Leslie Smith III: I want People to Just Get It

May 25, 2014

I missed the introduction to the “rapid fire” lecture of UW-Madison professor and painter Leslie Smith III. Smith, in full force, as I entered the dark auditorium, showed little inclination to slow down. Immediately captivated, my senses prompted me to pay very close attention and strive to comprehend every word. I searched for a pen and paper to assist in increasing my chances of taking it all in and to also ” get it.” His choice of words fell on my ears as magic even as I missed chunks of phrases and bits and pieces here and there.

I instantly traveled back in time to my days as a UW-Milwaukee art aesthetics and philosophy student in the classes of Professor Haig Khatchadourian and much later as a student in the classes of Judith Russi Kirshner, then my professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a contributor to Art Forum. Khatchadourian’s and Kirshner’s command of aesthetics and delivery excited and gained my rapt attention. Smith’s command of aesthetics and delivery intertwined with his artmaking, inspired that same awe.

Smith provided glimpses into his educational background, museum exhibitions and assorted processes influencing the thought-provoking abstractions. He shared narrative observations and interpretations of sometimes quirky private dramas and interpersonal relationships. His real life references definitely distinguished themselves in the abstract paintings. Without these associations, the actual connections to pieces like “Piss Chair,” “Hungry Boy” and “You First”  remain with Smith. The uniquely personal references provide insights when the viewer needs them and when the artist desires, in some way, to provide them. Smith’s increasingly asymmetrically shaped canvas paintings, gestural brushstrokes and bold colors stand solidly alone as strong aesthetic images. My notes, following the artwork titles, reveal what I heard as Smith’s aesthetic concepts and welcomed as his references.

"Piss Chair" 96 x 108 inches, Oil on Canvas 2008

“Piss Chair” 96 x 108 inches, Oil on Canvas 2008

“Piss Chair”
In the white lawn chair we ate watermelon and barbeque/Legs and high heel shoes/Psychological aspects/Objects that function with little reference
Emotional Gravitas borrows language/language/isolates it from the language of object/You have to work with what you know. Work has to be more about me/How you tell the truth.

"Hungry Boy" 40 x 40 inches, Oil on Canvas 2011

“Hungry Boy” 40 x 40 inches, Oil on Canvas 2011

“Hungry Boy”

Hungry for work, Hungry for time, Hungry for a studio Infatuated with the romance/synthetic life of NY/Find objects that I can re-contextualize -find what I wanted/ I was asked, “Have you thought about Philip Guston?” It helps to organize the canvas/I thought about separating the making of a character from the act of creating the painting/I start out not knowing what they are all about/I’m interested in investigation/all the conditions of a painting/Dealing with the role of color, dealing with narrative/I thought about separating the making of a character/from the act of creating the painting/I start out not knowing what they are all about/I’m interested in investigation all the conditions of a painting/Dealing with the role of color/Dealing with narrative.

"Window" 24 x 24 inches, Oil and spray paint on Canvas 2010

“Window” 24 x 24 inches, Oil and spray paint on Canvas 2010

“Window”

What came out of it is collapsing the space/Factor into a larger context/27” x 27” paintings/Infatuated with inanimate objects about the physicality of painting/How to not make it figurative/Make it volumetric/I realize that I just made a window/It reflects light with its metallic under-painting/I enter into an architectural space/Artist – Fra Angelico/He could negotiate space/Investigating Fra Angelico led to windows/Changing ways of studying subtle narratives and suggestion/“How Long has this been going on?/The Morning After”/Red hue is necessary for trying to solve the problem/Hard to quantify the saturation of color/Set within dream space/elements may float or exist in a semi-real space/I am interested in specificity and a certain reality/I want to create a sense of familiarity/I dream too much.

"You First" 26 x 26 Oil on Linen 2012

“You First” 26 x 26 inches, Oil on Linen 2012

“You First”

Do you know “Coming to America?”/Jerry Curls, Jheri Curls, Uncle’s/You first integrate multiple characters/Jerry curl juice/sweat.

"Self" 26 x 26 Oil on Linen 2011

“Self” 26 x 26 inches, Oil on Linen 2011

“Self”

Annual self-portrait/Gestural characters clouds or a mop/Working around the peripheral/Strike a theme until I exhaust it/“Viennese Waltz”/Relationships with closest friends are closer or more like family than your real family/Dancing with the stars.

