A Conversation with Sally Kauffman

A Conversation with Sally Kauffman

Chill Out: Paintings by Sally Kauffman
Artist Talks: November 20, 2019, 5-7PM

Forum Gallery: Schlesinger Arts Center
Northern Virginia Community College – Alexandria Campus

When did you know that you were an artist?

As a child I would sequester myself in a secret spot and draw for hours.

Was there a particular experience that inspired your decision to pursue art?

My grandmother taught me to draw and paint as a young girl. One of my favorite memories is sitting by her side watching her paint with watercolors. Her life inspired my own. She was a magical, mystical woman who entertained her family with lavish meals during holidays, especially at Christmas when she dressed as Mrs. Klaus.

She owned and operated a therapeutic spa for women as well as an art practice. She painted wonderful images of nature and people. She taught me that I could be whatever I wanted to be.

Are there particular artists or art movements that are an inspiration to you?

Movements and painters amongst the many that influenced my practice from early on include Ukiyo-e artist Hokusai, Venetian School painters Titian, Tintoretto and Veronese, Les Nabis artists Bonnard and Vuillard and Fauvist Matisse. Abstract Expressionism was and remains a major influence. De Kooning, Frankenthaler, Rothko, Pollock, Raushenberg, Johns, Twombly, Mitchell, Krasner, I can’t think of any who did not influence my work. Bay Area Figurative painter Diebenkorn was a revelation to me. Contemporary movements and artists that I currently look at are the YBA (Young British Artists) Cecily Brown, Jenny Saville, Rachel Whiteread and Tracey Emin among many others as well as South African artist Marlene Dumas.

Can you describe your artistic process?

To create the series “Relaxed States” which includes the exhibition “Chill Out”, I discreetly captured images of groups of people lounging and relaxing together using my phone camera. I create digital sketches from the photos by collaging elements and enhancing the color to create a visually dense image. The saturated digital color informs my palette. I mix oil paint and oil painting mediums into a fluid, smooth consistency in small jars, then brush blocks of transparent color directly on the canvas building up multiple layers that afford me flexibility in defining the position and form of the elements. As the forms evolve I respond to the images on the canvas and only reference the digital sketch if I find the need for the original images to inform my own.

Can you talk about how you use visual technologies (computers and software) with your artistic process?

I limit the use of software tools in my creative process to my iPhone and image processing software including Preview, iPhoto and Gimp, all free or shipped with my Mac even though I used many sophisticated tools for 25 years in the tech industry as a user experience designer, graphic designer and art & design director. I’ve resisted integrating digital technology into my art even though I am still fascinated by it, I’m seeking an escape from designing simulated environments and want to live again in the physical world using tangible tools. A good day is when I come home from the studio with paint in my hair and on my face and hands. I use digital tools to create digital sketches in the conceptual phase using snapshots with my iPhone and manipulating the images on the computer. I print the sketches and use them as a reference. The final artwork is produced by hand with paint and canvas.

You have four paintings in the exhibition that were inspired by the summer jazz concerts at the National Gallery in Washington DC. Can you tell us about that experience and what made you want to explore the experience in paint?

The long answer: after a 20 year hiatus from painting while I worked in the tech industry, I needed inspiration as I resumed my painting practice so I enrolled in a class called “Painting in a Series” at the Corcoran taught by Judy Southerland. Judy reviewed my work and asked me what I was going to paint. I did not know so she gave me a written exercise titled “What Matters” in which you described an activity you care about and how it affects you and others, a social system that interests you and your stance in relation to this system and a condition or question that interests you. I filled it out but still it was unclear to me. So I turned to my private life. My husband and I love to cook and entertain our friends so I started photographing and painting my dinner parties. Out of this grew a series of work centered on groups of people sharing food, swimming and listening to music.

The paintings in the exhibition were inspired by evenings spent sitting in the National Sculpture garden listening to jazz surrounded by the fascinating people who live in DC. I wanted the paintings to celebrate and exude the kind of energy and pleasure that you would find in Manet’s “Le Dejeuner sur l’herbe” and Titian’s painting “The Bacchanal of the Andrians”.

