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Gavin's Underground

May Gallery Stroll: Ephemera Arts

by Gavin Sheehan
- Posted // 2010-05-24 -

Headed back out onto Gallery Stroll this month, watching everywhere and everyone getting soaked and nearly flooded out on the sidewalks. Which I have to say, can anyone remember the last time we didn't have horrible weather waiting for us as we check out all the stops? Next month, I'm predicting hail. But as the off-and-on showers persisted throughout the evening we got probably one of the most eclectic set of shows so far in 2010. Not a dull gallery in the bunch.

For this month I popped into the brand new
Ephemera Arts, sitting at 336 West Broadway, next door to Bingham Cyclery. Brainchild of artist Matthew Potter, the location is designed to bring a sense of art to the business/living area, which is desperately needed after the closing of Palmer's Gallery down the block last year. While the show itself served as a reminder that the old Pierpont district still has life in it, featuring musical performances from Alison Martin, Cavedoll and Shane Alexander. Not to mention artwork from Potter himself, as well as sculptor Angie Schneider and lightworks specialist Alice Bain (done while she works on new projects in Chicago). I got a chance to chat with all three about their works as careers plus thoughts on local art. Plus plenty of pictures from the show.

Matthew Potter



Gavin: Hey Matthew. First off, tell us a bit about yourself.

Matthew: A bit about myself? Hah! Umm. You're the journalist, ask questions.

Gavin: Fair enough. What first got you interested in painting, and what were some of your early inspirations?

Matthew: My sister is also an artist. I began making Kleenex and tape sculptures in the third grade. She let me play with oil paints at an early age and I hated crayons ever since. I also lived in the D.C. area, so playing hooky meant going to the National Gallery of Art.

Gavin: Did you seek out any college for art studies, and if so, what was that program like for you?

Matthew: Once I landed in Utah, I ended up at Westminster College. It was a great experience more like a painting apprenticeship since I was working with a Western Realist master, Don Doxey. Quite a shift from being an abstract painter early on, which is inverted from the usual progression. Since then, I've studied at the Helper worships and figurative work with Paul Davis. I recently did a glass-blowing workshop in Seattle and made my first pottery. Ironic, since that's my namesake. I feel that other media inform on painting and vice versa. I'm always energized and refreshed from learning new things.

Gavin: How did you first take an interest in painting abstract art?

Matthew: I always had an attraction to abstract art, although I appreciate many styles, I feel that in a sense, abstraction is the purest form of painting. I see abstraction in part as the creation of personal language.

Gavin: What’s the process like for you in creating a piece from idea to final product?

Matthew: I work without concept nor final destination; instead, I work through a process of creation, destruction, and addition. I have an understanding of personal methodology and once I am in process, the previous workings inform and reveal the next until there as an acceptably low level of discomfort or what might be called "finished".

Gavin: Considering the genre of art, was there any hesitation on your part that people might not appreciate it for what it is?

Matthew: Abstraction is often misunderstood or misperceived. The viewer is an integral part of the process since interpretation and perceived meaning is all that remains. Viewers are not handed a picture of "something" and this can be hard. However, all painting to me is abstraction. So yes, I hesitate all the time. There's an "ohhh" and "ahhh" factor that all artists crave.

Gavin: For you personally, is there any set plan as to what it will look like, or is it more experimental as you go?

Matthew: I have no set plan. It all flows from head to hands.

Gavin: You also do portrait and figurative works as well. What made you choose to branch out ad experiment and branch out in those forms rather that focus mainly on abstract?

Matthew: I love the difference in process and the intensity of focus. There's no looking harder than when you're working from a live model. Besides, I'm highly multi-faceted as a person and artwork is no different.

Gavin: What was it like for you when you start started displaying your works in exhibitions?

Matthew: Exhibiting work is interesting to say the least. You're placing yourself out there for reactions. I wish people were more honest. Any reaction is more informative than a polite non-response. Also this show was a level higher in that I had curatorial responsibilities as well.