"Sticks Stone or Drones" 72 x 96inches Oil on Canvas 2012

“Sticks Stone or Drones” 72 x 96 inches, Oil on Canvas 2012

 “Stick, Stones, and Drones”

It was great, I liked it/But it did not satisfy what else I’m missing/A post-modernist painter/Everything is apologetic/Everything is working together/I wanted to give my painting the same kind of complexity/“Philip Guston at work in his studio”/he did not want to understand what he was painting/I think about the contextualizing/I do want to understand it and demystify things/Canvas/frame/Potent reason to allow the painting shape/once a square/Then disfigure/dis-invigorate it to a hump form/What the contradiction was/Contradicting realities.

"Night Baptism" 42 x 42 inches Oil on Shaped Canvas 2013

“Night Baptism” 42 x 42 inches Oil on Shaped Canvas 2013

“Night Baptism”

I flew to … the east coast to be re-baptized, it happened at night with about/6-7 little bitty people, then I flew back/“Drift Studio” carpentry/ Were all forces and working mechanisms/Equal and opposing-canceling each other out/Cyclical unsolvable realities/ Societal and cultural/Drawings are subsidiaries to the/Building off the idea of/Locked on and found if you lose it.

 

"Best Kept Secret" 48 x 48 inches Oil on Shaped Canvas 2013

“Best Kept Secret,” 48 x 48 inches Oil on Shaped Canvas 2013

 “Best Kept Secret”

 Under a vail/Broken fractured/Night                 twitch shows up/Things that show up/The  politics of dealing with human  dispositions/All the others become more  complicated/I deal more or less/These  objects/I want to take a more direct  approach/Moved back into just letting things  go. I order two or three shapes at a time because I don’t know what to do with them/A juxtaposing element of form not fitting that way/I just fuss with them until they kind of meld together/Post-minimalism neo-geo/My personal experience, an absence of self/The work becomes lost in the conversation/Big elephant in the room/packed with a certain amount of familiarity.

Untitled work on paper, 26 x 40 inches Oil on Chromcoat paper, 2014

Untitled work on paper, 26 x 40 inches, Oil on Chromcoat paper, 2014

“Untitled”

Oil on Chromcoat paper/I can’t contextualize it/Something about these gestural painting/ Night Orchestra/Not figured out what that means/I just think it’s cool/Just needed something black to offset the newness/Want to make a painting that lifted those shapes up/The African American Abstract exhibition in Texas/The curator did such a good job of making me see the relationship my paintings had to abstraction in a multi generational context/I don’t believe mine are truly real abstractions/They are personified gestural subtle narrations of painting speaking to one another/I am working on more Chromecoat paper/their likeness helps fortify the shapes/I want people to just get it/A bad idea/My wife has told me no one can read my mind/unrealistic/my titles connect.

by Evelyn Patricia Terry

Terry received one of the Milwaukee Arts Board’s 2014 Artists of the Year Awards (along with Barbara Leigh), please contact Terry for juror, lecture, curator, commission, or workshop requests at terryevelyn@hotmail.com or visit the web page evelynpatriciaterry.com/news for more information.


 

 

 


North Avenue Public Art Bus Shelter “Kindred Ties” Reinstalled

November 27, 2012

“Kindred Ties” photo before car accident on St Patrick’s Day, March 17. Photo by Avagara, all rights reserved_2011

Milwaukee, Wisconsin  – The “emptiness” next to Bethel Baptist Church disappeared on October 27, 2012, when the Kindred Ties bus shelter unceremoniously reappeared on the site it had inhabited for the past six years. Evelyn Patricia Terry, creator of Kindred Ties, offered her perspective on its importance, explaining that, “Kindred Ties, a public art piece, establishes a sense of place in the African-American community and celebrates nurturing families, spiritual awareness, global knowledge, and educational achievement. Kindred Ties represents our history, culture, values, and what we incessantly speak of – thereby coalescing my ideas, the community’s ideas, and other artists’ ideas to share with the world.”

Located in the busy six points’ intersection of 21st Street, W. Fond du Lac Avenue and W. North Avenue, the bus shelter’s disappearance March 17th bewildered Kindred Ties artists, employees in Seaway Bank across the street, and many concerned community organizers. “What could have happened?” they asked Terry. Although as a public art piece it now belonged to the community, Terry felt invested and set out to solve the mystery. She eventually tracked it down through Sandy Kellner, Chief Operating Officer of the Milwaukee County Transit System.

Damaged “Kindred Ties.” Photo Courtesy of the MCTS.

Kellner explained that a car, around Saint Patrick’s Day, hit Kindred Ties and the damaged frame compelled immediate removal. In partial view to passersby, it rested in the back lot of MCTS on 17th Street near Fond du Lac Avenue. After establishing contact with Dean Amhaus, former Spirit of Milwaukee’s Executive Director and Ed Mordy, Spirit of Milwaukee’s financial consultant, a new bus shelter frame was purchased. Millennium Neighborhood Art Initiative, the original project host, provided restoration funds. The funds permitted the unharmed sixteen colorful welded sculpture images to be successfully transferred to a new bus shelter, and the repaired Kindred Ties to be reunited with embedded bronze plaques at the original site.