What about your strolls through Porto inspired you? The color and light in the two series of works is very different. How do you use color and light to create the atmosphere in your paintings?

I visited the Passeio Das Virtudes during the “golden hour” which is the first or last hour of sunlight in a day when the light is soft and warm and the shadows long. This combination of warm colors contrasted with darker cool color defines my typical palette and explains my attraction to the scene.

The paintings inspired from the “Jazz in the Garden” depict the warmer light just before the golden hour. I’m fascinated by paintings that create drama using chiaroscuro, the strong contrast of light or lack of it to define volume in form. Diebenkorn and Hopper’s use of chiaroscuro in their paintings is a good example of this and of course, Caravaggio was the master.

What is that you would like the viewer to take away from their experience of seeing this exhibition?

A collector of a painting in this series recently wrote to me “every time we look at your piece of art we are more delighted.” That is one of the most satisfying aspects of my art practice.

Is there any advice that you would give students as they have made the decision to pursue art?

Define what you want your art practice to be and treat your practice as a profession. This can and will change over time as you mature as an artist and a person. Schedule time for your practice and stick to it even if it involves sitting in your studio and staring at the walls, this is critical to your development. Build a network of your peers by attending local exhibitions and introducing yourself to the artists and gallery owners. Once you have built up that network support your artist friends by attending their art events. Define a social media strategy for yourself. Attend the free lectures at the Smithsonian. Read Art/Work = Everything You Need to Know (and Do) As You Pursue Your Art Career. Rent a studio that hosts open studios and will expose you to other artists and collectors.

To kickstart my art practice after a long hiatus, I studied at the Corcoran in the evenings for 3 years with Judy Southerland who become a mentor for me. (find a mentor) The artists I met in her class are now my peers. I rented studios through which I met different groups of artist friends. I also joined the Studio Gallery, the longest running artist coops in DC, while I had another full-time job. Scheduled annual shows taught me how to prepare and install an exhibit. I learned that I needed to paint when I really didn’t have time or feel like it and how to market my work. I served on the board and learned how to run a gallery. And made more artist friends. I applied for and attended an artist residency at Vermont Studio Center and met an international group of artists. Your network is going to be very important to you. They will expose you to new opportunities and will enrich your practice and life.

What can we expect from your work in the future?

I’m embarking on a big adventure in January. I’m moving to Rome for a year. There are so many things I want to do while I’m there, I’ll be taking workshops, spending lots of time in the museums and galleries and soaking it all in. I’m hoping it will take my work in new directions.

A Conversation with Cathy Abramson

A Conversation with Cathy Abramson
“Dreams of the Underground”
On display in the Margaret W. & Joseph L. Fisher Art Gallery through December 23rd, 2019
Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center

Can you describe your artistic process?

I start by taking photos, lots of photos. I try to carry my camera or iPhone with me and will stop and take a picture if something strikes me as noteworthy, a building in the golden hour, a shadow, people gathered at a public event, a reflection in a window. Often the images won’t make a full composition but have an interesting texture of an element  that could be part of a painting. I spend a lot of time thinking about the images I’ve gathered and something will call out to me and then I’ll start composing an image in Photoshop. Frequently this image becomes a small painted color study and if the potential is there for a larger painting, I’ll go ahead and will begin sketching the image in paint on a toned canvas or panel. First I work up a value study and when I’m pleased with the result I add color. I often use squeegees and rollers in addition to my paint brushes to get a desired effect.

When did you know that you were in an artist?

I always loved to draw.  I never got good grades in art courses but it was just something I loved doing. I needed a job and took illustration and graphic design courses and became an illustrator and art director even though my first degree was in Political Science. One of my first jobs was as an art director at a political magazine and I drew a pretty good Ronald Reagan. One letter to the editor commented on a cartoon I did for the magazine. It said that one of my cartoons was offensive...I knew I was off and running!