Gavin: Tell us about the works you have on display for this Stroll.

Matthew: I always have a flagship piece for a show. This time around, it's the promotional painting, entitled "Funneled". With abstracts, often titles are important clues to unraveling the content code. That one was for something my mother told me, as I had been processing the death of my father.

Gavin: What's your take on being displayed at Ephemera along with Alice and Angie?

Matthew: I am honored to be displayed with such diverse talent, yet have a good cohesion for the debut show.

Gavin: Moving to local for a bit, what are your thoughts on our art scene, both good and bad?

Matthew: It's a great budding art scene with wonderful talent that runs the gamut stylistically. I'm dismayed that people show up at gallery events and yet most galleries struggle financially. While art isn't necessary for survival, it does enrich lives; both individually and at the societal level. It seems that we have some energetic people working in the art community.

Gavin: Is there anything you believe could be done to make it more prominent?

Matthew: Bigger budget. Less ADHD. And of course I was painting until way later than I should have been.

Gavin: What's your take on Gallery Stroll as a whole and how its doing today?

Matthew: I really love our Gallery Stroll. We have such diverse and talented artists for such a small city. It's a bit more of social gathering than the best viewing opportunity. My personal favorite viewing times are quiet off days.

Gavin: What can we expect from you throughout the rest of year?

Matthew: I'm hoping to continue building the Ephemera Arts concept and painting tons. There may be a few surprises.

Gavin: Is there anything you'd like to plug or promote?

Matthew: How about thanks? I had lots and lots of helpers from diverse arenas. Thank you for all of your contributions of time, effort, and funds. My space was donated by Allen•Millo Associates who have been incredibly generous. Please investigate our website and be looking for a personal website coming too. Private viewings of the gallery may be arranged as well.


Angie Schneider


Gavin: Hey Angie. First thing, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Angie: I've beenmaking pottery for about twelve years now.I have a full time job at Warner Truck Center, and usually play in the mud onweekends. My pottery friends call me the "one with the job". I like to say my day job supports my clay habit. I am a graduate of Westminster College, and hold a degree in Psychology, with Art and Marketing minors. I'm excited to havebeenaccepted as a new member of Westminster's Alumni Board. I have many varied interests and hobbies, including orchid growing, gardening, decorating, golf, travel, and cooking.

Gavin: What first got you interested in art, and what were some of your early inspirations?

Angie:
I have been interested in artever since I can remember, starting with finger paint and sidewalk chalk. I have always drawn inspiration from the world around me. I believe that artists tend to see the world a little differently, and this vision compels us. Once I have an artistic idea in my head, I can't get it out until I've created something.

Gavin: Did you seek out any college for art studies, and if so, what was that program like for you?

Angie: I do not have formal art schooling, other than my Art Minor at Westminster. That being said, I pursue continuing art education constantly. I take workshops, attend seminars, talk to fellow artists. There is always more to learn, and if we stop learning we stagnate. Potters tend to be more social animals than other artists as well - we like to share techniques, we critique each others' work. It's a learning community.

Gavin: What influenced you to start doing ceramics and sculpture creations?

Angie:
I started taking art classes at Westminster once my major requirements were met. I actually added an art minor to my degree during thelast year and a half of my Bachelor's. I hadnever taken a pottery class before, and was instantly addicted. Clay is frustrating, stubborn, miraculous,forgiving,a very complicated medium.I loved it. My work has evolved over time, and I fully expect it to continue to change. I love the malleability,pun intended.

Gavin: Is there a particular type of material you like to work with or more whatever you feel like experimenting with?

Angie: I have a few favorite clays, which I tend touse forcertain projects.Different clays are suited to different things, some work better for large forms, for example. I like clays that arepretty on their own, so that glazejust enhances. I tend to throw with a white stoneware, and my handbuilding projects are typically done with either an ultra white porcelain ora high-iron, almost black clay.

Gavin: What's the creative process like for you when creating something out of scratch? And is there ever a solid plan as to what you'll make or is it more spontaneous creativity?