After seeing it repaired, Terry stated, “The positive energy that Kindred Ties summoned up for its creation and then for its restoration is extremely gratifying and speaks volumes to Milwaukee’s cooperative leaders. And Kindred Ties is much appreciated. Offering unsolicited comments during installation, several transit users told me that they were pleasantly surprised to have such a nice and unique object in their neighborhood. Many were also surprised to learn that an African-American woman originated the concept and secured funds to hire diverse Milwaukee artists and businesses to create the piece.”

Design and conception of Kindred Ties

In a section of Milwaukee where revitalization plans continue, Kindred Ties juxtaposes contemporary art with Bethel Baptist Church’s German-inspired, Gothic Revival Style architecture. Painted in an assortment of complementary colors, two welded and bent wrought iron linear sculptures occupy the interior and exterior of each of the eight glass panels. The abstract sculptures represent the spiritual universe, a family tree, and a three generation family including a grandfather and granddaughter, a grandmother and grandson, a mother, a father, a son with a book, and a daughter embracing a globe. Bronze plaques in the concrete identify the colorful artwork, share seven positive sayings, and celebrate the artists and others who contributed to the public art piece. The two yellow painted ceiling panels represent the beaming warmth of sunshine symbolizing prosperity and radiant health.

One painted top of “Kindred Ties” bus shelter.

Background

Terry strongly desired to produce public art influenced by many of her colleagues nationally who were doing so. The opportunity came after her friend and sometimes mentor Durga Patel spotted a call-out-to-artists requesting proposals for public art in the Milwaukee community. The application process included selecting a community-based non-profit organization to assist with funding. Terry selected the WAICO/YMCA, in her neighborhood, and was fortunate to work with the YMCA’s Economic Development specialist, Mike Stiehl. Stiehl suggested a bus shelter project.

In 1999, Terry assembled a distinguished team of artists: painter Maxine Banks (originated the “family” theme); illustrator and muralist Ras `Ammar Nsoroma (rendered the drawings); architect Theodore Lipscomb (constructed the model); painter and graphic designer Jerry J. Johnson

Mike Nolte installing “Kindred Ties” plaques in 2008.

(designed project sites and presentations); UW – Milwaukee professor emeritus Narendra Patel (provided consulting); sculptor George Ray McCormick Sr. (apprenticed as welder); sculptor Don Rambadt (welded and provided instruction); writer Fondé Bridges (provided seven sayings from his book 101 Simple Suggestions for Better Living),  and both the Milwaukee County Transit System and Mike Nolte of Vanguard Sculpture Services (provided installation).

Terry stated, “I am just glad it’s back.”

Contact Evelyn Patricia Terry at terryevelyn@hotmail.com.


Creating Art: Toward 500 Images – Part I

January 9, 2012

“As an artist, you will know who you are, when you have created your 500th image,” stated one of my UW-Milwaukee art professors in the 1970s. Often I pass his statement on to artists desiring their art careers to “hurry up and blossom” or their personal styles to “hurry up and blossom.” As a benchmark worth aiming for, a commitment to 500 images sounds like a stretch, but it keeps one busy creating – the most beneficial element of a successful art career.

Mosaic fabricator Catherine Lottes & workshop leader Evelyn Patricia Terry flank "Life's Garden." Photo: Yokesphotography.

So that is, of course, what I told Kevin Boatright, Mikal Floyd-Pruitt, and his brother, Anwar Floyd-Pruitt, after encountering them in October at different locations during Milwaukee’s final 2011 Gallery Night and Day’s 23rd annual event. The afternoon of Gallery Night, Anwar and Mikal attended the unveiling of a public art project, “Life’s Garden,” created by Catherine Lottes and installed at 6th and Reservoir. In 2010, Lottes invited me to assist her with my expertise in facilitating watercolor workshops. Pieper Hillside Boys and Girls Club’s art students and Lapham Park’s resident seniors attended separate workshops – developing images for Lottes’ innovative mosaic tile production process. During the reception, Anwar, Mikal and I talked about art, and shared desires and life situations.

About 10 p.m. that evening, I encountered Kevin Boatright in the Third Ward. As we sat talking about art and visibility, Kevin said emphatically, “I want more for my career.” I concurred with that desire “of more” for my career. Kevin then said, “You may be down now, but at least you have been up.” “Down,” referenced my statements that I needed my large pastel and monoprint sales — so robust once-up-a-time — to resume.

