Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Krista Bjorn, Book Author & Photographer, Tells Her Story

Navigating financial deserts is part and parcel of the artist life.

Sometimes our work sells beautifully and provides us with everything we need to pay for power, internet, and dinner out with dear friends. Other times we need to supplement with regular work to allow us to keep doing what makes our hearts sing. And now and then, life throws a curve ball where we don’t have enough money, work has dried up, and each day becomes a struggle to keep trying and cling to hope.

I went through that struggling stage this year.

I had finally built a great work/art balance and was so happy and excited about the future. Then a boss reneged on a contract, my new boss announced that my job would include sexual favors (I reported him), and the next boss disappeared, literally, the day I was to receive my first pay check (I reported him too).

Reporting those scoundrels felt good morally, but it was devastating financially. To go without a sufficient paycheck for one month is manageable, but for five? It was gutting. And stressful and scary and sad.

I knew I had a choice to make. I had no power over getting a new job or suddenly having enough money for all the bills piling up, but I had a choice in my attitude and in how I used that time.

So, I had a good cry, fumed about how unfair it all was, then took a deep breath, and a few more, and chose to make the most of it.

I planted gardens so we would always have something to eat, I cut back in every possible way to lower our monthly bills, I collected wheelbarrows full of weeds and grasses from the fields and gardens to keep our animals fed, and I applied for every job I could find. Then, I created.

I wood-burned spoons, cutting boards, and spatulas.

I harvested, dried, and blended herbal teas.

And I wrote and published two books: “herb & spice: a little book of medieval remedies” and “Desert Fire: medieval nomad food”.

I drew on my experiences as a medieval reenactor, and the years of research and experimentation I’ve done to make medieval medicines and medieval tribal food for demonstrations I give at festivals and schools throughout the year.

I spent weeks in my tiny kitchen slow-roasting lamb until it was fork-tender and moist with flavorful drippings, and pounding together dates, clarified butter, honey, and spices into beautiful spreads that never go off in the desert heat.

I simmered elderberries with spices and raw honey into a nourishing cordial that fortifies the immune system and helps stave off colds and flus, and mixed up innumerable herbal concoctions to soothe sore throats, calm upset stomachs, and ease headaches.

I taste-tested and arranged photo shoots, edited photos and wrote stories, histories, and recipes, designed the books, and finally, they were done, printed, and in my hands.

They’ve gone to new homes in Australia, Canada, and the United States, inspiring people with the creativity and ingenuity of our ancestors who always knew how to use fruits, vegetables, animals, and herbs to heal their ailments and provide the nourishment they needed to care for their families.

When I see them with my books now I feel so much warmth and love and gratitude, for their creation saw me through months of deprivation and stress, anxiety and grief, wondering if there would ever be light at the end of the tunnel again. They are the product of hope, the belief that if we keep doing the work, things will work out in the end.

Thankfully I have consistent work now, with editors who keep their word, pay on time, and treat me with respect and kindness. I’m slowly catching up financially, and give thanks every time I have enough money to cover a new bill. And I’m so proud that those dreadful months didn’t take me down, that, in the midst of loss and pain, I made something good and beautiful.

This is Week 34 of 52 Artists in 52 Weeks. Thank you for reading and sharing Krista's story today. To connect with Krista and see more of her work, please visit the following links:

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Robin Antar, Stone Sculptor, Tells Her Story

It’s been a long journey. Born in New Jersey, I moved with my family to Brooklyn, New York as a teen and learned to carve stone as a means of survival. The social scene at Lincoln High School was brutal; I was an outsider. Art was my way in -- my emotional lifeline -- my spiritual way out.

In 1981 I earned my Bachelor of Fine Arts at the School of Visual Arts, and also began “paying my dues” in sweat and stone dust. I became an elected member of the Allied Artists of America and the National Association of Women Artists, both in New York City, NY.

Boxing Gloves, Carrara Marble, 7”h X 16”w X 12”d 

Best known today is my work in stone, which I create primarily in my Brooklyn-based studio and gallery. My pieces are also found in seven galleries around the world: POP International Galleries in New York City, NY, where I was the first female ever invited to exhibit; Lumin Art Gallery, Dallas, TX; Gina M. Woodruff Gallery, in Long Beach, CA; Rarity Gallery, Mykonos Greece; ABC Stone, Brooklyn, NY; International Stone, Brooklyn, NY; and Bradbury Art and Antiques, Vail CO.

In my ‘Realism in Stone’ series I focus on realistic replications of icons of American pop culture, creating permanent records of “best loved” items in today’s society that may not exist tomorrow. That series was preceded by years spent in abstract sculpting and painting the limits and freedom of vision I encountered after suddenly discovering I was blind in one eye, and had been since my birth.

Hamburger and Fries, hamburger only 11”h X 13”w X 13”d, base 2”h X 26”w X 22”d

While working in abstracts and during the Realism in Stone series I began a functional art line as well, one that naturally flowed together with the culture of my Jewish heritage.

