Shades of Grey

from the Cat's Cradle series, by Lee Puffer. Unglazed high fired porcelain, wood, rope.
from the Cat’s Cradle series, by Lee Puffer. Unglazed high fired porcelain, wood, rope.
from the Cat's Cradle series, by Lee Puffer. Unglazed high fired porcelain, wood, rope.
from the Cat’s Cradle series, by Lee Puffer. Unglazed high fired porcelain, wood, rope.
from the Cat's Cradle series, by Lee Puffer. Unglazed high fired porcelain, wood, rope.
from the Cat’s Cradle series, by Lee Puffer. Unglazed high fired porcelain, wood, rope.
from the Cat's Cradle series, by Lee Puffer. Unglazed high fired porcelain, wood, rope.
from the Cat’s Cradle series, by Lee Puffer. Unglazed high fired porcelain, wood, rope.
from the Cat's Cradle series, by Lee Puffer. Unglazed high fired porcelain, wood, rope.
from the Cat’s Cradle series, by Lee Puffer. Unglazed high fired porcelain, wood, rope.
from the Cat's Cradle series, by Lee Puffer. Unglazed high fired porcelain, wood, rope.
from the Cat’s Cradle series, by Lee Puffer. Unglazed high fired porcelain, wood, rope.

There was a time when a colonial hunter would keep fragments of the animals he killed mounted on wooden plaques and displayed in his trophy room. These mounted porcelain double-hand sculptures allude to that practice. There are six sets of severed female hands, bound by rope. Coupled with the series of photographs (one seen here) this body of work is about desire; the base, human desire to own, dominate, and control.

This series, entitled Cat’s Cradle, is rife with contrast. The hands are bound, yet they interact with the rope, complicit in their bondage. The thick, rough black rope juxtaposes the delicate, ghostly white porcelain of the hands. There are elements of femininity and masculinity, beauty and ugliness, attraction and repulsion.

It is not unusual for me to reference popular culture in my work, and the title of this blog post is a nod to that. As we are steeped in popular culture through our constant access to media, there is no denying its impact. I see pop culture references as an entry point into the artwork, adding to its accessibility. Using relevant and sometimes controversial imagery might compel someone to look at the artwork. It is my hope that the quality and resonance of the work compels them to linger and contemplate deeper meanings.

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Agent, Object, Subject

"Funky Couch" 2014 Dawn Nash dawnnashphotography.com
“Funky Couch” 2014 Dawn Nash dawnnashphotography.com

Dawn M. Nash is a professional photographer and an incredible artist. We worked together earlier this year on a series of pictures, some of which you will see here. As a pro, Dawn is always intent on meeting the needs of her clients. This series represents a playful departure from her bread-and-butter work, and a return to her roots as a fine artist.

Mickalene Thomas, Lovely Six Foota, 2007, C-print, 56.31” x 67.38” COURTESY OF THE ARTIST AND LEHMANN MAUPIN GALLERY, NY
Mickalene Thomas, Lovely Six Foota, 2007, C-print, 56.31” x 67.38”
COURTESY OF THE ARTIST AND LEHMANN MAUPIN GALLERY, NY

Upon seeing the first completed images I was struck by how contemporary they are.The first image remains my favorite. As soon as I saw the picture I loved how it references European art historical Venuses and reclining nudes while also feeling relevant to both historical and contemporary photography. The work of Mikalene Thomas came immediately to mind. There are elements of the documentarian and portraitist in Dawn’s work, but she is a storyteller. Dawn’s narrative eye prevails throughout. In his essay Photography out of Conceptual Art, critic Steve Edwards describes how fine art photography in the 1970’s began to “avoid the supposed neutrality of documentary photography, whose central ideology is the invisibility of the photographic apparatus.” Dawn’s deft use of lighting, costumes and sets erases that neutrality.

Never is this truer than in the series of images we shot in my kitchen. Referencing the performative documentary photography of Cindy Sherman, the images straddle the line between re-enforcing and undermining prevailing gendered ideologies. Agent, object or subject? It’s hard to tell. This ambiguity accurately illustrates the human experience, especially for women. I have found myself equivocating between agent, object and subject many times in my life.