Both fortuitous meetings compelled me to offer the Terry McCormick Gallery: Contemporary Fine and Folk Art, as a stepping stone in their journey and point them in a direction that would eventually propel them toward “prosperous” career goals. I recalled speaking with renowned artist, Faith Ringgold. She stated that “lack of money flow” was never an issue in her career — so “continuous” copious money flow tops the list of my present career goals. These three artists desire a career in which their art will make money for them also.

I requested their input, but my initial and ongoing advice was that they consider choosing healthy lifestyles to be holistically successful artists. Being sick is a mentally and physically challenging environment to create in. Consequently, our meetings included freshly juiced green vegetables and small amounts of fruit, along with Caroline Carter’s raw crackers, dips, and granola. Kevin eventually acquired a juicer and Anwar has been looking for the right one.  Until it is acquired, he began blending raw vegetables and fruits.

During brainstorming sessions, Mikal and Kevin developed the exhibition title, “Imitating Life: Synthesizing Saneness.”

Imitating Life: Synthesizing Saneness, Postcard, 4" x 6," designed by Mikal Floyd - Pruitt.

Mikal designed an energetic invitation, reflective of dominant color choices evident in his paintings — red, blue, yellow, green and white. Artists’ statements, artwork presentation, titles, prices, signage and press releases were tackled, as basic foundations that fueled my career. Anwar and his father, Dr. Eugene Pruitt, graciously assisted moving furniture from downstairs to upstairs to create more wall space.

The opening reception, December 10, 2011, was well attended. I was acquainted with a few people, but many new faces were in the crowd. A resulting visit from Barbie Blutstein during the first week of our exhibition, netted an invitation for Anwar’s artwork for the next Gallery Night and Day, January 20 and 21, at Blutstein Brondino Fine Art. They are located in the Marshall building, 207 East Buffalo Street, Milwaukee, Wisconsin (1-800-737-3715). With a self-taught theme, this exhibition additionally includes folk art selections of George Ray McCormick, Sr., Ktinsley, Prophet Blackmon, Richard Mynor and Rev. Josephus Farmer from the Terry McCormick Gallery.

Daily goal setting, intense productivity, record keeping and audience cultivation must be focused on to reach my instructor’s “500 – image” benchmark and/or the success that they desire. They have the “God-given gift.”  “The rest of the story” as Paul Harvey, so aptly included in commentaries, will be individually honed.

Anwar Floyd-Pruitt, Kevin Boatright & Mikal Floyd-Pruitt in front of Mikal's paintings. Photo: Terry McCormick Gallery.

Kevin’s, Anwar’s and Mikal’s artists’ statements, aesthetics and more information of our earlier art encounters, continue in my next blog. The Terry McCormick Gallery will be open again on Gallery Day, Saturday, January 21, 12–5 pm. It is located at 2522 North 18th Street. Call 414-264-6766 or email terryevelyn@hotmail.com. Check my website for our press release and other images: evelynpatriciaterry.com/news.

–Evelyn Patricia Terry

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Black Ash Basketry

September 13, 2011

By Emily Umentum, guest contributor

Basketry is one of the oldest crafts in human history, and yet the knowledge of making these simple, and once essential, vessels has become a rarity in the modern age. Of the available basket-making materials, the flexibility and durability of black ash is unsurpassed; baskets woven of black ash splints can endure extreme compression and load and yet quickly spring back to their original form and strength, even after having been in use for years or even decades!  This beautiful, yet useful art has been making a renaissance in Northern Wisconsin since a few individuals have taken the time to seek out those who know the craft and are willing to pass it down to others.

April StoneDahl, a member of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa (Ojibwe) is currently the only black ash basket weaver of her band.  Studying and weaving since 1998, she has also been teaching basketry in northern Wisconsin and upper Michigan since 2000. April takes great pride in weaving quality utilitarian baskets which are meant to be used. I first encountered April more than a year ago when I visited the annual Traditional Ways gathering held on the Bad River Reservation near Ashland, Wis. My first impressions of her dedication to craftsmanship, durability and sustainability have been proven accurate in all my dealings with her since.

During the year after I first visited Bad River, I have been serving as a VISTA with Northwoods NiiJii, a Wisconsin tribally-affiliated nonprofit based on the Lac du Flambeau Reservation. VISTA is a federal service program charged with fighting poverty, in my case, by helping develop a community-oriented art center and gallery known as the Woodland Indian Art Center . In the course of helping build infrastructure and form community partnerships, I have had the opportunity to engage various artists from communities outside Lac du Flambeau as well. Luckily for us, April was one of those artists.

