Springtime in One Artist’s Life


If you think my desk is a mess you should see the studio

Ever see The Wizard of OzYou know that scene where Dorothy, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion and Toto come upon the Scarecrow after he’d been marauded by the flying monkeys, where he says something like:  “my legs are over there, my arms are over there and my stomach’s over there?”  Well that’s what it’s been like for me since I last wrote.  I’ve been a little busy- too busy to post, sorry.  But it’s all good: a demo here, work in a show over there, a few pieces to drop off and a few to pick up; an annual event to orchestrate, teaching one class, getting ready to teach 2 more, firing away, even sales and a commission thrown in the mix.  These are the times where all the recharging of batteries an artist does by going to museums and galleries and communing with nature for inspiration comes in handy, we need that fuel the same way our bodies need fuel to get us through all this creative activity.

Not in any particular order (though I’ll try) allow me to let you behind the wizard’s curtain:

The Fundraiser:


Lots of thank you cards to write! Everyone was so generous!!!

For the past several years Bill and I have supported an effort to fund summer camp scholarships at the Montclair Art Museum where I teach.  It means alot to us that as many children from diverse backgrounds are able to attend the camp to ensure a rich mixture of ideas, cultures, energy and creativity.  This year we sent out a call to friends and family for contributions in honor of our 25th (!!!) wedding anniversary and my 55th (gasp!) birthday.  The results exceeded expectations and were quite humbling.  In about a blink of an eye we had enough contributions for 3 full scholarships.  At this point we have enough for 9.  There is still more coming in.  To say we are thrilled is an understatement.

The Priest Project:

Every year since 2008 I orchestrate an event between The Restoration Workshop of Our Lady of Lourdes Church (my parish) and the Archdiocesan Offices of Clergy Personnel in the Archdiocese of Newark.  We call it The Priest Project.  In essence, with the help of clergy we restore and distribute the effects of deceased and retired priests to the candidates for ordination each year.  We obtain biographies of the deceased and retired priests and try to pass along to the candidates as much information as we can.

This event requires acquiring effects, identifying and executing repairs, meetings to figure out who restores what and gives them to whom, compiling spreadsheets, the logistics of going to and from the event, taking pictures, adding subtitles, printing out and compiling records of the event into a book.  Alot of work, but all done joyfully.


The Demo:


I had the good fortune of being asked to perform a raku firing demonstration at Peters Valley on May 1 as part of their open studios.  Please read my previous blog post all about that, it was really really fun!

Teaching Glass and Clay:


Student work in about to go in the kiln

Can I tell you how much I love my students that I teach at the Montclair Art Museum?  I teach them glass primarily.  When I wanted to teach clay they happily all signed on board for that adventure.  So we are having a split spring session:  4 weeks of fused glass, 4 weeks of clay with a raku firing on the last day.  My students are so cheerful and easy going.  They get along well with each other and make my experience pure joy.  I really enjoy firing their glass work.  In a way it’s how I get to collaborate with them- to try to fire their work to the best of it’s ability by me being at the best of my abilities as I load and program the kiln.

Clay class will be a bit like the candy manufacturing scene of The Lucy Show, as 4 once-a-week classes really isn’t alot of time to teach several students who have never worked in clay before to make enough work to then bisque, glaze and raku fire.  But I tell my students the object of the class is to relax, have fun, learn something new and be creative in a supportive environment.  If we follow those tenets we’ll be fine.

Filling the Kiln:


Not enough for a second load, ack!


Got to make some of my own to fill up the space…

Firing glass in a clay kiln can be tricky as glass is finicky and a vertical kiln with no elements in the lid means the temperatures within are uneven for that purpose.  I have found that glass does not like to have a lot of open space around it.  If there is not enough work to fill the kiln, that means to stay on schedule I need to add some stuff of my own.  Add one more thing to do to the list.  Also add the finish work, photographing and uploading to the Etsy shop in an attempt to sell it to the work load too.

The Sales:

Throw into this mix the happy delirium involved with packaging up sales on my Etsy shop and finally finishing a commission that took way longer than I would have liked to. Ca-Ching!

Preparing for the Big Workshop:


“The Peters Valley Pile” keeps growing exponentially

Like the light of an oncoming train, the 3 day Raku Rodeo workshop at Peters Valley is fast approaching.  I’m trying not to think about it too much so I don’t make a run for it.  I just make my lists of things to do to prepare and chip away at it every day.  So far I’ve created all the hand outs, glaze recipes, slide show and am now in the process of gathering materials and creating “the pile” of stuff to pack and bring.  I like to itemize all that stuff onto a spreadsheet to minimize forgetting some key component or leaving something valuable to me behind.