When I retired as an art director,  I was able to take a 3 year course of master painting techniques at the Compass Atelier in Rockville, get a studio and paint as much as I could. I can now spend a good amount of my time painting.

 What are your artistic inspirations? Are there particular artists or art movements that are an inspiration to you?

I’m a representational painter and like the structure of painting something recognizable.  I’ve always loved Edward Hopper and my work is often compared to his although I think my paintings are not as lonely and the characters are not as isolated. I’ve always been interested in narrative and looked to illustrators for inspiration. I’ve spent many hours looking at the art of Ben Shahn, Edward Sorel, Ralph Steadman, David Levine, Leonard Baskin and copying their work. As far as painters are concerned, aside from Hopper, there are any number of contemporary painters that I admire: Burton Silverman, Alyssa Monks, Steven Assael, Lucien Freud, any of the California figurative painters.

More recently I’ve been following Alex Kanevsky and David Kassan.  Often the last show or artist I’ve seen becomes my new favorite.

Why does the urban environment inspire you over other environments?

I love the activity, interplay of light and shadow, and the sheer mass of architectural forms. Everything is constantly changing in the urban environment and there’s an urgency to really look and see what’s going on. There’s also a need to examine the underlying politics and social interactions and decode what is apparent and what lies just below the surface.

What is it that you hope to capture of your experience in Washington DC and other locations?

Many of my past paintings in the district had to do with neighborhoods and people in transition. Many neighborhoods including the Kennedy Street corridor are being overhauled and there are stories to record and examine. Now I’m interested in the Brutalist buildings in Washington, DC. There’s a gritty beauty in parking garages or the many government buildings that are wall-to-wall slabs of concrete. Believe it or not, even the FBI building has a certain charm. I like to see how people interact with these sterile buildings and think of a narrative for those settings and people.

You have a painting in the exhibition entitled “Cathedral”. What about the subject matter inspired you to call the painting after a type of church?

Cathedral

“Cathedral” is an underpass at the beginning of Magazine Street in New Orleans, near the National WWII Museum. I’ve done a number of paintings at this location and there’s the potential for many more. I loved how the light filtered in between the massive highway supports, much like the light filtering through stained glass windows and falling on the columns in a cathedral.

The texture of the concrete and metal are similar to textures found in cathedrals. The parked cars add a human scale to the setting much like the congregants who are dwarfed by the soaring ceilings in a cathedral. The final note is that cars and technology are worshiped in America.

Tell us about the people in your paintings? For example the women that is the subject of “ In her Shadow” or “ Dream of the Underground”

In Her Shadow The woman in “In Her Shadow” is Ms. Vee, Veronica Cooper. She is a force of nature and began her career as one of the first female pullman porters, She has worked as an accountant, seamstress and artist. She owned and operated Culture Coffee on Kennedy Street and opened Culture Coffee Too in Fort Totten a couple of years ago. She is always stylish from her brightly colored glasses to her gold lame pants.

Dreams of the Underground

I don’t know much about Sara, the model and dancer in “Dreams of the Underground.” Sara Lavan is the Founder, Executive and Co-Artistic Director of local motion project and was a model the day of a photo shoot and fundraiser that I attended  I loved the way she hugged herself and seemed to be wrapped in her own world and dreams. And, what’s not to love about her pink hair.

 

What is that you would like the viewer to take away from their experience of seeing this exhibition?

I’d like people to come away with a new appreciation for our urban environment, it’s stories and it’s people. Living in a city is a moment to moment experience and I try to isolate a moment, capture it, and move on. These fleeting moments often resonate with the viewer’s own life and narratives. I love to hear the stories the viewers invent on the spot!

Is there any advice that you would give students who have made the decision to pursue art?

It’s very simple, if you love it, do it. Making a living as an artist can be a stretch but you can find a little time here and there for your art. Scale your projects to the time you have available so you don’t get frustrated. If art is important to you make it a priority and expect others to respect your time. Try to schedule time for art just as you schedule time for work, family, friends and all your other interests. Making art can be a joyful, sensual experience and  making good art is probably one of the most difficult things you can attempt. The sense of accomplishment you get when you produce something you are proud of is unbeatable.

