slightly more specific goals, while Cage was willing to completely surrender the results to the processes that yielded them. My aesthetic falls somewhere between the two.

You mentioned that the Myths of Creation series was influenced by images from the Hubble telescope. Can you talk more about how scientific thought has impacted your art?

Science has had a huge impact on my thinking, both in art and in life. My work isn’t scientific per se, but definitely inspired by certain principals like systems theory, swarm intelligence, and game theory. I also use technology in some of my work, but there’s nothing particularly unusual about that. When the Hubble images started coming out, I became obsessed. The caption on one simply noted the distance of the exploding star in the image, and it was something in the hundreds of millions of light years away. Aside from being a staggeringly impossible number to fathom, there was something profound and a bit sad and poetic about it: what I was looking at was an event that happened some hundreds of millions of years ago, yet somehow we’re now witnessing it.

Describe the process for creating the Myth of Creation pieces.

These are pretty involved pieces, and the process has evolved. I start by making the boards and preparing them. Then I make the plaster shells that will hold the pigments. Once all that prep is done, I fill a shell with the various pigments and aggregates. Here I have some measure of control: the order in which I put the material into the shell has some effect on the final result. I’ve built a special enclosure for this step because once I make the drop, the piece has to stay in place until it dries, then I have to spray it with fixative before I can handle it. Because I use powder pigments, I had to come up with a way to spry the fixative indirectly so that it doesn’t blow the powders away. After all that, I add the frame, seal the edges, and pour the resin. The process can take a week or more, yet the actual drop itself happens in a split second. And it’s by far the most exciting part of the process!

The series created with synthetic wax – She Who Makes the Moon the Moon is inspired by a poem? Can you talk more about that?  How is literature and poetry important to work as an artist?

A lot of artists find inspiration in literature and poetry. My work is not representational and therefore never a literal (no pun intended) translation of whatever inspired it. I often find inspiration in reading stories or poems and equally in reading scientific articles. I think there are tremendous and fertile sources for the imagination in scientific discovery. That series is inspired by a story entitled “The Distance to the Moon,” from Italo Calvino’s Cosmicomics. Calvino takes modern scientific knowledge, mostly about the formation of the universe, and retroactively creates fantastical stories and myths that work with them in beautiful ways. It pains me when people describe science as cold. The scientific method may be disinterested in how we feel about it, but the creative spark that sets a scientist’s mind on some hypothesis is the same one that every artist and poet feels. It’s a human spark of curiosity about things larger than ourselves that we do not yet understand but might hope to bring forth with a lot of imagination and hard work.

How has your background in music composition inspired your work?

A lot of my work is concerned with time and processes that center on the passage or capture of time. Time is an integral part of music—sound is a physical phenomenon that is essentially the propagation of vibrations over distance, something that requires time. I find myself creating works that either freeze time through some process, or require time to unfold. I also find myself applying in my visual works a lot of the same aesthetics I’ve developed in my music: an affinity for controlled randomness, an openness to process, a willingness to follow these highly experimental works wherever they need to go.

Describe the process of making “ Come Closer”

This work was the first in a series based in my obsession with shadows. I had a very specific idea in mind and tested a lot of different materials.  I played with paper, glass, even tried making some materials from recipes I found. The look I had in mind was that of thin porcelain with light behind it. My partner Tonya suggested having someone make it and that’s what happened. I sent my designs to a ceramic artist and he slip cast them to my specs. The electronics came next. I designed the sounds I wanted using software I’ve used before with other works but I had to get help from my brother who’s an computer engineer in order to realize the works as standalone objects, each with its own microprocessor. We had to work on translating the code to work with the hardware. I then designed the layout of the boards that would go inside the porcelain boxes—they hold a microprocessor, a small speaker, and an LED strip. The small computer runs a program that controls the sound and light. They both ramp up and down at randomly chosen intervals. Each box emits a single pure tone. The combination of all the boxes together creates a complex sound. The piece is quiet and soft, and like many of my works, it’s meant to invite quieted and contemplation. What I find most poetic about it is that because the boxes are independent of each other and are ramping up and down at random intervals, you’ll never hear the same combination of sounds no matter how long you stand there. But the differences in timing are not so huge as to be immediately noticeable. This means the piece effectively looks simple at first glance but you realize there’s actually a lot more to it when you get to know it. This element of discovery is true of a lot of my work. And probably of me, as well…

When people look at your work, what do you hope they get from it? What kind of reaction were you going for when creating this body of work, and what kind of conversation do you hope it provokes?

I hope my work has an impact on people, an impact that is beyond, or rather before words and conversation, the same kind of impact a beautiful sunset might have on one. I’ve always found beauty like that to hit me almost like a physical punch in the gut. For a moment, words fall away and there’s nothing but you and the object and the bare experience. The mind has been foiled by the surprise, arrested for an instant by the experience and impact of beholding that object. Process is something we can talk about, modify, and improve, but impact is beyond words. I guess if someone looks at my work and is clearly impacted by it but has nothing to say that would be okay with me!

What can viewers and art lovers expect from your work in the future?

I’m hoping to move more in the direction of installation work, especially large-scale installations—that’s the kind of work I find most exciting and engaging. I’m continually looking for ways to better present sonic works, so I’ll continue pursuing that. I’ll also likely continue to explore the works and ideas represented in this show.

May 31st 11am – 12PM Coffee & Conversation with Norma Schwartz

You are invited to meet the Artist, Norma Schwartz this Friday Morning from 11am -1PM. You’ll have the opportunity to see her powerful exhibition, shape of memories, meet her and hear her discuss her work in this salon style event. Norma’s exhibition runs through June 9th.

Biography and Artist Statement

Norma Schwartz was born in Argentina at the end of the World War II and the atrocities of the event have been present throughout her life. After starting her practice as a psychoanalyst and raising a family, she emigrated to Spain in the 1970’s.  In Spain, she became involved in women’s issues from a psychoanalytic perspective and at the same time explored artistic languages of expressions. She moved to the United States in the mid 1990’s while keeping her practice as a psychoanalyst and pursing her new passion: sculpture.

“As a sculptor, developing techniques, exploring new materials, creating new ways of inhabiting a three-dimensional space, realizing the importance of light, gave me the opportunity to express what for me was impossible to express in a different language; a language with no words.

The teaching of psychoanalysis is also present in my work, and reflects, when naming each piece, a need to make a mark with a word that symbolized my curiosity and passion for the theoretical knowledge.

May 4th, 2019 Gallery Reception for Norma Schwartz, Jonathan Ottke and Nataliya Gurshman

You are invited to join us Saturday afternoon for the gallery reception for three outstanding exhibitions at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center. The artists will be present between 2 and 4pm to greet the guests and answers questions about their art work.

The shows are currently public and will run through June 9th, 2019.
Gallery Hours are Monday – Friday 10AM – 5PM

The exhibitions are as follows:

shape of memories: sculpture by Norma Schwartz
Margaret W. & Joseph L. Fisher Art Gallery

 

 

 

 

 

 

In a Drop of Water: Photographer by Jonathan Ottke
Passage Gallery

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Russian Soul: Paintings by Nataliya Gurshman
Forum Gallery

April 16th, 2019 6:30-8:30PM Confluence: Two Rivers, One City

During the last week of “Coming to Light, Encaustics by Angela White” and “NOMAD, The Art of Alonzo Davis“,  the Schlesinger Art Galleries is hosting a special public presentation of Confluence 2019, the DC region’s annual publication of critical writing on the visual arts on Tuesday evening from 6:30pm The speaker is Phil Hutinet, the publisher of East City Art.

CONFLUENCE: Two Rivers One City Public Presentation

 East City Art, DC’s visual arts publication of record, has released its second annual anthology of critical writing titled CONFLUENCE: Two Rivers One City.  The 30 essays of the anthology present some of East City Art’s most compelling writing and document the DC region’s most prominent influences on regional visual arts culture.

The title of the anthology alludes to the confluence of the Potomac and Anacostia rivers which flow through the region affectionately known as the “DMV” (DC, Maryland and Virginia).

CONFLUENCE 2019 offers insight into DC’s art world with in-depth critical writing and full color photographs of work by local, national and international artists displayed at regional galleries, museums and art spaces.

“The dedication of the East City Art writing staff to publish serious art criticism has never been stronger. Articles with ample discussion make ECA an alternative to the condensed and often superficial reviews offered elsewhere of gallery exhibits,” explains Editor-at-Large and Claudia Rousseau, Ph.D.

Publisher Phil Hutinet will present an overview of the reviews in CONFLUENCE 2019 while highlighting examples of work by local artists published in the anthology. During and after the presentation, audience members will have the opportunity to participate in the discussion and ask questions.

Speaker Biography

Phil Hutinet, a third generation Capitol Hill resident, is the publisher of East City Art, DC’s Visual Arts publication of record, which he began in 2010. In 2012-2013, his consultancy work east of the river yielded the Anacostia Playhouse, Craig Kraft Studios, the Anacostia Arts Center and the 2012-2013 LUMEN8ANACOSTIA festivals. In 2015, 2018 and 2019 he acted as the Gateway Open Studio Tour coordinator. From 2013-2018, he produced EMULSION, East City Art’s regional juried show and has produced over 150 local exhibitions in his career as a gallery owner and director. Currently, he oversees the ECA Foundation’s Critical Arts Writing and Research Program which produces an annual anthology titled CONFLUENCE: Two Rivers One City. Hutinet has been interviewed by or has made appearances on the BBC, Capital Community News, Euronews, Washingtonian Magazine, Washington City Paper, The Washington Post, WJLA ABC News Channel 7/Channel 8, WTOP and other local, national and international media.”

 

 

 

November 17th, 2018 2-4PM Art Reception for Childers, Noble and Pinney

We are very pleased to announce the exhibition receptions and final solo exhibtions for 2018. You are invited to join us this Saturday November 17th, 2018 2-4PM for Travis Childers, Lisa Noble and Matthew Pinney.

 

Accumulations: Mixed Media works by Travis Childers is in the Fisher Art Gallery. Travis begins with everyday objects – newspaper clippings, staplers, pen tips and tops and transforms them into provocative objects that evoke the readymades of Duchamp and the process of the Dada movement of the 20th century.

 

 

 

Memories of Home: Paintings by Lisa Noble is in the Passage Gallery.  The interior in Lisa’s paintings are places of her past and personal history. They represent her efforts to visually map out the context of her childhood and early history.

 

 

 

 

The Secret Garden: Paintings by Matt Pinney is in the Forum Gallery. Matt Pinney is an assistant professor of studio art at the Northern Virginia Community College at the Manassas Campus.  Matt’s paintings employ personal myths, reinterpretations of history, and investigation of cultural assigned roles to creative narratives that are unbound by time.

Questions and Answers : A Profile with Saya Behnam

Saya BenhamSay Behnam’s solo exhibition of paintings, Capturing the Vibrant, Transient and Eternal NOW is on display through November 4, 2018. We will be hosting a demonstration of the process that Saya uses to create her paints from plants, flowers, spices as well as stones and minerals next Tuesday October 30 12am – 2PM in the Forum Gallery of the Schlesinger Arts Center.

Please learn more Saya’s process with the Q&A profile below and plan to join us next Tuesday afternoon – 12am -2PM.

  1. At what point in your life did you realize that you were an artist?

From 13 or 14 years old. When I got so happy when copied an image from a cover magazine with a cheap watercolor box I had. I resisted considering fine art as a profession till many years after. I thought that cannot be considered as a real job.

  1. Was there a particular teacher that influenced you during your studies?

I had a teacher at age 18 who as my father cousin. His character influenced me a lot.