Angie: My creative process usually startswith a vision of an end result. Usually this is ashape, and rarely a color. With pottery, you are always submitting your work to the fire. There is anelement of serendipity. So I start withthe shape, add a glaze, and surrender. Experience helpsthe piece that comes out of the kiln, to look like the vision I started with. Sometimes that takes a lot of experimentation. Other times I am pleased to let the clay tell me what to do, or let the fire make its contribution. There are just so many elements, a clay artist has to be open to the spontaneity.

Gavin: What's the general reaction you've received from people when they see your works?

Angie: My work is generally well-received. My non-functional work is different from most pottery, so it's fun to watch people who see it for the first time. They almost always have a reaction, be it good or bad.

Gavin: Tell us about the works you have on display for this Stroll.

Angie: The pieces on display at Ephemera Arts represent a cross-section of my work. I have free-standing displays of non-functional work, and my dinner plates and serving platters are in a small area. A friend and I are catering the event, so my large serving platters will be making an appearance as well. It's fun to be able to demonstrate the use of an art object in that way!

Gavin: What's your take on being displayed at Ephemera along with Matthew and Alice?

Angie: It's amazing that we have this synergy. You would think that bringing together 3 artists who work with very different mediums would be a balancing act. It's not like that. Our art fits together - it's a very cohesive display. Matthew made a statement recently that it's almost as if the art could have been created by the same person. That's saying something, considering we are all so different, and have conflicting approaches to art. I'm happy to be in a show with both of them. I have enormous respect for them, and for the work.

Gavin: Moving to local for a bit, what are your thoughts on our art scene, both good and bad? And is there anything you believe could be done to make it more prominent?

Angie: Our local art scene has bright spots and dim spots. Utah is very supportive of the performing arts, and I think our bringing in two singer/songwriters for the opening will behuge for our attendance. Local support of visual arts is less enthusiastic. However, I think that if you find the right niche, you can be successful as a local artist. It's all about reaching the right audience. I am lucky in that much of what I make is useful objects. People for some reason have an easier time purchasing art they can use to serve food at a party, for example, as opposed to something purely decorative. Our local pottery community is strong. I'm a member of Clay Arts Utah, and that has been greatly beneficial for me. It's a stellar local organization. I think that it's hard sometimes for artists to cooperate, since we are inherently each other's competition. However, there is true strength in numbers, and together we can bring more people into the local art scene. It takes time and work, and will be an ongoing effort for all of us.

Gavin: What's your take on Gallery Stroll as a whole and how its doing today?

Angie: I have been a fan of Gallery Stroll for years. I tend to slip in and out of the scene, as I'm sure many do, based on my schedule. Gallery Stroll is a great way to see a lot of art and meet like-minded people, whether that is artists, collectors, or just fans of art. I consider myself all of the above, so Stroll is a necessity for me. It feeds the creative spirit, and is inspirational for me in many ways. Gallery Stroll is going strong, and tends to get more popular in the warm weather months. This is a good time to be entering the gallery arena!

Gavin: What can we expect from you throughout the rest of year?

Angie: My work will be displayed at Ephemera Arts for at least the next month. I continue to make new work, and will pursue other avenues of display as well. I hope to be in the Clay Arts, Utah group show this fall, and will most likely participate in their annual Holiday Sale. That sale is always Black Friday (after Thanksgiving) and the following Saturday, and is a great opportunity to find unique Holiday gifts. It's held in the Sugarhouse Park Garden Center.


Alice Bain (Photo by Sallie Shatz)
shatz_01.jpg

Gavin: Hey Alice. First off, tell us a bit about yourself.

Alice: I'm a bit of a nomad. I was born in the Bahamas and raised there and in the UK, butI really am in love with Utah. I came here from Chicago, and before that I lived on Great Abaco island in the Bahamas, where I had about four different jobs at the same time: I was a reporter for the local paper, I had a bartending gig at a beach bar, I painted signs for local businesses, and I was running a small ceramics studio, mostly by myself. I've always been a bit of a firebug, and light has always fascinated me. My mom has pictures of me from when I was a little kid, when I loved to crawl behind the Christmas tree at nightand lie on my back tostare up through the branches at the blinking coloredlights.

