Image-driven intrigue: VACI’s ‘Masters in Craft’ exhibit opens

  • Pieces by Anne Lemanski on display in the "Masters in Craft" exhibit in the Gallo Family Gallery of the Strohl Art Center. BRIAN HAYES/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Judy Barie, Susan and Jack Turben Director of Galleries, has been considering putting together a craft-centered show for a long time.

“I think craft has just risen to a whole new level,” Barie said. “It really is sculptural and, I think, image-driven.”

“Masters in Craft,” a new Visual Arts at Chautauqua Institution exhibit, will open with a reception at 3 p.m. Wednesday, June 27 in Strohl Art Center.

Stoneware by Jim Connell is displayed in the “Masters in Craft.” BRIAN HAYES/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

“My goal with the ‘Masters’ show was to bring work here in all different mediums that really intrigued people,” Barie said.

Those materials include ceramic, wood, metal, fiber and mixed media (paper and metal), as well as glass.

In addition to older artists well known for their work, Barie also included younger artists who she views as having already mastered their craft.

One of them, Stacey Lee Webber, has already had her work featured at Chautauqua. Webber, who incorporates coins into her pieces, started the practice back in graduate school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2008.

“I was making artwork that was trying to investigate the value of your own labor,” Webber said. “So, what a blue collar worker gets paid versus a lawyer, or something like that.”

It made sense, she said, to “start working with coins directly.”

Lyla Nelson has several glass pieces featured in the show, painted with different types of flowers. Nelson “has always loved flowers,” she said. Her father used to photograph them.

Works by Sergei Isupov are featured in a separate space in the exhibit. BRIAN HAYES/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

“I love that with the flowers, A) there’s endless material to work with,” Nelson said. “B) They’re beautiful, and thinking of trying to emulate something within nature, art’s never going to win. Nature’s always going to win.”

So, Nelson said, she doesn’t try to make “exact replicas.”

This is Nelson’s second time at Chautauqua, following a group show back in 2014. She took a class in 2003 at the Pittsburgh Glass Center, then a couple workshops and “fell in love” with the medium. Nelson found a program that let her study glass work in 2003, and moved to Tennessee for five years. After that “pilgrimage to nowhere,” as she calls it, Nelson returned to Pittsburgh to continue working with glass.

Anne Lemanski is another artist whose work is in the exhibit. Lemanski, who had a solo show at Chautauqua in 2009 called “Flutter,” makes animal sculptures out of copper, paper, matchsticks and other materials that are featured in the show.

When crafting the animals, Lemanski first thinks of which type she wants to make, then collects photos of them on the internet until she finds eight to 10 she can reference.

“I just decide what I’m going to make,” Lemanski said. “I don’t keep a sketchbook or anything. … My brain only works three-dimensionally.”

“Vixen,” by Anne Lemanski, is on display in the “Masters in Craft” exhibit in the Gallo Family Gallery of the Strohl Art Center. BRIAN HAYES/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Lemanski projects the Googled images of the animal, makes outlines of them and puts together a three-dimensional copper skeleton, or “armature,” of the animal. She then creates patterns for each piece of the armature and adds different materials depending on which animal she’s working on, like bubble tea straws (the red fox, made specially for this exhibit) or matchsticks (the rabbit).

“It’s so objective,” Lemanski said, of what she hopes people will take away from the show. “Everyone brings their own meaning to the work, so I like to just sort of let people discover what the work is about for themselves.”

“Masters in Craft” will also feature story quilts made by Tina Williams Brewer, a large porcelain vase by Ed Eberle, three ceramic pieces by Sergei Isupov and others.

Eberle, a ceramicist, said he initially hated the medium. During an art class in high school, Eberle recalled, he “hated the feeling of (clay) under my fingernails. That experience was not very good.”

When he got to Edinboro State College, Eberle was “dreading” a mandatory ceramics course. He found he enjoyed it at the college level, though, and said “it’s been a love affair ever since.”

Now working out of a studio in Homestead, Pennsylvania, Eberle doesn’t pinpoint a specific place he 0draws inspiration from.

“Inspiration comes from wherever you can find it,” he said. “Don’t you think?”

Tags : ChautauquaStrohl Art CenterVisual Arts at Chautauqua Institution

The author Kirby Davis

Kirby Davis covers visual arts for The Chautauquan Daily. The proud Clevelander is a rising senior and a journalism/American studies double major at Miami University in Ohio. When she’s not writing, Kirby is probably watching a movie, re-watching “Gilmore Girls” or brainstorming potential names for her future pet corgi.