Those in attendance at the August 26, 2011, Black Ash Basket class at the Woodland Indian Art Center were able to witness this tree’s amazing properties firsthand as they learned the preparation of materials and crafted their own baskets! The instructors, April and Jarrod StoneDahl of Woodspirit (www.woodspiritgallery.com), began by discussing the habitat, behavior and current threats to this singular and historic tree.

The Black Ash, Fraxinus nigra, is a deciduous (seasonally leaf dropping) tree native to cool, wet regions of the Northeastern United States and Southeastern Canada. It is currently threatened by an invasive insect known as the Emerald Ash Borer, whose larvae are spread by the movement of firewood from park to park. The best chance we have of preserving the black ash from complete destruction is to encourage campers to only purchase firewood locally, instead of transporting it. Why all the fuss over this one tree species?

This tree is unique among all North American trees because its growth rings (the seasonal trunk growth produced by the tree) are not connected to each other by fibers, as are other trees. As mundane as such a distinction may seem to the average person, for basket-makers it means that the rings may be separated from each other and made into splints for baskets. Without this tree, this particular type of basketry is in danger of disappearing.

Jarrod explained that Black Ash trees form annual growth rings of two types of wood: spring wood is a rapidly laid-down, loose connective layer which links each year of more robust summer growth to the next. He stated that by soaking the trunk in water and then pounding it with a rounded steel mallet, the spring connective layer is crushed and allows for the summer wood to be peeled off in long strips. The weaker bond of the connecting fibers is what allows the summer wood strips to separate. These strips, or ‘splints’, as they are called, vary in color according to where they lie in the tree; sap wood, the outer layer where moisture is currently flowing in the tree, is a lighter color, and heart wood, which lies at the core of the tree where moisture once flowed, is darkened with age. Trees are typically harvested in late spring or early summer (because the bark can slip off with prodding of the hands), and pounded right after harvest.  Although spring and summer is the ideal time, trees may be harvested throughout the year as needed.

After receiving the lecture and viewing some very artistic diagrams on the Art Center whiteboard, the class wandered outside to test the theory for themselves on a soaked and freshly-peeled black ash log set up for the occasion. Jarrod began the demonstration and each student tried a hand at pounding; the consensus was that despite an absence of fibers, separating the layers still was a lot of work! Who knew basket-making could be so vigorous?

The class was told that the strips were further refined by scraping and splitting, typically with a stout knife, in order to give one side of each strip the satiny-smooth finish characteristic of the exterior of black ash baskets. Splints are then rolled up and may be stored indefinitely. After experiencing only a fraction of the prep work involved in pounding and a demonstration of splitting, the class was grateful for their pre-pounded, scraped and split materials!

The first step in weaving a basket is to select and trim the splints to a desired length, in this case, a little longer than the width of the bottom, plus twice the height of the basket. These strips are generally thicker because they will be bent to become the vertical portion, or the ‘uprights’ of the basket’s walls. They must be trimmed along their length as well, because uniformity of width helps guarantee the tightness of the basket’s weave, especially on the bottom.

Trimmed splints are then soaked in a basin of water until they are pliable, and woven into a mat in which the small squares between the weave are kept the same. One of the future ‘uprights’ is then split in two, the long way, down to the bottom of the basket; this now-uneven number of uprights guarantees that the basket’s horizontal weave will stay uniform.

The next step in weaving is to decide on the width of the ‘weavers’ or horizontal splints in making the basket; different looks are achieved by trimming weavers to be thicker, narrower, or the same as the width of the uprights. The first weaver is always the trickiest, as the uprights are not yet bent upwards! After the first weaver goes all the way around the basket and crosses two consecutive uprights, then the uprights may be bent into their true upright position. Eventually, the uprights are held in place by the weavers, and the basket comes together quickly.

When the basket has reached its desired height, the uprights are trimmed and tucked away to leave a smooth surface for the rim. The inner and outer rims, typically cut from a thicker splint, are positioned and held in place with spring clips until they are firmly lashed into position with a very narrow, pliable strip of splint wrapped one way, and then the other.

Everyone in the class was pleased with their durable and attractive new baskets; students left both creatively and ecologically informed about this singular tree and its uses. Given the skills of April’s apprentices and captivation of her students, the black ash in our region will certainly have a fighting chance! We hope to have April and Jarrod back again soon; stay tuned for upcoming announcements on future black ash basket classes! Please feel free to stop in at the Woodland Indian Art Center, located at 562 Peace Pipe Rd. in downtown Lac du Flambeau or call us at 715-588-3700 for more information.

