Spring is around the corner and we are feeling energized and creative at VisArts. We have a great line-up of events and exhibits for March and April from our Collectors’ Night silent and live auctions to the opening of Radical Jewelry Makeover exhibit. We hope to see you soon!
Oftentimes, art appreciation is thought of as a knowledge of the masters. As a curator and educator, I have found that art appreciation goes well beyond knowing who Picasso is (and which of his mistresses are painted before us), and benefits us in more ways than we can count. Looking at and conversing about art brings a unique means of enjoying our world. I’ve summed up this enjoyment of art in my “Ps of art appreciation.”
Purity In this technological age in which image altering is the standard, art remains a pure viewing experience. The works in front of us have been altered by only the artist (or in some cases a professional conservator). Whether a recent work by a contemporary sculptor or a Renaissance masterpiece, the image is presented just as it was intended and maintains its purity — a sharp contrast to the magazines and websites of the 21st century!
Patience In addition to image altering, we have the digital age to thank for split second viewing experiences. Our televisions, computer screens, and smartphones flash imagery before our eyes and train us to feel like we, too, must move at the speed of light. Viewing works of art for long enough to develop our own opinion slows down our looking and instills a patience necessary, but not readily available, for our minds to function best.
Participation Art stirs our curiosity, our imagination, our opinions, our thirst for knowledge, and our desire to participate in open-ended conversations.
Permission This goes hand-in-hand with participation. In enjoying other cultural experiences, we must wait to speak until the curtain rises, the credits finish rolling, etc. Art appreciation is permission to immediately ponder, “Why is she wearing that hat?” or exclaim, “that is my favorite color” while standing in front of a painting. Museums and galleries provide permission to participate and converse.
People I recently read a study in which the average reported museum group is 2.3, suggesting that we visit art with more than just ourselves or even just our best friend. We go in small groups, expanding our experiences and our overall interacting with humankind. In short, art gets us off our couch and brings us together with people.
Process No matter what project lies before us, from doing our taxes to baking a cake, we must follow certain processes. The same is true for art, and deciphering the artistic process — layering, repeating, stippling, sculpting, adding, reducing, enlarging, cutting — allows us to consider our own process through a different lens. So yes, art appreciation may even make you better at your job or hobby.
Play I’ve never met an artist who crunches numbers for fun on the weekends, yet I’ve met many financial analysts who visit a museum or take my class in their free time. There is a sense of play in art appreciation, as it requires no black-or-white thinking, no time restrictions, and certainly no right or wrong answers. Art is subjective and, by its very nature, affords a playful experience through art appreciation.
Patronage The term “art patronage” often alludes to donors who bequest works of art to museums or collectors who purchase works from a gallery. Patronage extends well beyond this, through, to include visitation, conversation, and examination. After all, what would a museum be with all of the money in the world and no one looking at the art? Art appreciation allows us to be active patrons of the arts.
For your own pure, patient, participatory, permissible, people, processes-oriented, playful, and patronage experience, register for this summer’s “Art Appreciation” course at the Visual Arts Center of Richmond. Classes start Thursday, June 5. I look forward to seeing you and sharing these Ps of art appreciation! — Margaret Hancock
Margaret Hancock curates exhibitions and educational programming for a variety of institutions. She holds her M.Ed. from the University of Virginia and her B.A. in Art History from Duke University. Margaret has taught art appreciation courses at Visual Arts Center for six years and her next class begins June 5th and runs for four consecutive Thursday evenings.
Congrats to one of our teachers, artist Lynda Ray, whose painting, Fracture, has been chosen by the curator of the Hunterdon Art Museum for the catalog of the show “Swept Away: Translucence, Transparence, Transcendence in Contemporary Encaustic,” opening at the Hunterdon on May 18. Congratulations, Lynda! VisArts is lucky to have you! To sign up for one of Lynda’s encaustic painting classes, click here.
Congratulations to VisArts’ writers Deirdra McAfee and Betty Joyce Nash on receiving a residency at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts to edit their project The Second Amendment Reader, an anthology of contemporary short fiction.
Their fiction project received nearly 100 story submissions, and they are using their VCCA residency to read through and select the pieces that will become part of their anthology, while also soliciting other stories from nationally known writers.
Fiction instructor Deirdra has been teaching creative writing at VisArts since 2001, and has been published in The Georgia Review, Willow Springs Confrontation, The Diagram, and more. On top of winning local awards such as the 2004 Style Weekly Fiction Prize, she has won many notable national wards and recognitions for her fiction writing.
Betty Joyce, one of Deirdra’s VisArts’ writing students completed her MFA in fiction at Queens University in Charlotte, and after The North Dakota Review published her story “Laser Vision” she joined Deirdra with her writing endeavors. She also recently received a writing residency at MacDowell Colony and another at VCCA France.
Congrat Betty Joyce and Deirdra! We are so lucky to have you at VisArts! Best of luck with The Second Amendment Reader. We can’t wait to see it in print.
Spring is around the corner, and we are waiting with bated breath as it warms up outside. Come join us for “spring break” classes at VisArts, for kids and adults, alike! More here.