Dawn Nash, 2014 dawnnashphotography.com
Dawn Nash, 2014 dawnnashphotography.com
Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still #6, 1977. Gelatin silver print. 9 7/16 x 6 1/2 inches. Courtesy Metro Pictures, New York.
Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still #6, 1977. Gelatin silver print. 9 7/16 x 6 1/2 inches. Courtesy Metro Pictures, New York.

Congratulations! You’re Skinny

 

by Lee Puffer and Kelly Schnorr, 2014
detail of “Goes Down Easy, Comes Up Fast” by Lee Puffer and Kelly Schnorr, 2014
detail of "Goes Down Easy, Comes Up Fast" by Lee Puffer and Kelly Schnorr, 2014
detail of “Goes Down Easy, Comes Up Fast” by Lee Puffer and Kelly Schnorr, 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Girl Talk opens tomorrow evening.  The gallery is a lovely house on Banker’s Hill which is used by its owner Gustaf Anders Rooth as an art gallery and a showroom for his unique furniture made from vintage wine and whiskey barrels.Rooth has a massive workshop behind the building, peek back there when you go. Rachel, Kelly, and I installed our artwork in the context of this house and its furniture.

Now that I have seen the finished installation it occurs to me that this gallery is the perfect setting for these two related bodies of work. originally we set out to collaborate on work that confronted relevant issues in our lives, finding similarities, humor, differences. Food and consuption must certainly be relevant to all of us. All the sculpture in this exhibition is food, interpreted through each artists’ distinct filters and presented in this domestic setting.

For me the work is always about popular culture and how the images and products we consume (literally or figuratively) affect the way we think, behave and feel about ourselves and each other.

Kelly and Rachel work with “…themes of consumption, indulgence, and juxtapose high and low culture with consideration for traditional craft.   Together they combined their medias to offer a perspective of America’s love affair with consuming both food and possessions. The china a family eats off of and the jewelry they pass down, like the food they consume, are representative of their history, cultural values, and economic status. Today’s fast food nation of increasing income inequality, and throwaway culture, may not be able to carry on these traditions of heirlooms.”

I think the sensual qualities of food plays a roll for the artists too, in color, texture in addition to flavor. Is it just me or is there a shameful quality in the detritus from this shared food? Come and see the exhibition and let me know what you think.

Planet Rooth Gallery to exhibit “Girl Talk” June 20 – August 15

Exhibition card featuring works by Lee Puffer, Kelly Schnorr, and Rachel Shimpock.
Exhibition card featuring works by Lee Puffer, Kelly Schnorr, and Rachel Shimpock.Girl Talk 

 

 

 

 

GIRL TALK

Planet Rooth Design Haus 3334 5th Ave, San Diego, CA 92103. (619) 297-9663

(from the gallery text)

Girl Talk is an art show about pop culture, feminism, food, and mass consumption, with humor conveying the themes. The featured artists are Lee Puffer, Kelly Schnorr, and Rachel Shimpock, all three San-Diego artists who graduated from San Diego State University’s Masters of Fine Arts program and who have worked collaboratively on several projects. Their varying artistic methods range from ceramics to metalsmithing. Opening reception June 20th, 7-9pm, which features performance artist Amanda Schoepflin. Show runs June 20-August 15, 2014.

Amanda Schoepflin:
http://cargocollective.com/cathedralx

Kelly Schnorr: http://www.kellyschnorr.com

Lee Puffer: http://www.leepuffer.com

Rachel Shimpock: http://www.rachelkassia.com

Girl Talk

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‘Tampon Box’ from Girl Talk by Kelly Schnorr and Lee Puffer. Ceramic and mixed media, 2013. “slender and regular and living in fear”

Girl Talk (a conversation in objects)

Girl Talk is an in-progress body of work, developed collaboratively, made manifest in objects that are, essentially, a conversation between two artists/friends Kelly Schnorr and Lee Puffer.

Rife with humor and irony, the sculptures address contemporary life from both unique and shared experiences/perspectives of the individual artists.