Gavin: What first got you interested in art and displays, and what were some of your early inspirations?

Alice: Well, Christmas, of course, as a kid,but I've always been a visual thinker and fascinated by color and pattern. I loved to draw and paint, but I was always frustrated at the fact that I was trying to emulate an additive color source (light)with a reflective pigment. Some of the early music visualizer programs like Chthugha reallyinterested me, but I'm just not a coder and computer screens are so small! I became more of a sculptor in college because the 3D process is really immersive and the results are robust and tactile - i.e. you can touch and interact with the sculpture, where you can't really do that with a painting. I've had this yen to work with 3D light for years and years now, but until the advent of cheap LED technology, it just wasn't really possible. I volunteered to work on the Jellyfish 12,000 art car in the summer of 2007, and the amazingbespoke LED display dome designed for that carwas really what kicked off my present round of inspiration.

Gavin:
You got your BFA from the University of North Carolina. What made you choose their program, and what was it like for you?

Alice: Well, I originally started out at Sarah Lawrence Collegejust outside New YorkCity- it's one of the Seven Sisters, the old liberal-arts women's colleges, though Sarah Lawrence has been co-ed for a long time now. The New York art scene in the early '90s was pretty self-occupied and sterile. I wasn't really inspired by anything I saw in the city galleries, and the art department at Sarah Lawrence was pretty small and underfunded at the time. I stopped by UNC-Asheville to visit a friend during my spring break, and was impressed by the quality of thetechnique I saw in the work there by both students and professors. Western North Carolina has a long tradition of art and craftsmanship, and I was attracted to the prospect of being taught by people who cared so much about the quality of their work, so I transferred. The department there was also small, but it was lively and had a really great synergy between the professors and the students. Idecided tomake a concentration inmetal and ceramicsculpture partly because I'm a pyromaniac at heart, and I really loved the idea of using fire to create something permanent and tactile. I always missed the fire and the sparks after the process was over though.

Gavin:
You also have your Masters from DePaul University. What made you decide to change schools, and how did their program differ from UNC?

Alice: Well, DePaul was a completely different program I entered several years later. I had been working in the Bahamas after I got my Bachelor's degree. I started the ceramics studio for love of it, but then found that the economy down there was so small that I had to take a bunch of other jobs justto make ends meet. Out of all the other gigs I did, the reporting job at the local paper was the most fun because it got me out and meeting other people - there's this terrible tendency for artists to get so immersed in their work that they spend all day by themselves channeling their inspiration, and then forget how to do basic social stuff like talking and having fun. After a little over three years with the ceramicsI finally admitted defeat and closed the studio, and went into reporting and sign-painting full time. A year after that, I realized I enjoyed writing so much that I wanted to take a degree. DePaul's Masters program was a perfect fit for me. I still enjoy writing, but I haven't done it for a living since 2007.

Gavin:
Considering the schools and other places you've been to, what made you choose to live in Salt Lake City?

Alice: I'm here for love. I met my husband while I was in Chicago, and he was living in Logan and working as a research associate at USU at the time. We were dating long distance, and when I graduated I came out to see what Utah was all about, and fell in love with the area as well. Salt Lake City was a better fit for us, so we moved down here in 2006. I have always loved the desert. I love the open spaces, and the bare mountains, and the way you can see the geology so clearly. I love the heat in the summer and the weirdness of the salt flats, and the funkyclouds that form when the winds whip over the tops of the mountain ranges. I love my husband immensely. I'm a pretty strange and intense woman, and he's my personal archangel. I love the people in Salt Lake City, too - so kind and genuine, and so true to themselves. I have friends all over the world, but I've never had such a great, solidcrew around me as I do here.

Gavin:
What inspired you to do the display artwork that you've created?