Earlier this week VisArts had the pleasure of playing host to Beer + Design, a quarterly meet-up for Richmonders who love beer and design. People involved in some niche of the creative community — interior design, architecture, photography and video, advertising, marketing, art, tattoo, graphics, etc. — come together to hear a few speakers and try a local brew.
This past week Beer + Design’s topic of discussion was “Tall Tales” and the speakers were tattoo artist Amy Black, photographer Briget Ganske and brand expert Kelly O’Keefe. Three Bros. Brewing Co. out of Harrisonburg was the brewmaster with their saison and IPA on tap. It was an inspiring event with great storytelling and beer. If you are into either beer or design you should check out the next Beer + Design event. We definitely are!
Friends, we are looking for volunteers to help us with our annual Collectors’ Night silent and live auctions on March 22 from 6 to 10 p.m. We need help with coat check, check in, as well as the live and silent auctions. Let us know if you are interested in donating your time. We appreciate it! For more volunteer info and to sign up, click here.
Local potter Carla Pillsbury’s line of kitchen ceramics, Lifeware, speaks to form, function and beauty. “I try to make the pots as simple and functional as possible,” Pillsbury says. “I want the pieces to be low-maintenance and a part of everyday life.” Her pieces range from honey jars to mini salt spoons, and she is looking to expand her line into dinnerware later this year.
How did you first get involved with pottery?
There were a few natural sources of clay where I grew up so I started playing with it early in life — digging clay out of riverbanks and my driveway. I was formally introduced to ceramics in college, where I learned throwing and hand-building.
Are you a trained artist or was this a hobby that turned into something bigger?
I studied architecture at Virginia Tech, and as part of the program they offered craft-based studios that allowed students to have some supplemental material and process experience. My degree is in architecture, but nearly all of my free time was spent in the pottery studio.
When I graduated and started working as an architect, I still turned to ceramics to provide a creative release. I worked in the profession for 9 years, then in 2012 my son was born. I decided to put my architectural career on hold and stay home with him, but I quickly realized I needed some sort of outlet. I started working at the wheel again during nap times and at night, then applied for a few shows. I was curious if there would be an audience for my work, but also interested in a production deadline. I’ve always had a leisurely pace when making pots, so I was interested in how much I could make in a fixed amount of time. With each deadline push I have learned more, gotten better and more efficient, and I’m always excited about where I might go next. The show deadlines are sort of addictive; they give me the discipline I need to push hard and move forward.
Where do you draw your inspiration?
My inspiration comes from my kitchen. I love cooking and am often making things that spring from my own needs — pitchers, salt spoons, tiny prep dishes. I keep a note pad by the stove with a running list of things I want to make or modify. Sometimes I’ll emulate a piece of equipment that works well, like the stainless steel bowl of my KitchenAid mixer. The shape is very elegant and is well-suited to mixing, so I have been making bowls sets with the same steep sides and elliptical curve.
How did your aesthetic evolve into what it is now? You seem to use very organic colors and shapes.
Since my main focus is on kitchenware, I try to make the pots as simple and functional as possible. I want the pieces to be low-maintenance and a part of everyday life, so I keep the surfaces clean and the colors fairly neutral to fit with a variety of households. I am working on introducing more colors, but so far I have been enjoying the contrast in texture and transparency that comes from pairing a white glaze with a dark clay body.
A few of my pieces are hand-painted with small marks that resemble cross hatching. Drawing has been a big part of my design process, so I am still looking for ways to use it in my work.
What do you make?
My favorite pieces to make are bowls. Pushing out the curve of a bowl is very satisfying. My favorite pieces to sell are mugs, because I know that they could be used daily. I also make storage containers, honey jars, sugar and salt cellars. And with any scraps I have left from portioning out clay I squeeze out a little spoon that I use for salt, sugar, spices, etc. This year I want to get a dinnerware set together, including plates. I would also like to make some time for tea and coffee pots.
Where can someone purchase your wares?
I have an Etsy site that has a sampling of things, mostly made-to-order. I also have a Facebook page that I keep current with quick snap shots and event postings and a Cargo Collective site that is more like a portfolio.
Locally, I have some dishes at the Harvest Grocery + Supply on Main Street, and at the Little House Green Grocery on Bellevue. I also participate in as many Richmond shows as possible and I post those dates on the Facebook page.
People have gotten in touch with me about custom jobs through Etsy, Facebook, or just emailed me directly. I love designing custom dishes with clients. They often push me in interesting directions I might not have gone on my own.
The Italian artist Narcissus Quagliata, best known for his work with glass, will present highlights from his 40 years as an artist at Virginia Commonwealth University on Friday, Feb. 21 from 1 to 2 p.m. In his lecture he will speak about the nature of light as a medium in art and science, what science can offer artists (and visa versa), dreaming, and reflections on the concept of time. His lecture will be held at VCU in room 1165 in the Temple building. For more info, click here.
A special thank you to all who came out to our First Friday Samplers this past Friday. From raku to letterpress, it was a success. Also, thank you to RVANews for the story “5 things for families,” which highlighted our First Friday classes. We hope to see you all March 7. For more on VisArts’ First Friday Sampler art classes, click here.