The sculptures explore the similarities and differences between the two women, the nature of female experience, friendship, and more weighty and contemporary concerns such as…but not limited to:

Nostalgia

Upbringing, family history

Gender roles

Domesticity

Milestones (marriage, children)

Cultural expectations

Popular cultural influences

Definitions of beauty

Sexuality and taboo

Violence

Value

Sense of place

Drawing on personal experiences and offering cultural critique of events that most impact their lives, the artists present a frank, open and funny conversation in sculpture.

We each make a sculpture and trade them. Then we will respond to/embellish/add to the work we received to create a juxtaposition/dialog. The result is a series of two-part pedestal pieces and wall sculptures. The material is predominantly clay, but both Kelly and I use a bit of image transfer, textile, and found objects as well.

Ale Cans

“Somebody told me that Bill de Kooning said that you could give that son-of-a-bitch (Leo Castelli) two beer cans and he could sell them. I thought, what a wonderful idea for a sculpture.”

Jasper Johns
As quoted in “Jasper Johns” by Richard Francis
(via: Abbeville Press)

jasper-johns-beer-cans-bronze-exhibition
Jasper Johns “Painted Bronze”, 1960
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Lee Puffer ” Valentine’s Ale” 2013. From the series “Girl Talk” with Kelly Schnorr
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Lee Puffer “Valentine’s Ale”, detail 2013
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Lee Puffer “Valentine’s Ale” 2013, detail

Why do I continue to make things? It is a habit as much as anything else at this point, but do I enjoy the process. I love interacting with the physical world, manipulating materials, creating. My habit of making things is a compulsion, though. I’m not sure I have a choice. Making art has two important roles in my life, it is both my way of processing information and my way of making life feel meaningful.

By making art I am able to better understand the world around me. I see connections between events, object and ideas. Some of these connections are funny, sad or ironic. I am challenged to find a way to make these ideas into physical objects. In making the non-physical idea into a material object, I am forced to define and make permanent my feelings about the subject/object. Making sculpture is a brave thing to do. You are required to take a stand, present a point of view, and be specific.

An equally important reason for my practice is the making of meaning itself. Through art I hope to make an interesting object and in doing so, I am making my own life feel meaningful. I make evidence of my existence, recording time, places, and feelings, hoping to leave behind some document of my life and the lives of others like me. Read a quote recently by writer Dolen Perkins-Valdez , “it is the job of the artist to fill in the gaps left behind by historians”. I speak for those of us likely to be left out of the history books. Making art gives my life meaning because the manufacture of the art object feels like an important occupation to me.

But maybe I am wrong. Lately I’ve been struggling with hundreds of unsold sculptures in storage, and the futility of making more. My sculptures are labor intensive, the subject matter is challenging. The end result are objects very few people feel comfortable living with. I like my work, I am proud of what I have accomplished. But what of it?

Options for Aging

Options for Aging : Nubile, Fertile, Futile, Senile

Nubile detail
Nubile detail

“Options for Aging…” consists of four conceptual ceramic sculptures utilizing the teapot format to offer analysis and commentary on the issue of women and aging. This work looks critically society’s expectations of women’s roles during four distinct stages of the life cycle. Each of these stages is represented by a single “teapot.” The teapots are titled, with increasing sarcasm, “Nubile,” ”Fertile,” “Futile,” and “Senile.” Each teapot body takes the form of an egg and relies on placement of handles and spouts, as well as surface imagery to communicate the meaning of the work. This series illustrates the manner in which society undervalues women’s contributions, especially as they age, and asks us to rethink our assumptions.

“Nubile,” representing youthful femininity, is surrounded by many spouts and handles signifying the abundance and ridiculousness of youth. “Nubile” is adorned with images of pin-up girls, fish and seashells. The piece is crowned with pearls and an open seashell as a nod to Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus,” the famous painting of the goddess of beauty and love.

“Fertile,” the second sculpture in the series, looks at common notions of fertility. It has no handle whatsoever but five spouts from which crystal droplets flow. A ripe pear tops the vessel. The surface of the piece is covered with idealized pictures of mother and child, as well as fruit and flowers.

The title of the third sculpture in the series is “Futile.” Depicting women’s later adulthood the teapot has no spout, only handles indicating the demands of homemaking, child-raising and wifery. Images domestic items and food abound.