Somehow what started as an abstract ended as a wine knot, a nesting place for the beverage blessed each Sabbath by Jews around the world.  Chips of alabaster and other stones were transformed into ritual salt cellars, carrying the condiment into which generations of my family has dipped portions of braided bread before distributing it to diners at the Sabbath table.  Larger, more irregular chunks became candy bowls in which to cradle the sweets traditionally gifted between Jews on the holiday of Purim.

But Jewish art was not new to me: five deeply traditional silver Torah scroll covers bear my signature, including one whose model was first carved in stone discovered in the New York City yard of a newly-constructed Roman Catholic cathedral. Each of those commissions is now blessed with the prayers of a Jewish congregation.

Along with those sculptures and throughout my life I have sought infuse whichever media I use – be it charcoal on paper, oil paint on canvas or a diamond blade on stone – with all the forces at play. Any joy, heartache or rage simply becomes more fuel to the fire.

A number of museums have exhibited my work, including The Alternative Museum, New York City, NY; City Museum in S. Louis, MO; Provincetown Art Museum, Provincetown, MA; and others. My work has been included by Sotheby’s in a Channel 13 Auction in New York, NY; shown by Fine Art Management Enterprises in Miami, FL; exhibited at the Waldorf Astoria by Elliot Stevens, New York, NY; and as a featured artist at the ARTV Awards, MGM Grand, Las Vegas, NV, among numerous other exhibitions. I have participated in shows in New York, NY; Dallas, TX; Philadelphia, PA; and online.    

My work has held the interest of the media as well. I have been interviewed by FOX 5 NY, WNBC TV, HGTV, CBS New York, FOX 5 TV Las Vegas, Downtown Magazine, The Huffington Post, Sculpture Pacific Magazine, Wine Access: Canada’s Wine Magazine, to name just a few.

Cowboy Hat, Carved Limestone, 7"h X 14"w X16"d

In an email dated April 18, 2012, my work received the exceptional honor of being praised by Marla Prather, Curator of the Department of Modern and Contemporary Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, who called it “quite remarkable” and noted that it “obviously relates to Andy Warhol.”

Although I have been honored nearly every year since 2004, I especially treasure the Newhouse Foundation Grant, the Gold Medal of Honor from the Allied Artists of America, and the Gretchen Richardson Award for Carved Sculpture from the National Association of Women Artists.

Star of David, Limestone & Oak,12"h X 10"w X 2"d

I have used my art as a healing tool for myself, but nothing can compare to the loss of a child. For that, I healed myself by carving out a 1,500-pound block of stone which now stands in one of the few places that helped him as a child:  Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks NY. To me that was the most personal and important work that I have created to date.  Below is my statement about that piece.

David's Knot in Flames:

David's Knot in Flames, Turkish marble, 40”h X 26’w X 15”d
On the grounds of the Zucker Hillside Hospital, Glen Oaks NY

This sculpture was created as a tribute to my son David Antar, who passed away October 28, 2013. It was carved from a 1,500 pound block of Greek marble at the summer 2014 session of Marble/Marble-26. This in itself is strange, because my David passed away at the age of 26 as well.

The stone, which now weighs 500 pounds, has purple veins running through it – also a strange thing, because when David was young and having a very hard time with life, his ‘secret code’ to me when he needed help was to whisper “purple!” That was also his favorite color when he was seven or eight years old. I had forgotten all of it when I purchased the stone – but it all came back to me as I worked through the carving. 

I carved a knot because David had a very hard life. The knot represents his pain; but the knot breaks open into a flame, which to me represents life – his soul rising to Heaven. This was an extremely hard thing for a mother to do. But for me, a sculptor, it was also a work of healing.
Hotdog, Limestone, Oils & Mixed Media, 12”h 39”w X 16”d

This is Week 33 of 52 Artists in 52 Weeks. Thank you for reading and sharing Robin's story today. To connect with Robin and see more of her work, please visit the following links:

A side note from Robin - :)
My passion is to create virtual records of cultural and personal events that have impacted me greatly. My vision of replicating real-life events in stone allows me to transform emotions into lasting expressions of art for others to appreciate. I achieved my goal when the U.S. government wrote to tell me I cannot copyright a work of art because it too closely resembles the product that I chose to record in stone. The day I received that letter was one of the happiest days of my life.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Sculptor Sarah Thee Campagna of CyberCraft Robots Tells Her Story

Crying with shame I told my sister, “You have no time, no space, and no money, but you’re making art. I have access to all of those and haven’t really created anything in 3 years.” So she set about helping me find my next creative direction. That was in February of 2010. By May I was showing my very first CyberCraft Robots.

Stowaway Aboard the Orbiting Laboratory – Lighted Metal & Glass Assemblage – 16”x16”x4”

My degree is in Computer Information Systems. Math and science have always captivated me and as soon as I was introduced to science fiction at the age of 10, I began a life-long relationship with that as well. In our current culture in which most kids grow-up with or at least around computers, there is not a strong disconnect between the people who "do math/science/computers” and the people who “do art,” but long ago in the distant land of my little high school, these were two groups of students who rarely mixed.

