Thursday, January 31, 2013

Out of Hand!

Spectacular Silent Art Auction!
Hands-on Artmaking for Guests!
Amazing Artist Demonstrations!
Tasty local Fare from the Strip!
Flash Auction Featuring Exclusive Packages!
Live Music and Performance!

That is right, it is time once again for our annual benefit fund raiser!

Not your everyday fundraiser, Out of Hand is a hands-on evening full of fun and, hands down, one of the liveliest galas in town. Your reservation includes creative opportunities to fashion your own handwork with guidance from SCC’s Studio artists, plus entry to a top-quality Silent Auction filled with objects handcrafted by nationally known artists, as well art-related packages handpicked for this event. If you’d rather be hands-off, watch amazing demonstrations of artistic prowess and chat with artists firsthand. Then dine on handfuls of delicious specialty fare provided courtesy of our Strip District neighbors as you are entertained by a host of musicians and other “hand celebrities” who make a living with their hands.

Proceeds from Out of Hand support SCC’s free exhibition, education and arts programming for all ages. 

For more information please contact or call 412-261-7003 ext. 12.

To purchase tickets online please visit OOH TICKETS.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Kevin Snipes - Grownup Art, Childlike Vision

Showcasing three solo exhibitions, Bridge 12  features the ceramic vessels patterned with quirky, figurative drawings by Kevin Snipes. The exhibition is open and free to the public November 9, 2012  through March 30, 2013.

Artist Kevin Snipes will visit SCC to teach Ceramics: Draw on Everything, Porcelain Tiles on Monday, January 21 from 10 am—4 pm. Students in this workshop will create two to three porcelain tiles, as they experiment with the ideas and techniques the artist introduces.

Snipe will also give a visual presentation on January 21st from 4:30-6pm that discusses how he is exploring new understandings of Blackness in his work. Afterwards, community members will share their own personal stories and relate these to issues presented in the artwork. This open dialogue is the latest program in SCC’s Faces Seen, Hearts Unknown series and is free to the public.

A version of the following text appeared in the publication for a McKnight Ceramic Artist Fellowship Program exhibition at Northern Clay Center, Minneapolis, MN. We are grateful to Northern Clay and The McKnight Foundation for granting permission to reprint material from that essay.

“Every child is an artist,” Picasso remarked, “The problem is how to remain one when we grow up.” From Picasso’s time to the present-day, modern artists have often tried to match the spontaneity and creativity of art made by children.

The ceramics of Kevin Snipes feature drawings in a childlike style that is anything but childish. Snipes uses his adult approach to drawing like a child to achieve some of the simplicity and immediacy of children’s art, while also opening up other expressive possibilities. Like two figures he admires, Lynda Barry and Jean-Michel Basquiat, Snipes creates art that exploits the tension between youthful forms and adult ideas.

Bat Man, 2012
Porcelain, glaze, underglaze, oxide wash
Snipes considers himself primarily a storyteller, more than a potter or ceramist. Yet his stories are not so much complete, self-contained narratives as vignettes—dramatic moments expressed partly through words and partly through images, but always with a mystery left unexplained, lingering “beneath the surface” as Snipes likes to say. Since the images can occupy separate panels on flat-sided works or flow around curved ones, Snipes is able to build complex relationships between different elements in the overall design. He also likes to add enigmatic, non-functional sculptural forms—small extensions somewhere between colorful blossoms and disturbing growths. Drawn to a range of imagery, at times from science and math books, he often introduces sharp juxtapositions: one side of a vase may have a figure, another an abstract doodle, another a geometrical diagram. The colors can be bright accents within the drawn outlines, or move toward abstraction as they escape any neat integration with the figural imagery.