***********

Emily Umentum is a VISTA member serving at the Woodland Indian Art Center in Lac du Flambeau, WI.  There she helps develop community partnerships, organizational capacity and arts programming. She has worked and volunteered with a number of community arts and education organizations in the Midwest and abroad; from puppet theaters to women’s shelters, organic farms to language schools, she brings a diverse array of experiences to bear in her writing. See her original post, with additional photos, at the Woodland Indian Art Center blog.


All in a Wisconsin Summer Day

July 10, 2011

My best summer days are unplanned, unhurried, and usually contain some sort of unexpected gift–like riding bikes along Lake Monona on a perfect evening, sharing a local brew in the backyard with neighbors, or maybe discovering a new favorite eating spot. But often Madison, where I live, offers up such a bounty of cultural delights that we need to strategize a little.

In Madison, Art Fair on the Square and Art Fair off the Square take place annually in July.

Yesterday was such a day, with three of our favorite summer events occurring in one weekend: the Saturday Dane County Farmers’ Market, the Art Fairs On and Off the Square, and La Fete de Marquette. (Actually, that’s four events, with the two art fairs running side by side.)

Whenever we can, we get up early Saturday mornings and bike the three miles to Capitol Square, where the Dane County Farmers’ Market  is held. Now approaching its 40th anniversary, the DCFM is the largest producer-only market in the nation, which means every vendor, behind every table piled with flowers or vegetables, breads or cheeses, grew or baked or prepared their wares themselves. This week, we came home with green beans, tomatoes, raspberries and zucchini for our dinner table.

For us, a visit to the market has to include a stop at the Graze pastry cart for a cup of coffee and a bite of delicious, just-baked flakiness. Graze always presents a variety, but as usual I enjoyed the mushroom and spinach bun, while my husband got his Pain au Chocolat fix.  (We tell ourselves the bike ride offsets the buttery indulgence.)

On Art Fair weekend, the farmers’ market gets displaced a block so that participating artists can set up their booths on the four blocks surrounding the Square. We had timed our farmers’ market visit perfectly, which allowed us to take in the booths before afternoon crowds swelled. At Art Fair On the Square, more than 450 artists from around the country display works in all media. This year, jewelry and handbags made of recycled inner tubing caught my eye, as did affordable art-themed t-shirts by Madison’s Wildwood Productions. The fair benefits the Madison Museum of Contemporary Arts (MMoCA), always free and open to the public.

The Madison Area High School Ceramists sell pots, pitchers, cups and bowls at Art Fair Off the Square.

At Art Fair Off the Square, I scored a lovely ceramic plate at the Madison Area High School Ceramists booth. An annual favorite, the booth displays and sells works by, you guessed it, Madison area high school ceramists.  I like knowing that 80 percent of my purchase went to Jenna, the young artist who made my plate, and the remaining 20 percent supports Madison public school art programs. In fact, at Art Fair off the Square, along Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard and on the Monona Terrace Convention Center Esplanade, every booth features the works of Wisconsin artists.

We actually had time to finish a home painting project and run some weekend errands before heading to La Fete de Marquette, also a short bike ride away. A celebration of French music and culture, this annual festival never fails to do Madison’s Marquette neighborhood proud. Top-notch performers from throughout the French-speaking world, along with some of the city’s best eateries, provide four days of French-themed fun. Relatively new to the festival is La Tente de Dance, a dance floor dedicated to Quebecois and Cajun dance. The fest also showcases the vibrant personality of Madison’s East Side, for some of the best people-watching all year. We felt lucky to see Maraca, a Cuban jazz band that had the whole crowd moving. (Sometimes the connection to France isn’t immediately apparent, but who minded? Not me.)

Both art fairs and the Marquette festival continue through today, July 10.

*****

I may be based in Madison, but I also manage PortalWisconsin.org’s online events calendar, so I know communities in all 72 Wisconsin counties hold their own summer markets, fairs and festivals. This weekend alone, you’ll find a polka festival in Ellsworth, a pow-wow in Lac du Flambeau, or for those who like it large, Milwaukee’s grand Summerfest and Rhinelander’s star-studded Hodag Country Music Festival.  Art fests abound everywhere as well. To find them, consult the calendar–or for a print copy of this year’s Wisconsin Arts Board Art and Craft Fair Directory, call  1-800-432-8747 between 8:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

And please, let us know what makes your local fair or festival special. We love hearing from you.

–Tammy Kempfert


Haints in the Closet

June 2, 2011

Evelyn Patricia Terry, "The Very Nice Lady," 26” x 30,” Pastel, 1983.