The Shows:

Last Sunday I picked up work from Sacred Spaces Holy Places in Metuchen and prepped and dropped off work for Visions of the Vanguard, a show of work by the faculty of the museum.   The Montclair 10 Returns show will be on the Montclair Gallery Walk tomorrow, so block out time for that.  The show closes that weekend so block out time to pick up the work on Sunday.  There’s my piece Echo Chamber to pack and drop off for the SMI VIewpoints show at Aljira in Newark (they put my piece on their promo, OMG!!!) Oh and look- the opening reception for Visions of the Vanguard is June 2nd as part of their Free First Thursday Nights, on the same day we depart for Peters Valley!  Since it’s in the evening that means I’ll be dropping off and settling in at Peters Valley that morning then driving back here for the evening’s reception then departing again to Peters Valley to hide under that bed until morning when the workshop begins.


Echo Chamber made the cover of the gallery announcement! So pleased!

Like I said it’s ALL GOOD.  One thing that keeps niggling the back of my mind is that in addition to having enormous gratitude for all these great things happening in my more than full time artistic career, I am extremely grateful that my art career is not my sole source of income.  Those who know me know this is my second career and through my previous career and other good fortunes I can live an amazing life without worry of supporting myself only by teaching and selling art, because I can’t.  I don’t get paid a living wage from either.  Even though I began this pursuit in 2008 I am still what one would charitably refer to as an “emerging artist,” which sometimes feels like a breach birth.  I have no idea when or if indeed I will emerge and emerge into what and where I have no clue.  All I know is that I am an artist, working full time.  For me, creating does not feel like a choice, it’s like a mandate, or a function to sustain life that has to be done, like breathing.  I worry constantly about other artists out there like me who need to make art but unlike me need to make a living at the same time.  Please help these artists survive.  Support your local artists!

May Day May Day!!!! Peters Valley Open House and Studio Tours

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May Day can either mean May 1st,  a day to celebrate or  May Day May Day a distress signal.    Thankfully in my case it was a celebration, as in my line of work it could have gone either way.  Yesterday was the Open House and Studio Tours event at Peters Valley Craft Center and I was asked to fire the raku kiln as part of the festivities.

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Sharon Pflug-Moench (left) and I (right) doing the heavy lifting at the Peters Valley Raku kiln


Knowing my schedule would only permit me to make enough ware for 1 or 2 loads I reached out to teacher, potter, and good friend Sharon Pflug-Moench to make ware and join me in the effort.  She did not disappoint.  We had enough work between us for 6 loads, a full day of firing fun!


Sharon aka Lucy and me, aka Ethel with the ware waiting to be fired


Caught Instagramming- red handed!

Sharon and I are the clay version of Lucy and Ethel.  We’re soft-hearted tough cookies.  We work well together.  We get into scrapes.  We generate alot of laughs. To temper us and provide support were my husband Bill and her husband Paul- Ricky and Fred, although none of us could decide who was who of that pair.

True to form, like every other time I have raku fired at Peters Valley, it poured rain all day long.  You can set your watch to it.  You want rain?  Call me, I’ll either schedule an outdoor picnic or a raku fire at Peters Valley.  I’m so used to it I don’t think I’d know what to do if the sun was shining.

Joining us in the ceramic studio were director Bruce Dehnert, his wonderful wife Kulvinder Dhew, and fellow potters throwing on wheels, including Linda Garrabrandt of MudSlingers Pottery Works.


Kulvinder Dhew arranging Bruce Denhert’s work for sale, while Linda Garrabrandt of MudSlingers Pottery Works throws clay in the background

Visitors came and went and pots went in and out of the kiln.


Vases fresh from the kiln “steaming” until cool to the touch

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I was nervous about firing hot and fast in a kiln set up differently than my own, but it’s alittle like riding someone else’s horse:  the basics are the same I just had to learn its nuances and how to get along with it.  Everything worked out fine and the kiln saints and devils smiled upon us.  The pieces survived the firings, the glazes came out great and the humans came out of the experience unscathed, just filthy, tired and wet, but very very happy.


In terms of kiln saints, I brought the heavy artillery: St Michael the Archangel, Pinocchio and the little devil who, if the sun were shining as he is solar powered, would be dancing a little jig

I had the good fortune to meet many people touring through the studios, show my work, eat a great meal from a food truck (fish tacos with the most divine fries!) and even get interviewed by a reporter at the NJ Herald.  Look at me, I wound up the lead article in their on line edition the following day!

herald news lisa cover

For my next Peters Valley trick I will be teaching the 3-day raku workshop Raku Rodeo the first weekend in June.  Get out your umbrellas and galoshes and come fire with me!



Let’s All Go to AIPAD


Hanging with the works on opening night

AIPAD is an exciting event for Bill and I.  Unlike Paris Photo, Bill has work in it – at Charles Schwartz Ltd. Charles is a dear, dear friend who collaborates with Bill in camera obscura projects, in particular, Visions in the Dark.  I met Charles in the 1990’s when he hired me, during my former work life as a construction consultant, for the installation of his camera obscura .  During this process I told him that he just had to meet Bill and they have been fast friends ever since.