  1. Are there art historical influences that are particularly important to you?

Yes- I always was so impressed by the colors of Persian rugs and Kilims and miniatures was wondering how they produced the natural colors.

  1. What is the starting point for your process?

For using natural colors: it was a total accident. One day drinking a hibiscus tea and by accident I split it on my white paper. I kept looking at the colors and how those were changing. I decided to give it a try at my studio . That was the starting point.

  1. You call your work co-creating with nature. Can you talk a little bit more about how you are co-creating with nature?

I believe all the colors I use are existing in even one flower or plant I use. I am just a transformer. Some one who knows how to take them out and arrange them on the paper. Most of the time when mix or apply the colors on the top of each other I get a new color that is not what it was before. I believe I am not the only creator of my work. It is already in the nature and we co-create it.

  1. Is there a particular color that speaks to you over other colors?

I am very attracted to shades of red to purple and blues.

7. When did you first start creating your own colors and what was your inspiration?

Since my work is abstract, my goal was how the colors I create compose, interact and work together as a whole.

  1. The surface that you are painting on with the natural colors feels important. Can you tell us more about the quality of the surface you paint on – i.e. the silk, cotton and handmade paper?

I realized natural colors prefer natural surface rather than chemically primed.

For example natural silk and cotton and paper are the best. I normally use them instead of primed canvas.

  1. Do other art forms such as literature or music influence you?

I love poetry. I do write poems from famous Persian poets  like Khayam, Hafiz and Rumi in my art  . Listening to music is a big part of my day. I daydream with it. I get inspiration, become happy, sad and calm.

  1. What advice would you give to a young artist that is just starting out?

If you feel art is a big part of your soul, don’t afraid going after it and follow it professionally. It won’t be easy, but since artists’ reward is internal you can hang out there even when you don’t get result immediately.

Thank you for your time and please see additional works from Saya at her website at https://www.sbehnam.com/

Questions and Answers with John D. Antone

John D. Antone’s solo exhibition, The Home Inside” runs through November 4th.

We pleased to announce that we are hosting a day time coffee and conversation next Monday, October 15th, 2018, 11am -12PM with John D. Antone. Please come out to meet him, view his works and join us in conversation.

Learn more about John tomorrow and plan to join us next Monday morning for a conversation with the Artists.

At what point during your life did you realize that you were an artist.?

Maybe artists are born….??

As I recall checking the “Art Major” box in my college application was the first commitment to being a “professional”  artist but much later and in reality rather recently, I realized my purpose in life is to be an artist.  Being an artist is related to curiosity in my opinion…..not a job.

How did your experiences at Virginia Commonwealth University and California Institute of the Arts impact your artistic development?

At VCU I decided to study “sculpture” because the Sculpture Department did not restrict sculpture to any working method.  Our critiques addressed:  concept, intent and effect.

At Cal Arts they talked about the audience….who is our audience?  This impressed me.  It did not mean commercial audience but who we imagined we wanted to present our work.

Times spent with other students was just as important as what happened in the classrooms. We were very lucky to be alive when there was such freedom.

  Was there a particular teacher that influenced you?

 Chuck Henry  -VCU

John Baldessari – California Institute of the Arts

Deborah Butterfeild – University of Wisconsin

Warren Moon – University of Wisconsin

Hardeu Keck – Rhode Island School of Design, Rome Campus, Italy

 How would you describe your creative process?

My creative process is something like play.

 What artistic movements inspire you? – They can be visual but also literary movements.

There is not a particular movement although I like art history a lot and literature is amazing. Art is an ancient language that repeats itself so I like to learn from the language of art.

One of my favorite authors is Samuel Beckett……

 

What is it about bronze that appeals to you creatively?

I like bronze because it is both a liquid and solid.

Describe the lost wax casting process?