Alice: The plastic-cup-sculpture angle is not original to me, and not a new one at all. I've seen other people work the concept before, and also work with otherfound and pre-existing objects like this before, and I always liked the way you could get such interesting compound forms by just using a single simple repeating shape - recursioncreating higher order,like the cells of your body, or the blocks in a city. What makes these particular sculptures special is the lighting. The LED lights really just brought the sculptures alive in a way I'd never seen before. "Alive" is the right word, too.AfterI'd put the first prototype together, themoving and flickering and changing light just mesmerized me. I worked variations on that concept for a few months to get the pieces for this show.

Gavin:
You've worked on material at other art shows, including the giant Jellyfish 12,000 car and Burning Man. Do you prefer the more intimate showcases or the more public displays?

Alice: Different showcases aredifferent animals, and they act different ways - you can't compare them. Burning Man has been a very important venue for me; besides working on the Jellyfish,I designed two pieces of art to be burned, one in 2007 and another in 2008. Making a piece of art to show to50,000 people is intimidating in a lot of ways, but because the venue is so large,unless your art is humongousyour actual audience is sparse and varied. It's not so much an audience as a series of random participants; for both pieces, I left writing materials out with them so that people could tag them however they wanted. The art I've taken to the Burn was process art, catharsis art- I put a lot of myself into it, and when it went up in flames it helped me to release some of the more difficultemotions I've gone through in my life, like the griefafter thedeath of my father. The art I've made for this gallery show is not like that at all! I like the intimate gallery setting because it's a safe area - people can come and briefly forget their normal lives, to look at my lights and enjoy them, relax a little. I love the idea of providing joy and entertainment to the people who view this work, and how close they can get to the work, and how they can go home afterward with a happy memory.

Gavin:
What's the process like for you in creating a piece from idea to final product?

Alice: I get started just by playing around with stuff.I'll pick up a new material because it seems like it might be interesting to work with, and sometimes I'll have inspiration right then, or sometimes it'll sit on the shelf for a few months before I discover what it wants to be. I have a parallel process of more or less continuous materials research, because they're always coming out with new LED light systems. I don't ever work from a concrete vision of what I want to make; I "ask" the lights by playing around with them, trying different diffusion methods (fabric, plastic, fiber optic filament, glass etc.) to see what looks the nicest. I am also always on the lookout for visual inspiration. I regularlybrowse through a few different internet image aggregators just for fun, and I collect inspiration there, too. Once I've gotten an idea of what a piece wants to be, putting it together is a little like growing a plant from seed; I don't think about it too concretely - it just seems to happen. I'll sometimes just stop working for half an hour at a time, and stare at the piece with my mind feeling awfully blank. I've learned not to worry about this! It's as ifthe idea for the piece is out there somewhere in the ether, and I'm just the lens it uses to focus itself into reality. Usually at the beginning the concept is half-baked, and I'll cannibalize it and do a few more iterations before it starts to come together properly. It helps to be humble about this process. I can't get too attached to any single iteration; it has to stand up conceptually - and other people have to like it - before the evolution's done.

Gavin:
I would imagine with all the electronics involved there's some very careful planning taking place with the design. Does that ever feel restricted as to what you can do, or do you try to branch out from that as best you can?

Alice: Restriction - constraint -is the wellspring of creativity. There's nothing more tyrannical than the writer's original blank page. This is part of the reason I'm not a writer! When you can create anything, often you end up creating nothing - the focus just won't come.Having constraints is like having a solid foundation to build a house on top of. I work strictly with out-of-the-box existing tech, which means I buy strings of Christmas lights just like you could get at the store or on the internet. The challenge of taking those lights and reinterpreting them in a really beautiful and compelling way is a big part ofwhat motivates me. So far, the most complicated electrical engineering I've had to tackle has been redesigning the power bus for the light strands (i.e. getting powerfrom the wall outlet to multiple strands in a single piece). The LED lights are cool-burning and very durable, and they put up with a lot of monkey business without failure.