The gang’s all here at booth 415- right to left: Charles Schwartz, Bill, and Charlse’s wife, fabulous artist Nancy Drosd.

Charles Schwartz Ltd occupied booth 415 at AIPAD.  Bill was there to lend a hand and to explain his current works, 3D printed geometric shape series entitled ElementaryBill’s work is a meld of very early photographic process with cutting edge technology.  This current series involved making tin types on colored metals by placing geometric shapes he created with his 3D printer directly on the metal, or something like that.  I think scanning is involved too.  Anyway, hard for a mere mortal like me to describe, best to have him on hand to explain it.  Also on view were sculptures Lumix and The Silver Circle from his Gutenberg series, which involve objects and texts encased in 3D printed sculptures. (Ask him to explain them too.)


Bill with works from his “Elementary” series at Charles Schwartz Ltd booth #415, AIPAD.


Bottom shelf far right and middle shelf far right corner: works from Bill’s “Gutenburg” series.

What I like about AIPAD is it’s home turf for me.  It’s local so I can bring clothes just for the opening reception and really rock my inner disco queen.  I can change into my heels and leave my sneaks under the table with my purse at the booth.  I don’t need a notebook to keep myself busy.  I know some of the other exhibitors.  I don’t have to be on my best behavior, I can wander around and fetch food and drinks for Bill, Emma and Jenny (who work for Charles) and leave and do other fun things elsewhere when I get bored.

The opening reception was really fun.  I decided the occasion warranted a very busy outfit:  my father’s necktie skirt.  These were neckties he wore in the 1960’s, waffle weave, crazy- pattered silk and synthetic paragons of psychedalia that my grandmother flattened out and sewed together.  Some of them had naked ladies tucked into the lining at the point, which Grandma, probably in a fit of propriety, tore out and discarded, sigh.  The waist band was also a tie, one of his skinny silk ones.  The skirt has seen me through high school dances,  twirls under the disco ball at Studio 54, a couple Halloween parties and many a gallery opening.  It has had such a peripatetic life that the closure promptly tore off when I fastened it just before leaving for the reception.  A large safety pin was deployed and we were back in business.


Shedding the Nicole Miller rain coat and about to put on my silver shoes to complete the “look.”

Complementing the skirt was my silver embroidered Mandarin style blouse I picked up at a flea market in Portland, Oregon, a silver foam motorcycle type jacket from Ibiza (on sale) vintage bamboo and glass chandelier earrings from Love Saves the Day (mentioned recently in my personal blog:  https://notesfromajerseygirl.wordpress.com/2016/03/03/another-nail-in-the-coffin-trash-and-vaudeville-moved/ )  a pair of really busy tights from the Reebok store on Union Square, my silver “tranny fence climber” pumps I picked up in a thrift shop in Provincetown, MA (everyone should have their heels broken in by transvestites, they have such nice wide feet) and to top it all off a really busy candy wrapper patterned Nicole Miller silk raincoat and vintage Donna Karan sunglasses.

Thus outfitted, I made my way to the reception.  That outfit made me friends.


Comparing outfits with photographer and style consultant Mahlot Sansosa


Photographer Henny Garfunkel on the other side of the camera. Don’t you just love her look?!

Photographer and style consultant Mahlot Sansosa grabbed me for a picture.  Jill Krementz took some photographs and included us in her New York Social Diary coverage of the event!!!   I  simply ADORED Henny Garfunkel’s entire look and followed her around until I got up the nerve to ask for a picture.  There was an Asian woman wearing the most divine pink wool skirt suit with matching bowler hat with darling purse and shoes, but she moved too fast to snap a pic, drat!  She had by far my favorite outfit.


Other cool outfits seen during the event.


Oh, and the art photography was pretty good too, ;)  This is my 3rd AIPAD event and without a doubt I found it to have the best fine art photography, both vintage and new that I have seen yet.  The works were aesthetically pleasing, told amazing stories and not derivative in the least. Go to the AIPAD website and have a look for yourself!


These works by Simone Rosenbauer captured my eye at Paris Photo.  I had more time to enjoy them at AIPAD’s Laurence Miller Gallery Booth.




Gallery Crawl: Quebec City, Musee des Beaux Artes

On our last day in Quebec City, thus fortified by our hotel, Le Vincent’s hearty breakfast, we set out by cab for the Musee National des Beaux Arts du Quebec (MNBAQ.) Note we set out to walk it the day before, but after riding straight up the funicular then hoofing up 310 steps we didn’t make it in time before closing, drat.

When I realized the museum housed only collections of native artists, my eyes rolled, uh oh. But I was pleasantly surprised by not only the quality of the art, but the exquisite manner in which each installation was curated and displayed. The building itself was very interesting and in no way detracted or distracted from the art, which seemed very at home within its walls.  Another aspect that impressed me was its accommodation to families with small children.  There were alot of people pushing strollers and little ones toddling around.  Once a city jail, part of the museum was comprised of small brick cells.  Several held attractions paralleling the exhibit within the same space:  The Art of the Miniature, showcasing Inuit art.  One  cell had faux skin rugs, another plush toy stones to form into cairns.  Another had a table and chairs.  There were little ones enjoying the main exhibits as well.  It lent a really fun atmosphere to the galleries.