An enigmatic presence in my life, my mother, Jessie Mae Terry, made her transition on April 9, 2011 at age 96. Longing for the mom prototype—June Cleaver in the TV program Leave it to Beaver—I released her. Over the years I had many questions, which Mom long ago avoided answering. Often, she responded to my inquiries by covering her ears, humming loudly to drown me out, or retreating behind closed doors. Then there was that closet. Though she allowed me to reorganize other storage areas in her home, the bedroom closet was off limits. “Wait until I am dead,” she adamantly said.  At the time I attached little significance to her attitude. Finally, I know “what” Mom needed to stay in the closet during her lifetime.

Evelyn Patricia Terry, "Jessie Mae Terry," reproduced on a plate, from the installation, "I Mind, Eye mind, I Mind," John Michael Kohler Art Center, 1994. Photo by Vernessa Richardson.

Evelyn Patricia Terry, "Jessie Mae Terry," reproduced on a plate, from the installation, "I Mind, Eye mind, I Mind," John Michael Kohler Art Center, 1994. Photo by Vernessa Weatherall.

Born in Clarksdale, Mississippi, her family moved to Charleston, Missouri. There, in her early 20s, she graduated from Lincoln High School, after it was finally built. Hardworking and resolute, she made her way to Milwaukee, married, and started a family. My unanswered questions started when I was about seven. Walking home from school, two “friends,” upset that I was chosen to erase the board, began stepping on my heels and taunting “teacher’s pet.” Although timid, I believed I would be “whipped” if I went running home defeated. Remembering Mom’s advice to “scratch out an attacker’s eyes” to limit their vision, I turned around and began scratching my offender’s eyes out. Surprised, the bully retreated. Later when the terribly injured child and her mother visited our home, my mother denied providing that instruction. My “June Cleaver” dreams vanished, leaving instead “our relationship”–one that I constantly sought to improve.

Evelyn Patricia Terry, "Eric Knight & Rochester Terry," reproduced on a plate, from the installation, "I Mind, Eye mind, I Mind," John Michael Kohler Art Center, 1994. Photo by Vernessa Weatherall.

Then there was the question of “will the real father please stand up?” Believing that Rochester and Jessie Terry could not possibly be my parents, I continually searched for my true identity whenever left home alone. One day, as a teenager named Evelyn Patricia Terry, I discovered my original birth certificate with an “Evelyn McMath” and my mother’s maiden name, “Jessie McMath.” When I confronted her, Mom gave me a photograph of Eric Knight, aka Evelyn Prescott, explaining him as my father from the Island of Barbados. Subsequently, Rochester Terry adopted me before they later divorced. I wondered about Knight, but never pursued it.

Hugs, emotional support, celebrations, and building self-esteem were absent as I was growing up. I wondered why in conversations with her. She responded, “Babies need hugs and kisses.” Instead of affection, my mother provided necessities.

Mom’s work history reflected steady growth–Star Gloves, American Motors, and finally retiring from Milwaukee County. She traveled in America and abroad to Hawaii, Haiti, and Jerusalem. Remarkably, at 80 years old and tiring of repeated hospital trips, she became a vegetarian after asking me how I stayed well. Juicing carrots and celery daily, for her remaining years, she was only sick once following a flu shot.

Finally clearing out that off-limits closet, I was privileged to discover another piece to my life’s puzzle: Mom’s divorce certificate from someone named Casey, over a year after my birth. I had heard her reference that marriage, but not in relationship to me. Before her transition, she recently claimed that the closet had “haints” in it. It appears, for her, it did.

Often, Mom bought artwork from my art exhibitions. That ‘closet’ discovery helps me to comprehend her purchase of my mixed media creation, If You Are Enslaved to A Secret Lie, The Truth Will Set You Free. Thankful that she provided channels of good in my life, I gradually began, after her transition, accepting whatever her situation was and our subsequent relationship. Financially, she was proud that she had my back, by supporting me when my sales waned. What I wanted from her, I learned to create. Discovering articles stressing communication as the key to affecting changed behavior; I eliminated spankings as discipline with my own children. After reading billboards questioning, “Did you hug your child today?” I began comforting by hugging and playing with them more.

Evelyn Patricia Terry, "If You Are Enslaved to a Secret Lie,” (front), 4 ½” x 4 ¼”, Paint, wood burning. Jessie Mae Terry’s art collection. Photo by Vernessa Weatherall.

Evelyn Patricia Terry, "The Truth will set you Free," (back). 4 ½” x 4 ¼”, Paint, wood burning. Jessie Mae Terry’s art collection. Photo by Vernessa Weatherall.

Now, my channels for nurturing expand, flowing to my grandchildren and my friends. I surround myself with nurturing people–many who hug automatically, almost the moment they see me. So. I hug more, have one more answer and keep those wretched “haints” at bay.