No Doubt (Back), 2012
Porcelain, glaze, underglaze, oxide wash
No Doubt (Back), 2012
Porcelain, glaze, underglaze, oxide wash
Snipes has a particular fascination with duality. He is not interested in some grand metaphysical-cosmological yin/yang sort of thing. His double vision more often involves the exploration of that old boy-girl, masculine-feminine, “Who can explain love?” business. A pair of cups, or matched drawings on opposite sides of a vase, enable Snipes to depict his concerns by fashioning two portraits, complementary yet at odds. The modeled forms frequently support the drawn imagery. A male arm will extend along the rim on one side, with a female arm on the other. The top of a head may be cropped by the top edge of a mug, or extend upward so that the hairdo doubles as a kiln chimney. Snipes deploys the figures on the surface of the objects with an acute awareness, often making them appear cramped and contorted. Beyond that physical tension, the images of men and women, sometimes nude, sometimes gangly and awkward, bristle with psychological tension. A female asks, “So?” A male replies, “Never mind.” Another female says, “Ain’t no sunshine.” A couple on a bicycle built for two say, “Scram” and “Get lost!” This world does not suggest a sweet sitcom. It is offbeat, edgy and even naughty.

Samo Samo 2012
Porcelain, glaze, underglaze, oxide wash

Snipes is frequently asked how he feels about being an African American artist who does not directly address African American subjects in the usual identity politics fashion. His reply has been steadfast: his treatment of duality and his interest in psychological mystery and tension, when translated into the formal elements in his work such as secret passages, indicate his larger concern with self-object relationships and otherness, communication and miscommunication. The spaces in his work serve as metaphorical allusions to the spaces between people, but also as what he calls spaces of alchemy that indicate possibility.

Wiggle, 2012
Porcelain, glaze, underglaze, oxide wash
    Snipes is still fascinated by the spaces in conventional pottery, where the interiors can indicate not just physical interiority, but psychological inwardness. Now, however, he is moving in the direction of an architectural conception of space. Although Snipes has favored a relatively small scale, he has also started to increase the size of his work. “I think I need to work bigger, not big,” he says, adding, “The scale I’ve been working in is really miniature.” Snipes has always regarded scale as a conceptual element in his functional pottery because it establishes an intimate relationship between his art and its audience. He is not abandoning that idea now, but he does hope to introduce a slightly more assertive, public presence for the images and objects. And now he has begun to introduce elements that address race directly: first, black masks held by the figures, then black faces and—a surreal, powerful touch—popsicles with cartoonish blackface features.

Yes, No, Maybe, 2012
Porcelain, glaze, underglaze, oxide wash
Change is afoot, yet one characteristic of the work has not changed. The simplicity of the imagery, like the seeming children’s style, cannot conceal the grownup seriousness and complexity of Snipes’ art.
—Robert Silberman

Robert Silberman, Associate Professor of Art History at the University of
Minnesota in Minneapolis, writes frequently about craft and contemporary art.He has published articles about Jun Kaneko, Karen Karnes, Warren MacKenzie,Nora Naranjo-Morse, Ken Price and many other artists.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Building on Ornamental History

Showcasing three solo exhibitions, Bridge 12 features the saw-pierced recycled objects of Australian metal smith, Melissa Cameron; Jacquard tapestries by New York textile artist, Betty Vera; and ceramic vessels patterned with quirky, figurative drawings by Kevin Snipes. These concurrent exhibitions reflect the high level of craftsmanship being produced by contemporary artists in the U.S. and abroad today.  The exhibition is open and free to the public November 9, 2012  through March 30, 2013.

Participating artist Melissa Cameron will visit SCC to teach Building Jewelry from Found Objects on Saturday & Sunday, March 2, 3 from 9 am—4:30 pm. In this two-day workshop, offered in partnership with Construction Junction and Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse, she will guide students in the adaptive reuse of repurposed objects for the creation of wearable jewelry. Students will learn the skills of drilling and saw piercing to re-create the shapes and designs of their chosen found objects in their own uniquely fabricated, wearable artwork. 

The following essay was written by Marilyn Zapf on the work of Melissa Cameron for the Bridge 12 exhibition at SCC. 