“Senile,” the fourth and final pot in the series represents old age. With absurd upside-down spouts and a surface of grey and sagging flesh, this pot reminds us that we view old women as doddering and useless. A fat cat gazes expectantly from the top of the pot and images of women teaching children, roses, embroidery and pearls present a more dignified view of old age.

Options for Aging: Nubile, Fertile, Futile, Senile” asks us to pay attention to our simplistic and often negative notions about women and aging through a meditation on the teapot form. That the teapots themselves are, in effect, useless decorative objects further underscores the critical message of the work.

Each piece is about 22”h x 13w”x13d” in size.

Hung Out to Dry

Stacked
“Stacked” from Hung Out to Dry:The Hankie Project

As a figurative sculptor working on a human scale, Hung Out to Dry: The Hankie Project began as a series of small collages which were like sketches, a way for me to capture, evaluate and catalog my ideas for possible future large-scale sculpture. The small collage images, or studies, once transferred to hankies, became a way to express the volume and complexity of the messages and experiences women and girls internalize every single day. The hankie is an effective information delivery system for these ideas. Hankies are small and portable, personal and intimately involved with the female body (sweat, tears, snot…). Coupled with the ghostlike and fragmented presence of the fine porcelain hands,  Hung Out to Dry: The Hankie Project,  presents a distinct and contemporary point of view on women’s issues.

Hung Out to Dry: The Hankie Project represents my ongoing interest in feminist issues and cultural critique. The images and corresponding text on the vintage hankies allows me to present my strong oppositional views on tropes, clichés and widely held beliefs about girlhood, women’s roles, and femininity. I attempt to present this point of view with biting humor, sensitivity, and compassion.

See the project in progress here.

Godiva The Disobedient Wife

Godiva: The Disobedient Wife, 2009 (42"h x 16"w x 16"d) Ceramic, synthetic hair
Godiva: The Disobedient Wife, 2009 (42″h x 16″w x 16″d) Ceramic, synthetic hair
Godiva detail
Godiva detail

The inspiration for this piece came from reading the newspaper one morning thinking about the issue of domestic violence.  I read several short articles from around the country; woman killed by husband…man kills girlfriend, then kills himself…suspected pedophile arrested. This particular day there were several of these small snippets in the paper.

No parallels were drawn, no links formed, just a death in Boise, another in Buffalo, an incident in New Orleans, and so on. There was no mention of a connection because of course there was no actual link between the events. It seemed to me to be evidence of an epidemic. After all, this was only one days worth of news.

Of course the newspaper those days also contained reports from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria. Violence and death, in unrelated stories, matter of fact. There was environmental news that day as well, global warming, the destruction of oxygen-producing rainforest, loss of animal habitat. Again unrelated, matter of fact.

This got me thinking.Violence has been a subtext in much of my work for ages. In general my work is straightforward in its message, but there’s a subtext of violence, another layer of meaning.

The idea for the piece Godiva: The Disobedient Wife, came from that one newspaper. How could I address violence in an artwork and draw parallels between domestic violence – particularly violence against women, with the violence we perpetrate against other nations/armies, and on our environment?

Many of us are familiar with the story of Lady Godiva. She rode through the town of Coventry on horseback with nothing covering her naked body but her long hair. As I attempted to research the legend of Godiva I discovered that she was believed to be the wife of an Earl who imposed oppressive taxes on his subjects. After her attempts to convince the Earl to repeal the taxes failed, Godiva made this historic ride in protest of her husband and to show sympathy for the townspeople. Both as an individual and politically, Godiva seemed the perfect image for my subject matter.

While it is disputed that Lady Godiva existed at all, the image is compelling. You may disagree, but for me as an artist, an enticing image is necessary. If it is not going to be a cool-looking object, I am not so interested in making it. The work must look good, cool, slick, funny,and/ or colorful but never to the detriment of or excluding its deeper meaning. If art is to be a means of communication, which it is for me, then someone has to be on the other end, willing to talk. If the object I attempt to engage you with fails to hold your interest visually, then you will not stick around for the conversation about its content.

With this in mind I envisioned a lovely nude figure with long blonde hair, thinking this would be enough to entice a viewer into looking further, perhaps an attraction/repulsion response would follow, hopefully then followed by a deeper readying of the image/sculpture itself.