A little art appreciator checking out works by Alfred Pellen. She was so cute I had to take her picture (with Dad’s ok of course)

Besides works from contemporary artists and retrospectives, there was a gorgeous collection of indigenous art sculptures carved from stone, whale bone and walrus skull.

There were 3 retrospectives on view when I visited and I was extremely impressed in the way they were curated.  Not only were the exhibits arranged in a chronological and historical fashion as to evoke the creative development of each artist, but the exhibition spaces themselves and the manner in which certain works were displayed echoed each other.  I felt that I was completely immersed in the work of each artist as I trolled through the spaces.


Take a look at how the space reflects this work by Jean Paul Lemieux



The drama of this image at the beginning of an exhibition of the works of Jean-Paul Riopelle reflects the drama of his paintings


The bold hanging of this massive work heightens its exquisite drama

Works of 2 other artists I absolutely enjoyed were by Alfred Pellan, The Wide Awake Dreamer and David Moore, aLomph aBram.


aLomph aBram literally tucked up inside a turret accessible via a narrow spiral staircase


In addition to being impressed by the museum and its collections in situ, I am also impressed by their website and programs.  Check out the video suggesting how to view art as a family, and also their artwork rental program, CPOA.  My visit was one of the highlights of my stay in lovely Quebec City.  It was perhaps one of my favorite museum experiences that I’ve had recently.

Studio tour on the road: Quebec City, Verrerie Coquelicot, Jean Belanger, artiste verrier


Jean Belanger, artiste verrier in front of one of his large and impressive glass wall pieces

When traveling I never know where my feet will lead me, but so far it’s always been always to the best places. Especially when in foreign lands I send up a little prayer as I embark on my journeys to be guided by angels to places I need to see and people I need to meet. My short weekend trip to Quebec City was no exception, for it is where I walked through the door of an artist’s shop and met artiste and verrier, Jean Belanger.


Some of Jean’s work on offer in his lovely shop, fused glass, stained glass, blown and slumped glass objects

To regard Mr. Belanger as a verrier does not do him justice- yes he is an artist and craftsman in all glass disciplines, but also a sculptor, welder, 3D printing artist, t-shirt maker and poet, in other words, a Renaissance man.


My favorite piece, a very colorful, thick and substantial fused glass table on feet he designed and welded himself.

What was lovely about stepping into his shop was his willingness to talk to us- about his process, his work, his history as an artist, his successes and struggles. He welcomed hearing about us, our art, our projects. When we left I felt as if I added another friend and partner in the pursuit of creativity. This does not happen often, and when it does I look up to the sky and thank my angels.


T shirts, mostly sporting profound and topical quotes

Visit his shop in person or on line:

Verrerie Coquelicot

Jean Belanger, artiste verrier

515 Rue de l’Eperon

Quebec, Canada G1K 6S7

(418) 692-1555



Turn Milestones into Stepping Stones: SEND A KID TO SUMMER ART CAMP!!!

Summer Cover full size

Won’t you enrich the lives of a deserving child by giving them and their families the gift of art and culture?

It has come to my attention that on April 4th I will turn 55.  Even more shocking is the fact that on April 6th, Bill and I will have been married 25 years!  Do you know what this means?  This means something grand must occur to mark these tremendous milestones.  What do two people  whose lives are so full and blessed with an embarrassment of riches beyond our wildest dreams need?


In 2012, I taught pre-teens a 2- week clay class at MAM SummerArt Camp.  What I learned is that I am not the best teacher for anyone less than 20 years of age.  I also learned that the camp was in desperate need of economic and cultural diversity within the student body.  Minimalism is a great genre, but not when it comes to filling a class with students.  Creativity begins when cultures, races and others of diverse life experiences collide.

Bill and I have created a scholarship fund to accomplish this mission.  A gift of $900 will send 1 child to camp for 2 weeks.  To make things even more fun for them they will also get a lunch box, a gift certificate to a local art supply store and a 1 year family membership to the museum.

Imagine  if 90 people sent $10-  BINGO, a child’s life is changed!

The folks at MAM have made it really easy to donate.  All you need to do is click on a link:


Enter the donation amount on the first page (under the donation amount you can check a box in case you want to make the donation in honor or memory of someone, pretty cool..)  Just after entering your credit card info enter the coupon code SUMMERCAMP at the bottom and it will earmark your donation for the camp.  DON’T FORGET TO ENTER TO COUPON CODE!  Please do not delay, as the selection process for student applications is fast approaching. Please help turn our milestones into stepping stones for a budding artist.  Give them a chance to grow and create in a spectacular, nurturing, fantastic place.  Help add “let’s all go to the museum!” to their list of fun things to do.