Contact: Evelyn Patricia Terry
I will be exhibiting at Lincoln Center of the Arts, 820 East Knapp, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with studio partners Ras `Ammar Nsoroma and Laura Easey-Jones, Friday, June 10, 12 noon–9 pm. The exhibition is organized by Laura Easey-Jones. Visit evelynpatriciaterry.com/news for additional information.

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Matt Lamb – An Art World Visionary

December 6, 2010

Matt Lamb's standing collaborative Installation in the third year of drying. The Peace Wave, Concrete and paint, 10' x 172.' Photo by Lori Pitts.

On my quest for making my world better–along with the worlds of my children, my son’s children, and all others who want a better existence–I often say a quick pick-me-up prayer to the universe: “Give me this or something better.” My intent is to channel my gifts and creativity into meaningful energy flow (often financial) and to create links to others who seem to have mastered this feat. On November 19, I met a self-taught visionary artist who exemplifies that mastery – Matt Lamb.

Sheila Lamb-Gabler and Matt Lamb. Photo by Barbara Budish

Chicago-area based, Lamb’s intent is to achieve world peace through the creation of art. With his daughter, Sheila Lamb-Gabler as President/CEO of Matt Lamb Studios, he has established art museums throughout the world. But until artist and art patron Barbara Budish invited me to Lamb’s Burlington, Wisconsin farm, I had not heard of this amazingly prolific artist or his work.

Another friend, Lori Pitts, drove us to Lamb’s farm. With instructions to wear old clothes, because we might be involved in producing something, I went fully prepared for the 40-degree temperature and working outdoors in concrete. Budish said, “Matt is very cool for an almost 80 year old, and I know you will enjoy this experience.” Layered in two sweaters, rubber gloves, a lined jean jacket, lined jeans, a long coat, my garden galoshes, two hats, I even brought an extra sweater and gloves.

When we arrived about 10 am, a truck was pouring concrete in wooden forms outside one of the barns. Lamb described the experience on his blog: “Well over 100 people worked together with me on 70 different installations. We used 250 gallons of paint, 3,500 pounds of concrete mixed in a huge truck—and we all worked together, creating these installations that will go around the world (to institutions and museums), so that blind and sight-impaired people can interact with art.”

Barbara Budish and Stephen Sweet kneel by the memorial honoring her cat's life. Photo by Evelyn Patricia Terry.

Following instructions on color sequencing, participants poured paint over the green concrete in each form. With his galoshes and a long utensil, Lamb mixed concrete and paint. My galoshes allowed me to join in.

Participants were invited to create permanent memorials in remembrance of anyone they wanted to honor. Budish, who had lost her cat Elizabeth the night before, embedded many objects to memorialize and celebrate their shared love. Others placed personal items–baseballs, a camera, jewelry, paintbrushes, hats, etc.–ceremoniously into their compositions. A handkerchief fell from Lamb’s pocket and became embedded. I finished by embedding my used pink rubber gloves. Drying time for the installations require two years lying down, plus one year standing.

Later, we walked through a large barn that housed a collection of 3,000–5,000 Lamb paintings arranged in shelving units by various sizes. Warm food, desserts, liquids, and apples were consumed in the main house. After refreshments, in another barn, Lamb spoke of his desire to bring people together through art. Using large brushes and acrylic paint for our last event, alternating groups of participants took turns painting whatever they wished on a large canvas-covered wall.

Storage for up to 5,000 paintings. Photo by Lori Pitts.

“Love is the overriding factor in the human species,” Lamb states on his blog. “Art is the perfect metaphor for understanding and loving one another. We all look at the same thing, but we all see something different. We question everything, we debate, we doubt, we argue. That’s fine, as long as we don’t physically beat up anyone or kill one another over these issues. Art teaches us about being different, bringing cultures together, and coming to the conclusion that we will never agree, but we will never commit violence because we disagree.”

He blogs about other things that I often say, such as, “I believe you must leave a record of why you do things… Otherwise, people make up things about you after you’re dead! I believe you should leave some type of a written history behind so that history will be made from fact, not fiction. That means photograph your art, telling your story, having accurate press releases, doing Facebook, doing YouTube, and so on. You can articulate what you’re doing with all of your reality, your foolishness, your sincerity, and your doubts. Lay it all out.”

Frey Hoffman Productions films Terry as she gets in the mix. Photo courtesy of Barbara Budish

Terry, wearing "no longer" pink gloves, and Matt Lamb. Photo by Lori Pitts.

Frey Hoffman Productions, a company that has filmed for Kanye West, is creating a documentary about Lamb. I was interviewed, although I was certainly not dressed to be on camera. Such a memorable experience! It comforts me to know that Lamb is dedicated to producing his authentic brand of “something better.”

–By Evelyn Patricia Terry, www.evelynpatriciaterry.com