Gavin:
Tell us about the works you have on display for this Stroll.

Alice: They're about recursion and cellular growth. They're just a little bit alive. Each one has a different personality. I only wish they floated about independently instead of hanging from the ceiling. That would be awesome!

Gavin:
What's your take on being displayed at Ephemera along with Matthew and Angie?

Alice: I'm honored! They're both amazing artists. I love the way Matt works his palette on his non-objective pieces - it's like a musical composition made visual. I love Angie's work too, and ceramics have always been dear to my heart. There's achemical magic that happens inside a kiln, andAngie really knows how to harness the results of that to amazing effect.

Gavin: Moving to local for a bit, what are your thoughts on our art scene, both good and bad?

Alice: Bad? Well, it's small. Good? Well, it's small! I think it can be difficult to break out of the immediate scene and go national with your work, because we're "Salt Lake City" and nobody else really pays attention to us. I tell people elsewhere thatI live in Utah, and invariably I getthis response of "Utah?! What's in Utah?" What's good about that lack of attention is that the artists here really lovetheir work and their process, and consequently there's a lot less ego involved than in places like New York or Chicagothat havebigger scenes.

Gavin:
Is there anything you believe could be done to make it more prominent?

Alice: Time and effort. SLC is a really special place, and I think we'll start to see a lot more national attentionover the next decade. We have so much talent here, and so many really great people. I know a few artists who are getting out now on the national scene. I'm trying to be one of them as I'm writing you from Chicago! And the more of these creative ambassadors we have out in the wider world, the more attention we'll get. I really have to give props to all the people I know who put so much time into great Salt Lake traditions like Gallery Stroll, and who help keep the local scene cohesive and vibrant.

Gavin:
Speaking of, what's your take on Gallery Stroll as a whole and how its doing today?

Alice: I've been paying attention to Gallery Stroll since 2005, when I first volunteered for the Women's Art Center that used to be on Pierpont. It's really grown in scope and scale, and so many really exciting and different new artists are now starting to be featured. Five years ago the scene had a lot more traditional objective work in it, and I think we've seen a lot of evolution. I love technique, but I also love pushing theenvelope, so I really love what's going on with the Stroll now.

Gavin: What can we expect from you throughout the rest of year?

Alice: I'm on a little personal junket right now promoting my art in Chicago and back in Asheville, but when I get back I'm diving straight in with new work for Terra Cronshey's Light Forms project. She's a great lady and a great artist, andshe's challenged meto create durable, easily portable pieces for exhibit at the Element 11 regional Burn festival (out in Grantsville in early June) and also to present out at Burning Man proper this year. I have alsobeen working with some really amazingly brightbattery powered LED lights lately, using an intricate fiber-optic filament technique to create wearable art, and I'm looking forward to making more of those pieces and collaborating with some really talented local costume designers. Apart from that, I'll be waiting for further instruction as the lights decide how they want to be interpreted. Who knows? It'll be fun, though, and I'm really looking forward to it all.

Gavin:
Is there anything you'd like to plug or promote?

Alice:
I've already given a shout-out to Terra and her Light Forms project, but I would be remiss without giving props to Jared Gallardo, who designed the Jellyfish 12,000, and Jeremy Carver, who designed the LED display system for the Jellyfishthat started all of this off for me. My life has been entirely changed by them and I owe them much respect.

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REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // June 17,2010 at 03:20

Hey Alice, I like the cells. Do they strobe? Have you flown them on kites. A long strand of glowing scinillating orbs floating several hundred maybe thousand feet in the sky, suspended by a kite. I hope your rocking out and full of light. K

 

Posted // June 22,2010 at 09:55 - Ha! Kyle! I've been wondering about you - I saw Jarvis the other week. The orbs change color and some of them do strobe on and off. I'm taking them and some other work to the Burn this year - it would indeed be very cool to get a flock of them floating around high in the sky. I'm totally rocking out, and always full of light. Take care, good to hear from you.

 

 
 
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