  • The lost wax process is ancient.
  • Basically one makes a form in wax by direct or indirect means.
  • Then the wax model is placed in a mold.
  • It may be that the wax form need to be broken down into parts and reassembled later.
  • This mold with the wax model is heated and the wax evaporates.
  • Then melted bronze is heated and poured into the mold.
  • Then the mold is removed when bronze has cooled.
  • Parts are welded together.
  • Then the bronze is cleaned and made smooth to the touch.
  • Then color (patina) is applied to the finished bronze by heat and/or chemicals.

When are you working on an idea for a sculpture – how do you begin?

I begin with meditation.

What advice would you give to a young artist starting today?

I would say beware that art is dangerous and ask yourself: If you looked back on your life would you regret not doing what you love?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jenny the Wu – Bring your own Lunch and Learn!

Students, Teachers and Staff and the DMV art community
Thursday September 6, 2018 12:30PM -1:30PM
Lunch and Learn with the artist Jenny Wu

Margaret W. & Joseph L. Fisher Art Gallery
Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center
Northern Virginia Community College – Alexandria Campus
4915 East Campus Drive
Alexandria VA 22311

A Sociology in Layers

Lunch and Learn with Jenny the Wu on her exhibit A SOCIOLOGY IN LAYERS at the Schlesinger Arts Center.

What do we mean when we call something Serious Play?

How do artists develop and come up with the ideas behind their work?

Grab a sandwich, and come down the hill to the Schlesinger Art Center and meet the artist Jenny the Wu.

Jenny Wu will be giving a behind the scenes – straight from the creative source talk about her and Michael Holt’s work in the interactive exhibit – A SOCIOLOGY IN LAYERS.

Biography

Jenny the Wu, like Winnie the Pooh, an artist and educator. She is the 2018 – 2020 Touchstone Foundation for the Arts Emerging Artist Fellow, and adjunct professor at American University and Marymount University.
Jenny Wu was born in Nanjing, China. She holds a B.A. from William Smith College in Studio Art as well as in Architectural Studies, and an M.F.A. in Studio Art from American University.

Her work has been exhibited in galleries and museums including Denise Bibro Fine Art, Katzen Museum, and Huntington Museum of Art. Wu has participated in numerous Artist-In-Residence programs across the country, and has been awarded fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center and the Pollock Krasner Foundation.”

Contact Information: Mary Welch Higgins
Gallery Director, Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center
Email: mhiggins@nvcc.edu
Phone: 703.575.4705

Tangling Shadows by Joan Belmar

Thinking, Tangling Shadows by Pablo Neruda

Thinking, tangling shadows in the deep solitude.
You are far away too, oh farther than anyone.
Thinking, freeing birds, dissolving images,
burying lamps.

Belfry of fogs, how far away, up there!
Stifling laments, milling shadowy hopes,
taciturn miller, night falls on you face downward, far from the city.

Your presence is foreign, as strange to me as a thing.
I think, I explore great tracts of my life before you.
My life before anyone, my harsh life.
The shout facing the sea, among the rocks,
running free, mad, in the sea-spray.
The sad rage, the shout, the solitude of the sea.
Headlong, violent, stretched towards the sky.

You, woman, what were you there, what ray, what vane
of that immense fan? You were as far as you are now.
Fire in the forest! Burn in blue crosses.
Burn, burn, flame up, sparkle in trees of light.

It collapses, crackling. Fire. Fire.
And my soul dances, seared with curls of fire.
Who calls? What silence peopled with echoes?
Hour of nostalgia, hour of happiness, hour of solitude.
Hour that is mine from among them all!
Megaphone in which the wind passes singing.
Such a passion of weeping tied to my body.

Shaking of all the roots,
attack of all the waves!
My soul wandered, happy, sad, unending.

Thinking, burying lamps in the deep solitude.

Who are you, who are you?

Our current artium installation by Joan Belmar is inspired by the poem, Thinking Tangling Shadows by Pablo Neruda.

To learn more about Joan Belmar visit his about the artist page, follow him on Instagram at @JoanBelmar and visit his website at joanbelmar.com

The recording of Thinking, Tangling Shadows is voiced by Stephen Shetler.