What can we expect from  your work in the future?

I have so many projects and paintings in mind. My next few paintings will be portraits, some personal and some of the women I met while teaching some art classes at a local women’s shelter. I struggle with portraiture and want to get much better. After that it’s back to paintings of DC. I took a number of photos at last year’s Funk Parade and can’t wait to paint from those amazing, colorful images.

 

 

 

August 8th 6-8PM Artist Talk with Sunhee Kim Jung

You are invited to join us on Thursday evening August 8th from 6 to 8PM for an engaging and enlightening talk with the Artist Sunhee Kim Jung. Feel free to come out early to avoid traffic. Jung will discuss the two series: The Sanctuary Series in the Passage Gallery  and the Camouflage series in the large and spacious Forum Gallery.

This is Sunhee’s 12th solo exhibition of her artistic career which spans three decades. In both of the series, Sunhee uses figures over whelmed by landscapes to address sacrifice, loss and alienation. The paintings while visually accessible and intriguing also lead us to ask personal questions about our views of the subject matter.

Please come to the artist talk to meet the artist and experience her solo exhibition. Please visit Sunhee’s About the Artist page to learn more about her and this exhibit.

June 22nd, 2019 2-4PM Solo Art Reception: Steve Wanna, Sunhee Kim Jung

Summer exhibition solo receptions will be held on Saturday afternoon, June 22nd, 2019 from 2-4PM at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center. The address is 4915 East Campus Drive, Alexandria, VA 22311 on the Northern Virginia Community College – Alexandria Campus.

The One: Work by Sunhee Kim Jung will be on display in the Passage and the Forum Gallery at the Rachel M.Schlesinger Concert Hall and Art Center.

Sunhee Kim Jung is a Korean-born American Artist. She is known as a painter of lush landscapes that express provocative ideas, beliefs, and feelings about life and death, loss and rebirth.

Jung earned her BFA in painting from Corcoran College of Art & Design and her MFA in painting from American University in Washington DC.  She is the Vice President of the US-Korea Arts Foundation in Washington D.C. whose mission as an organization is to introduce Korean culture and arts to America by working with the community, government, museums and international organizations.

 

The Eternity of an Instant: Mixed Media on Steve Wanna will be on display in the Margaret W. & Joseph L. Fisher Art Gallery.  Steve Wanna is a multi-disciplinary sound and visual artist whose work includes music, sound design for dance collaborations, sculpture, installation, photography, and works for mixed media. Born and raised in Lebanon, he immigrated to the United States with his family as a teenager, eventually receiving a doctorate in Music Composition from the University of Maryland in 2004. Wanna’s work is driven by his belief that under the right conditions, beauty can emerge without the need for direct intervention. He creates abstract, experimental fixed works and installations in a variety of mediums and formats that include sound, 2-D work, sculpture, video, and photography. His work is informed by the principle of emergence as defined in systems theory and Buddhism.

February 13th, 2019 6 -8PM Artist Talk – Azadeh Sahraeian

You are invited to join us Wednesday evening, February 13th, 2019 from 6PM – 8PM for an engaging talk with the artist, Azadeh Sahraeian. Azadeh will be discussing the extraordinary abstract drawings in her Schlesinger Art Center solo exhibition, “Form and Formation” as well as her artistic process.

ARTIST STATEMENT

My artistic practice is more focused on the formation process rather than the form itself; hence, my drawings represent the process of genesis and growth; the lines grow from points that have been set on motion, as the plant grows from its seed. Each drawing begins with a single element, a “center”, and continues with duplication process in which strong centers evolve in levels of scale, pronounced boundaries and alternative repetition.

Azadeh Sahraeian

Emerging new centers continue till the whole drawing evolves. In this process there is a reciprocal insight between centers and the whole; as one finds ways to better understand the centers, the whole becomes better defined and the clarity of the whole makes centers more clear and yet they say more about the whole. Thus, my meticulous art works come along with a gradual formation in level of details. They are harmonious whole yet developed step-by-step; organic yet abstract; unpredictable yet mathematical; ordered yet chaotic; still yet fluxing. There is a continuous mutation in the process of emerging; an ongoing dialogue between formation and deformation in which my drawings unfold only a spectrum of it. As an architect and artist I like to create living things; not biologically alive but things that have a perceptible degree of life.