Please share this post with as many like minded people you can think of, help SummerArtCamp go viral!

Session II Session I Exploring Pottery


Almost Spring Studio Tour, 2016


Studio gremlin (made by Chrissy Callas) in his little hole just waiting for me to make a mis-step

One way to gauge the productivity of a studio is how messy it is.  Everything falls by the wayside (and onto the floor, against the walls and on every available surface) when a series is in process.  There is just no time to dilly dally on such frivolities as cleanliness or organization.  Work just has to get DONE.  Add teaching, firing student work, delivering work, attending opening receptions, deadlines for upcoming shows and life in general into this mix and soon enough you can’t swing a cat in the studio without causing an avalanche.  My studio (lovingly referred to as the clown car is no exception.)


Don’t trip- the studio looking like the inside of a goat’s stomach as I glaze ware.

I have the great fortune to have been invited to submit new works into two upcoming shows, The Montclair 10 Returns and the Montclair Art Museum Annual Faculty Show.    I also have been blessed with having work selected in several group shows:  Sacred Spaces/Holy Places at Nails in the Wall,  Art Connections 12 at The George Segal Gallery, and Viewpoints at Aljira Center for Contemporary Art.  In addition to this and my regular teaching gigs at the museum, I will be teaching a 3-day raku workshop, Raku Rodeo at Peters Valley Craft Center during the weekend of June 3 – 5, with a 1-day teaser demonstration there on May 1, 2016 both of which I needed to make ware to fire, and do a few raku firings for practice.  I’d better get cracking!


At the opening reception for Sacred Spaces/Holy Places at Nails in the Wall Gallery



With my work 162 Moses di Michelangelo at Art Connections 12 reception, The George Segal Gallery.

In my last studio tour post I had just  embellished and altered forms in porcelain and raku clay off the wheel for firing.  After painful consideration I decided to multi-fire the porcelain in oxidation and raku fire the raku clay forms.  At the time, the thinking was more from self preservation than aesthetic calculation- just in case all the raku ware blew up or failed I would still have enough finished ware from the electric kiln to meet my exhibition obligations.

Pushing the Envelop:


Multi-fired porcelain bowl with luster addition.

My firing processes always have an element of risk.  I am constantly pushing the envelop way beyond what is good for me and my ware.  Whenever I hear a fellow potter, especially a mentor say, “Never do this, it won’t work” I take it as a call to arms.  Bruce Dehnert, the wizard of the Peters Valley ceramic studio told me never to bisque fire my raku ware above cone 06.  It will explode in raku.  It just won’t work.  Bill McCreath, my uber mentor professor from my masters program at Montclair State bisques raku ware even lower, to cone 08.  This bothers me.  Raku ware is stoneware that can go up to at least cone 6.  The logic is it has to be fired low to keep its pores open enough to absorb carbon and withstand thermal shock.  I get that.  But I can’t stand how porous it is post firing.  It leaks and sweats if filled with water, has an unpleasant feel about it and makes a nasty low pitched “ping” when tapped with an index finger.  I want a finished piece that is as water proof as possible, doesn’t leak or sweat and has a nice substantial vitrified feel and sound when tapped.  So I bisque fire to cone 1.  (gasp)

Unleashing the Gremlins

Firing the Porcelain:



First glazing to cone 6 in oxidation, so far so good

As I loaded the green ware and programed the kiln to cone 1, a little gremlin of doom appeared on my shoulder whispering, “gonna fail, gonna fail!” over and over until the damn ware came out of the kiln.  As I mixed up the cone 6 glazes the little bastard said, “glaze won’t stick, glaze won’t stick!”  While grinding the dichroic glass I selected into frit to fuse in the next firing he said, “all gonna fall off, fall off!”  This torture continued until after the luster firing (I had to do a few of the pieces twice which made him really  happy, the jerk.)  I must say I am very pleased with the results. It isn’t often that things come out as planned.


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The Raku Event:


First sign of spring: the raku kiln!

The gremlin was dancing a jig as I dragged out the kiln.  “Not enough propane!  Not enough propane!” he giggled as I hooked up the tank, not remembering the last time I used it or filled it.  The first load were vases with my favorite raku glazes.  “Bottoms blow off! Bottoms blow off!” it squeaked as I stacked the first load, “Gonna drop ’em, gonna drop ’em!” as I pulled each one out.  “You’ll burn down the house!  Burn down the house!” when a stray ember went down the driveway (I stamped it out.) For some reason, all pieces in this load (each placed in its own can) was covered in a yellow tar like residue similar to the nicotine that covers the walls of old French cafes.  This made gremlin boy really happy but it was nothing a little elbow grease couldn’t cure.


Since I used my luster glazes on 3 pieces, I decided to put those in a separate 2nd load and “steam” them in a “smokeless raku” process, where instead of placing them in cans of combustibles, I stood them each on a piece of paper then wrapped them in a wet newspaper covered with a wet towel until cool.  “Won’t stand up!  Won’t stand up!   You’ll burn yourself, haha!”  Happily, these came out just the way I wanted them.  Nyah nyah nyah little gremlin!


Every piece survived despite bisque fire to cone 1, take that kiln gremlin, kerPOW!

Now that they are all done I have the happy quandary of figuring out which one goes into what show.  I love this kind of problem.

Gallery Crawls Fall 2015/Winter 2016


November 12, 2015, inside the Grand Palais for the Paris Photo 2015 exposition

This posting will continue my reporting on what I saw and did in Paris last November as well as catch you up on what I’ve seen lately.  To review, the purpose of the Paris trip was for my husband, photographer Bill Westheimer to attend Paris Photo 2015 at the Grand Palais.  I was along for the ride.  I love looking at art.  I love critiquing art.  I love learning about art.  I love meeting fellow artists and when it comes to international creative events such as these, I love the people watching.  Its where art, fashion and artists collide.


View from the stairs to the mezzanine. It’s as if Paris Photo is inside an enormous jewel box!


So much to see, where do I begin?


As night fell the venues glowed

In my opinion, there was no better location than Paris, no better venue than the Grand Palais to hold this event.  It was as if all the images displayed were slides tucked inside an enormous glass and green steel jewel box.  The structure itself was worth the visit.  I have been told, more than once by Bill, that the purpose of the visit was reconnaissance- for him to see what is out there and who is representing it; to make lists for future reference.  It was NOT the time and place to shop work.  Ok.  Got it.  Message received.  I would keep my eyes and ears open and my mouth shut.  We went twice:  once to breeze through, say hello to a few friends working in the booths and get a lay of the land.  The second trip would be a longer more day long affair, going from booth to booth, taking notes and gathering info.

To execute this feat I realized I needed something to do, some sort of individual purpose other than being the supportive spouse to keep me occupied, engaged and quiet.  So I bought a notebook and a pen and I set about reviewing the work,  the space, the food and what people were wearing, like an undercover reporter for a lets pretend magazine.  In addition to planning the activity it was also necessary to plan attire.  My very first entry in my Paris Photo notebook was:


How to attend an all day exposition:

-Dress in layers:  wear comfortable shoes & clothing; carry a light weight shoulder bag to put things in and hang things from, like jackets and scarves;

Immediately locate and use the bathroom;

-Put some cash in your pockets (wear clothing with lots and lots of pockets)

-Carry a cellphone, pen and little notebook.

-Keep your mouth shut if the reason you are here is for someone else;

-Carry lots of business cards in case you are here for YOU;

-Eat a good breakfast that will give you energy and not slow you down;

-Dress stylishly; to be noticed, in case you get separated from your party; (it pays to be tall by birth but alas I am not)

-Pick a meeting point and a time to meet your friends in case you get separated (meet you by the food every hour;)

-find a place to sit the minute you get cranky (this is important;)

-Don’t try to make dinner plans with every person you run into that you know;

-Try not to get jealous of the success of others on exhibit and don’t come from a place of low self esteem;

Don’t monopolize the time of your friends working the booths;

-Network over lunch;

-Drink alot of caffeine;

-Don’t start drinking until early evening;


Some hand outs I picked up at the booths and my ever present notebook.

Thus dressed, fortified, informed and debriefed I made my way around the exhibits.  Here are comments I made in my notebook:  NOTE:  My comments will appear in italics

Yves Marchand & Roman Meffre, “Rivoli Theater, Berkley USA, 2013:

Jacob Aoe Sobol, “Boy in Novosibirsk, Russia, 2014;

Polka Gallery, Paris, booth A52

 It’s hard for me to view photos like these because I want to know the story behind each one and they aren’t there, they’re just works of art;

Gitterman Gallery:  Herbert Matter, “Untitled” 1939-43William Larsonsending images and text through telephone lines in the 1970’s!!!

Grids of photos:  Bruno Roels (A palm tree is a palm tree is a palm tree)

Appropriation:  Sherrie Levine: “After Man Ray Man and a Woman 2005”

Man Ray’s photo of a nude descending a staircase by DuChamp, 1920.

Delphine Balley- staged murder scenes “Les Choses de la Vie” at Suzanne Tarasiere booth C37

My favorite and I don’t know why:

Garry Fabian Miller

Winged Hawthorn- The Hedgerows of Homeland & Haying Down, Dartmoor Spring & Late Autumn, 2011″ at Ingelby Gallery

Katarzyna Mircsak (Polish) “Tools of the Crime Series, 2012″ at Eric Franck Fine Art booth C40


Amazing people watching. I just loved her hair and her whole look.


These women won the hair category of the people watching awards.