‘ I like elements which are hybrid rather than ‘‘pure,’’ compromising rather than ‘‘clean,’’ distorted rather than “straightforward,” ambiguous rather than “articulated,’’...’ —Robert Venturi, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, 1966

     Hybrid, compromising, distorted, ambiguous: the patterns and elements Melissa Cameron creates for her Recycled Series flirt comfortably with a weighty lineage of ornamental history. Often drawing from archetypal decorative imagery, the artist nimbly transforms her designs from two to three dimensions.The finished pairs of objects are at once sculptural, aesthetic, functional, and structural, and result in a graphically striking and critically poignant contribution to a long-standing debate on the nature of ornament.
Tobacco Tin Set (Pin and Void Box, 2009
Painted recycled metal, mild steel, silver
     Writer and architect Robert Venturi theorized a particular type of relationship between decoration and a building’s façade. The play between various elements of an edifice, he suggested, should point to or imply unity. This preoccupation with a ‘whole’ formed through a network of parts is present throughout Cameron’s work on display at the Society for Contemporary Craft. 
     Architectural theory is useful when considering Recycled Series not only because of its overlap with ornamental theory, but also because the artist originally trained in the field. Her objects similarly reflect such programmatic techniques of making and interest in structuring space. 
Bamboo Plate Set (Pendant and Altered Platter), 2009
Recycled bamboo, stainless steel cable, silver
     Using found objects Cameron engineers self-supporting systems of pattern by piercing delicate, blueprint-like designs out of tin boxes, compact cases, and bamboo plates. The intricate fragments are then reconstructed into new forms that can be worn on a lapel or around the neck. Finally the objects are displayed side by side as diptychs or triptychs. The connection between the new structure, the Cigarette Case Neckpiece for example, and the Cigarette Case Void Pendant are still perceptible, even though both have undergone significant transformation. 
Cigarette Case (Neckpiece and Void Pendant), 2009
Recycled silver, stainless steel cable, silk thread
     The patterns crafted by Cameron are equally as important as the forms they create. Often the ornament is developed through derivative mutations of a single element—in many cases a rotated, elongated, translated, mirrored, or bifurcated quatrefoil. With its four symmetrically intersecting circles, the quatrefoil was a common architectural motif throughout the Renaissance and has provided a fruitful source of inspiration for the artist. The shape can be found in both Islamic and Christian designs, such as the Florence Baptistery Doors, and demonstrates how patterns change in meaning over time, reflecting shifts in cultural values and power. By employing such charged imagery, Cameron knowingly situates her work within such a historical narrative.
Red Tin Set (Pin and Void Brooch), 2009
Painted recycled metal, mild steel, stainless steel, silver
     Venturi would appreciate the ornamental lineage referenced in Cameron’s work through the use of quatrefoils, scrolling acanthus leaves, and Greek crosses. He was a proponent of pillaging the dress-up box of history to create new decorative compositions for his buildings; combining different parts of artistic genres to create a new ‘whole’.
     The relationship, however, between part and whole, fragment and original, are not always straightforward in Cameron’s work. Frequently both the found object and the structure created from piercing into it have been manipulated into what are arguably new entities. Take the Red Tin Set for example—the first pair created in this series. Not only is the spacious, red, radial structure wearable, but the remaining container becomes a brooch as well. So although viewers are confronted with two fragments of the original tin, they are simultaneously beholding two completely new objects. 

Cold Handle (Brooch, Altered Container), 2012
Recycled mild steel, stainless steel, vitreous enamel, silver
     ‘Difficult whole’ was the term Vernturi used to theorize the interplay between parts of a façade and the perceived unity of a building. Cameron’s work could also be described as such. Her jewelry is difficultly and technically constructed, involving significant amounts of skill to achieve. Her structural patterns are difficult to fit within previously held conceptions of ornament as purely decorative. But ultimately the finished pieces exemplify ‘difficult wholes’ because they successfully stage an exchange between objects and decorative imagery recycled from the collection of history.

Marilyn Zapf is a freelance writer and historian of craft and design. Former Editor-In-Chief of the blog, Unmaking Things, and recent member of the collective, Fig. 9, her work has also appeared in publications, such as Crafts magazine.