Observing natural and man-made patterns and complex systems enable me to define my method in art. Hence, instead of replicating finished forms that are already settled, whether as images in the mind or as objects in the world I’d rather follow the order of these natural and artificial structures in order to generate my artworks based on their properties and characteristics.


Please leave plenty of time to navigate DC traffic. There will be plenty of parking in the Visitors Garage.
Address is 4915 East Campus Drive Alexanria, VA 22311

 

 

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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Artist Reception Saturday June 23, 2018 2-4PM

We will be holding three artists receptions on Saturday afternoon June 23rd 2-4PM.  Please plan to come and celebrate the summer solstice  with us.

Acquaetta Williams

In the Forum Gallery,  “Without Shadows” by Acquaetta Williams is an exhibition of her dynamic mixed media paintings. Her creative use of vinyl records in the work make the pieces jump of the wall.

 

Bryan Jernigan

In the Passage Gallery, “Peregination” Bryan Jernigan’s paintings are showcase of his explorations and journey through landscapes into abstraction.

 

 

 

Lee_KA_Sveabreen
Katherine Akey

In the Fisher Gallery, “Behind the Silent Hills  displays Katherine Akey’s poetic passion for exploration and the Arctic. Photographs of her trip to the Arctic are displayed with a cyanotype print completed before her Arctic trip.

The Schlesinger Arts Center is on the Alexandria campus of the Northern Virginia Community College. The address is 4915 East Campus Drive, Alexandria, Va 22311. Parking is available in the enclosed garage across from the center.

There will be live music at the opening, refreshments and a performance art piece.

Nine Dragons

Chen Rong. Nine Dragons (detail). 1244. Ink on paper. Boston Museum of Fine Arts.
Chen Rong. Nine Dragons (detail). 1244. Ink on paper. Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

Chee-Keong Kung – Notes on Nine Dragons

“For a long time now, I have been fascinated by Chen Rong’s Nine Dragons from the Southern Song dynasty (13th century). An exemplary work of technical virtuosity and ineffable grace. The brush-and-ink painting depict churning clouds, winds, and waves among jagged rocks while dragons mysteriously appear and disappear amidst the turmoil. Compositionally, there are large swaths of open space and dark shadows, recognizable elements and abstract shapes, and a sense of depth and movement through time. ”

“A small print-out of the painting (actual painting including inscriptions is 50 feet long) hangs on my studio wall as an inspiration and a reminder that the simplest of gestures can transport us to uncommon places. Most recently, I was looking for a way to start a new series of canvases and found that the light-and-dark patterns within the painting worked wonderfully as jumping-off points. The new canvases eventually became the black-and-white works that are currently in the Oblique Horizons exhibit at the Schlesinger Arts Center. ”


Oblique Horizons is on display through June 10, 2018 in the Fisher gallery . The gallery is open Monday through Friday 10-4PM and evenings and weekends during public performances in the wall. Chee-Keong Kung will be at the gallery Sunday May 20th, 2018 from 3-5PM. To find out more about Chee-Keong Kung, Please visit his About The Artist page.

Artists Reception Saturday May 5, 2018 4-6PM

You are invited to join us for a joint reception for our two current exhibiting artists Barbara Frank and Chee-Keong Kung. The reception will be held this Saturday May 5th, 2018 from 4-6PM. Light Refreshments will be served and parking is available in the covered visitor garage across the street from the Schlesinger Center. The address is 4915 East Campus Drive Alexandria, VA 22311.

These are two stylistic different artists who are held together by a passion for movement,  and the mythic beauty in all aspects of the natural world.

For more Information you can visit the Schlesinger Center website.

White Light by Chee-Keong Kung

Under Water Over Sky by Barbara Frank