It was an amazing couple of days and we were so glad we went.  Going to Paris for Paris Photo has always been a dream, and all of a sudden it was a wonderful reality.  Ironically, we were there on November 12, 2015, the day before the shootings and bombings in the Bataclan and in the cafes, where many young spirited fun loving people had their lives cut short for no better reason than they were out living their lives in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Ironically even more, since I remember feeling so free and so spirited at the event, thinking to myself, “isn’t it wonderful that we can be out in large venues again without fear of terrorism?”  Oh my.  Like all other public venues in Paris that terrible day, Paris Photo was shuttered and closed early.

February, 2016- my first visit to the new Whitney Museum of Art, New York City


Yes, can you please tell me, why was art in the 1990’s so bad?

If you know me you know I am not really a fan of the Whitney.  I never liked the architecture of its original location on Madison Avenue.  I tried, I really tried to like the artwork they have presented over the years.  I give them points for exhibiting works by Marilyn Minter, and I never tire of seeing Calder’s Circus, but everything else usually annoys or confuses me, and it’s one of those deals where they actually want you to feel that way.  Whatever.  The Whitney is one of the few museums in New York City where I don’t have an annual membership.  I rather choose to get in free by flashing my museum employee id from the Montclair Art Museum where I teach.  This magical perk is a thrill.  So far I’ve gotten in everywhere except The National Museum of Play in Rochester, NY (the nerve!) and the Denver Botanic Garden (even though the employees thought I should as they sadly made me pay.)

So when the Whitney moved downtown into a new light and airy structure with outdoor terraces on every floor with a killer view in all directions, designed by Renzo Piano, while flashing my employee id I gave going there another chance.

Oh well.

At least Calder’s Circus was still there, this time given a place of pride front and center instead of being tucked into a hard to access mezzanine like at the old location.


Calder’s Circus

We started at the top floor and worked our way down, beginning with an exhibition of works by Laura Poitras: Astro Noise.  To preface, I try to be as objective as possible in consuming another artist’s work.  I realize that a strong negative reaction is just as successful as a positive one; artwork is not made with the sole purpose of making the viewer smile or feel loved.  Rather, a very important part of making art is to bring difficult subjects often swept under rugs out into the open and visible to the masses.  A critique of the exhibit by me would not be fair as my reaction to it is strongly subjective as the artist is delving into the surveillance, interrogation and wrenching cultural shifts brought about by the attacks on September 11, 2001.  Having seen the second plane slam into the World Trade Center from my seat on the commuter train then being in lower Manhattan as the towers fell, smelling the burning, hearing the screams, seeing people covered with ash running for their lives, then being evacuated to New Jersey are forever seared into my psyche.  They are now part of my DNA, like it or  not. Anytime I view or experience video footage, audio clips, photographic montage of that day bring on horrific nightmares, so I need to consciously avoid venues like this.  So, after viewing a couple light boxes in Disposition Matrix, I waited for Bill in the hall.

I must say that most works on the lower floors blurred one into another, except for a fabulous abstract film I enjoyed enormously entitled, Synchromy #4 Escape by Mary Ellen Bute which she made in the 1930’s.  It is an abstract cartoon set to classical music.  Just a few squiggles, lines and a few geometric shapes in primary colors on a black background dancing to the music.  I loved it.  Having been raised on Disney’s Fantasia it’s just what I see in my head when I hear classical music.  The rest of the floors were kind of a bust for me.  There’s just so many times I want to see a Jeff Koons. Don’t even get me started on the art of the 1990’s.  I just don’t see the point of it, other than the fact that is coincided with the commodification of art and the market was suddenly driven by investors looking to make a buck rather than a collector wanting something of aesthetic value.  But hope springs eternal, I like DuChamp’s Fountain don’t I?







A Breakthrough and A New Assistant


Not a bad weekend shut in the studio, for a change!

As the saying goes, “don’t give up just before the miracle.”  All the clay I touched for the past month wound up in that endless cycle of wedge, throw, reclaim, wedge, throw, reclaim.  Sigh.  Whether my efforts made the clay just a boring blank cylinder with no spirit, or a structural failure, everything just kept going into the damn bucket.  In bygone days, when I was young and had more ego than brains or skill, I thought every single time I touched clay had to be a masterpiece.  Runs like this would be crushing and I’d leave the studio and walk away from clay for a good long while.  Now I just persevere.  I realize that nothing worth creating comes easy.  There is no antidote to this situation but hard work.  I also realize that my absolute worst day in my studio as a full time artist equals my best day when I was stuck in an office driving a desk for 23 years at a job I had grown to loathe.  Audio books and a new puppy helped too.

Enter Mel.  Our teenage Treeing Walker Coon Hound who we adopted on February 2, 2016.  Mel was rescued from a neglect situation in West Virginia, fostered while he got shots and neutered then sent to a kennel in southern Pennsylvania to adopt out.  We managed one week without our dear Petey who died with us here at home then we realized the house was too empty and clean, the studios too quiet and our lives without that happy canine chaos that gives us our energy.   He’s a big white warm soft bundle of love requiring us to change his name from Boomer to Mel, short of Marshmallow Pie.  He’s very good in the studios, he even has his own cubicle.


Mel , our new studio assistant, in his studio cubicle reporting for duty.

After about a month of fruitless labor, things started happening.  More shapes were coming off the wheel to be put in the wet box instead of the reclaim bucket.  I wasn’t happy with them as is, but no matter.  I kept throwing.  All of a sudden I could see shapes for my commission project that had me baffled and clueless for months;  I could see sculptural infrastructure that could be assembled from forms coming off the wheel.  Suddenly these cylindrical forms, so lifeless and lackluster were blank canvasses for me to alter and add texture to make them come alive and sing.  Hmmm!  All of a sudden I’m dragging out my Haeckel books and hunting for ideas, making slip and filling my decorating bag.


My current treasure troves of ideas and inspirations


And suddenly, here I am, breaking through to the other side, busting out from craft into art.


Functional forms given spirit and life



3 plain bowls demanded to be assembled and turned into a sculpture

Glass was happening in the studio too.  My students are wonderful.  They make thoughtful, deliberate, creative work.  They are putting alot of care and effort into making elaborate creations so output is slow.  I took advantage of the empty kiln space and made some work of my own.  Aside from incorporating it into sculpture I don’t work with glass as a primary medium, but every now and then it’s fun to make a tray.  It’s straight forward “what you see is what you get” manner helps clear and calm my mind in between elaborate clay projects or when working in clay is more of a wrestling match than a productive, fun pursuit.



Jewelry bits, trays and coasters are nice palate cleansers in between clay projects

Now when I sit at the wheel I feel more back in the saddle.  Glazing here we come, yee hah!

Waiting Any Minute for the Big Breakthrough and an Exciting Opening Reception

Every once in awhile I go on a downhill slide in the studio.  I hate to refer to it as a losing streak, but sometimes that’s how it feels.  It’s the time where I’m the studio on a daily basis working away fervently with visions of cranking out lots and lots of great work, but in reality all I have to show for my efforts are clay spattered clothes and a full reclaim bucket.  Sigh.


After an entire day of throwing, all I got out of the deal was 1 anemic bottle and a meh bowl….Sigh.

Used to be that I’d get really down on myself and discouraged. What the hell is wrong with me?  Why can’t I make great work like everyone else?  I’m a terrible potter, what was I thinking?! And on and on.  Now I just shrug and keep going.  What else am I going to do?  Besides, usually when I hit the creative skids like this, it’s usually before some sort of big breakthrough, either with an ongoing series or a new technique or new depth of range to my artistic voice.  So here I sit, behind the wheel, covered in clay, listening to my audio books (humor to keep my spirits up) like Charlie Brown stepping up to the mound.

Another factor in this creative trough is that sadly, we said good-bye to my most beloved studio assistant, Petey Pie Westheimer, who died of cancer at home last Wednesday.  Good bye my sweet clay dog!

Petey in his final week in the studio. God speed my dear sweet boy!

Petey in his final week in the studio. God speed my dear sweet boy!

But then I attend an opening reception of my work and all is forgiven.  In this regard, the opening reception of Sacred Spaces Holy Places at the Nails in the Wall Gallery in Metuchen, NJ did not disappoint.  Nails in the Wall is a bit of second home to me and my artwork.  The gallery is a very good fit for my work as their themes slant towards the sacred with components of social justice.  Linda Vonderschmidt-LaStella, who runs the gallery is an amazing soul.  She is a huge supporter of every artist she takes under her wing and a big booster of the art scene in the town of Metuchen.  She creates a lovely vibe for the receptions with wonderful food, music and talks by the artists, even some via Skype or video.  The gallery is located on the campus of the church of St Lukes, so there is lots of foot traffic.  I particularly enjoy that many of the people who come into the gallery do not consider themselves art collectors or art appreciators.  Interacting with these folks allows me to see my work and the work in the show with fresh eyes.  I love answering questions and explaining the motivation of my work to them.

Posing with "Holy Innocents" a the opening reception

Posing with my 3 sculptures a the opening reception. L-R: “Holy Innocents,” “Hotei Hideaway,” and “Hotei Hideout.”

I had the good fortune of having 3 of my works in the show, Holy Innocents*, a multi fired stoneware sculpture with 14K gold, Murano glass and acrylic inclusions, Hotei Hideaway**, a raku fired stoneware sculpture with resin inclusions, and Hotei Hideout,**, a wood fired stoneware sculpture on a carved cherry wood base with glass and resin inclusions.  I enjoyed spending the afternoon at the reception, catching up with Linda, her wonderful husband Nino and the other artists in the show, many of whom I have been in shows with previously.

*statement for Holy Innocents

**statement for Hotei Hideaway and Hotei Hideout