My mother is a fashion designer, my dad creates custom-designed furniture, and my sister has been an artist from day one. Still, while I was reading that first sci-fi book, I decided going to be a physicist.  That goal evolved over the next decade but I knew I was going to do something that involved a lot of math and zero friggin art!

So I went to college and studied computers and logic and math and physics. I got a groovy computer job and traveled and got to live in Vermont. Yet for the 16 years I worked with computers, first quietly and then more and more loudly, my soul was letting me know I needed a creative outlet. 

Nor - Metal & Glass Assemblage – 20”

In college I had almost as many music credits as physics. After graduation I got involved in Community Theater and did some singing. Eventually a crisis led me to an art therapy class. I had never allowed myself to have art supplies (those were for artists) but hey I had PAID for this class so I was going to USE the supplied art materials. Well that paint, clay, and paper kindled a fire in me.  Thus began the countdown to the end of my computer career.

In 1998 I walked away from the security of that work. This set me up for a whopper of an identity crisis and lead to several years of trying to find my artistic voice. Just about the time I was honing-in on something that I enjoyed doing and that allowed me to say what I wanted to say – just as my work was beginning to be noticed by collectors and critics - my dear husband, David, became very ill. I stopped creating art. We moved. He got worse for a very long year – and then he had a lung transplant and recovered nicely over the following year . . . and yet another year went by. He was still doing well and I was still not creating anything. I had lost myself.

In February of 2010, my sister, a creative powerhouse with 4 kids and a workroom the size of a closet, came to Florida for a visit. I confessed that I had tried to restart some of the sorts of work I had done in the past, but nothing sparked – I had no joy or passion of any kind. I had given up without much of a fight . . . big L on my forehead. 

She said, “Let’s look at what you love.” We looked around my house.  Sci-fi books all over the place with art books sprinkled in here and there . . . and 5 of those books were about working with metal. I had never worked with metal. I didn’t even realize I had collected those books. That seemed significant.

Singin & Dancin & Aliens in the Rain - Lighted Metal Assemblage – 24”x24”x13”

We went to one of those bookstores that has a bizzillion different kinds of magazines about almost every subject. She told me to just walk around there and see what drew me in. I saw a publication about making art from repurposed materials. I had begun working with found objects just before my husband got sick. Assemblage sculpture fascinates me and I loved the bit of it I had tried. This booklet showed a thousand different ideas, many of them assemblage, many made from metal, some with a mechanical sort of feel. Puzzle pieces started fitting together. Lights started blipping in my brain.

I decided I wanted to make some robot sculptures from metal and glass found objects. BUT I knew I would need a bunch of stuff (aka materials) that I didn’t have, and a place to keep the stuff, and a space to work. It would be a while before I was ready to try the sculptures, so I decided that while I was gathering “stuff” I would try something else that interested me. 

I love midcentury modern imagery. I decided to select a limited pallet of period appropriate colors and create some small, basically decorative paintings that would work together in groups. My sister had a funky, fun gallery back home and she would give me an outlet for the paintings.

Cryosleeper – Metal & Glass Assemblage – 13”x13”x13”

While I was researching colors and making other decisions about the paintings, I also hit the jackpot of “robot parts.” My first time out I found the estate sale of a gentleman who had worked on Ford automobiles for his entire life, beginning with the Model T. He had parts and bits from all of those years. I was so excited I canceled a hair appointment and made multiple trips to the sale. They just wanted “rid of that old junk in the garage.” I don’t remember what they charged me but it wasn’t much.  Less than that haircut was going to cost!

Wilted - Metal Assemblage – 19”

But I still didn’t have a place to sort and keep all those lovely metal parts, nor the tools (or skills) or space to do the work. So I kept researching the painting idea . . . but my mind kept coming back to robots. I had dreams about robots. I would fade-off in the middle of a sentence thinking about robots. I thought about how I might build them and I imagined their stories and back-stories. My brain was flooded with a whole history and mythology. Robots were making it very difficult for me to think about paintings. 

AND THEN our water heater burst and flooded half of the garage.  That garage had been stuffed to the ceiling with boxes we stuck there when Dave was so sick and had never revisited. We hauled all of those belongings into the driveway. After things had been tossed, reorganized and replaced we had added two strong work benches and a couple of hefty metal shelving units where I could sort and store LOTS of metal and glass goodies.

Not a single tube or drop of paint was ever purchased. I had everything to learn and didn’t even have the right tools, but I was gonna build some Robot Sculptures!

CyberCraft’s Cool Art Booth

This is Week 32 of 52 Artists in 52 Weeks. Thank you for reading and sharing Sarah’s story today. To connect with Sarah and see more of her work, please visit the following links:

Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg