by Bonnie Shanas - Wire Mesh Sculptures by Bonnie Shanas
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Lessons learned – to shadow sculptures…
Art residency - Lancut Poland, 2012
It's in our hands
Visiting clay
Social Art Gallery Exhibit - meet Ruxana Saifa

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Lessons learned – to shadow sculptures…

For me… preparing for new shows is most commonly a process of combining new inspirations with last “lessons learned” - a reliable formula for the most.
 
Still, every now and then a new direction will come, totally unanticipated.  The catalyst?
To be forced off course…set astray from my zone of habit.  It is then that I am challenged and it is then that “lessons learned” evoke from entirely new discoveries… such as experienced during my art residency this summer in Poland.
 
 
 
The first gallery in the US to ever accept my work gave me one condition “I’ll take it, but you need to frame it”. So I did, and have been ever since. Once my sculpture is complete my framer mounts it onto expensive silk mats and frames it in even more expensive high quality frames.
 
 
 
 
But when in Poland, I had my “cheese moved” (only too often)  and framing was no exception.  No frames, no silk mats and no one to take care of the final details. When my work was complete I was given untreated canvases and the solution on how to display was basically on me.
 
Two long days, three sore fingers and four broken needles later, the work that I had created in the residency was ready to show… and albeit the concerns and anguish that had been shadowing me, I was enjoying the results. What I hadn’t realized before was that without frames there were no visual borders, awarding my figures a sense of unlimited space, an unrestricted ground to explore.
 
 
Shortly after my return  it was time to take lessons learned and incorporate them into new pieces needed for my New York show. I wasn’t sure how this concept would be received in the US, but what better place than NYC to test something "out of the box"? So, I started with a triptych, my own version of “The Three Graces”… mounted onto three separate canvases…
 
No frames = no borders = no restrictions to any time or place.
 
 
 
The next step?  No frames and no canvas. No borders and no walls. True enough as hoped – the piece evolved beyond itself, thus the title “From Beyond”.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
By extending the piece away from the wall, I had not one, but at least three images of the same sculpture… and each (both source and shadows) had to be achieved, through the molding of one single piece.
 
Results? great reviews, some sales and more inspiration.
New lesson learned?
Repeat.  Enhance. Explore.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
How soon? Two weeks - Three person show in  Tivoli NY…
 
 
 

Art residency - Lancut Poland, 2012

Art Residency, Lancut, Poland 2012 Thursday, August 2, 2012 Just a few days into the art residency and I am far from the initial feeling of a tourist visiting such unfamiliar grounds. Only three days ago we arrived just in time to place our suitcases in a large room in the hostel adjacent to the castle. I knew that the accommodations would be modest but hiding our dissatisfaction was challenged by “no” – that is, “no - there is no internet”, “no –there are no laundry facilities”, “no there is no air-condition” , “no private bathrooms”, “no”…  With little need for the facility tour we were rushed to the dinner hall where our first Lancut meal was served. Opening speeches by the local authorities continued throughout the meal as Yaron, myself and the boys eyed one another in apprehension, clapping politely to a symposium of words that we were beginning to believe did not exist. Our starch filled meal was hardly a worthy distraction, but my plate was my only refuge from silent gazes and mute smiles of the other artists. They all looked so… different… poles apart (literally actually), and they were. Flushed with inhibitions and a hint of regret, I couldn’t help wishing someone would tell me this is a mistake and we can leave.    The meal was followed by a reception for one of the artists, so shortly after dinner we were prompted towards the exhibit hall. While further speeches enhanced my concerns, I couldn’t help but be impressed and even somewhat envious on behalf of my fellow artists at home. The reception’s order and arrangement, the high attendance including local authorities, the attire, and above all the attention and admiration paid to the artist communicated such a high level of respect and appreciation of the arts which needed no language. Every acknowledgement was accompanied with flowers and gifts and finally the artist stood in agonizing heat and spoke in such an elegant tone that even I was captivated. I felt as if I had traveled to not only to different lands but new grounds altogether.   The ice began to break after the reception. Other artists made attempts to open conversations, and if that failed, we were poured another glass of wine, champagne and spreads of herring. Relationships began yet that very evening, and were continued back at the hostel where we gathered for more ice breaking alcohol and information. People gathered around with us, smiling, yes authentically, speaking slowly, fishing for words and inventing new ones as we went along. Janek, the organizer, brought his daughter a translator student from Krakow, and she along with the others made offerings to assist and explain and make us feel as welcome as possible. And they did. The next day following breakfast, we took a walk around the neighboring castle grounds. So perfect and beautiful, I returned to my room, perfectly ready to cut my wire mesh to size. And so I did. The still heat of the room was relieved just by opening the door, which brought not only  a breeze, but endless visitors of fellow artists and their friends. Each engaging in Polish and mime, exchanging pictures, cards and ideas, it was sinking in – I am part of an art residency. Poland has been more foreign to me than any other country I have visited to date. The bigger cities offer only a handful of English speakers and signs, the villages and small towns like Lancut, much less. But this language that smothers it’s c’s, z’s and s’s into what had appeared to be a single eternal word is now seeping into my memory and recalling a childhood knowledge I assumed lost. Sitting at the table I no longer need to pretend to enjoy my starch filled plates, but rather speak a little and understand much more. Even though I still do not always feel part, I always feel welcome. Comprised of an eccentric mix, 24 artists bridge at this residency to learn and share. A tapestry of established and emerging artists from various walks of life, blending best when sharing a love for art, cheese, huge pickles (Ogurke) and wine.   

It's in our hands

 
 
Body language is by far the most ancient and widely “spoken” language of all times, with hand gestures at it's very core. 
 
While some are more animated then others, emotional situations will evoke instinctive hand movement in all of us. With this is mind, it should be no surprise that these gestures occur involuntarily during telephone conversations, when speaking in the dark, and, who would assume - even when the speaker is blind.
                                                                                                                                                                                    
 
    Rodin's Hands - Paris
                                                                                                                                                                 
Some studies will propose that hands convey not only what we intend to say, but moreover what we choose to hide. In example, some believe that open palm gestures indicate candor whereas  concealed hands are attributed to secrets and/or guilt.  
 
 
 
 
 
While facial expressions convict our feelings, the intensity of emotions can be further extended through our hands.  I am always fascinated with figurative artists who delineate emotions through a subject's hands.
 
(right  pic- "The Awakening" - sculpture at Hains park, Washington DC).
 
 
 
Shortly after the new year commenced (2011), I created my first wiremesh “snapshot” of hands, a simple yet celebrative gesture , a toast.
 
While deprived in size (as I am used to somewhat of a larger scale), I was rewarded by the challenge of fine detail.
                               
                                              
 
Motivated by the concept "less is more", I next moved on to a more emotional study of hands and their place in  relationships. Welcomed by endless expressions and icons, I chose to focus on unity and bonds where so much can be said without uttering a single word - we can embrace, connect and commit, and it's all... In our hands. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
       "All it takes"                                    "What it takes"                                "If we reach"
 
 
 

Visiting clay

 
While the deviant medium of wire mesh has become the source from which all my sculptures stem, behind the busy scenes and screens of the mesh, I often indulge in the soft and smooth hobby of clay. Needless to say - the two mediums could not be further apart.
 
To begin with, when sculpting in wire mesh, by my rule of thumb, all details need be pre determined and thought through. Abiding to the principle of consumption - detailed areas require more material, thus the amount of mesh allocated for each segment must be carefully planned.  
 
Once at work, unlike clay, no substance can be added, removed or reworked. Although both mediums are malleable in their own right, don’t let the mesh fool you – it has a memory, thus it will never resume form after embedding a crease or line. The price of a mistake is usually discarding the old and starting anew.
 
However, while clay may be more forgiving in it’s raw state… the consequences of its many variables - low fire, high fire, shrinkage,  kiln placement, uncontrollable glazes… all these and more have the power to materialize both the best and worst of our anticipations. To be able to predict your final piece is near impossible and I am in awe of the masters that do so.
 
One of these fine artists is Renee Chase, who bravely puts her combined talent and professional experience to the mercy of clay. Albiet the odds, somehow Renee seems to effortlessly whisk through this trail of obstacles commanding the most mesmerizing sculptures of predesigned dresses and gowns.
 
While her online gallery speaks for itself, http://cloth2clay.com/ there is nothing like seeing her piece before you.
 
For any NJ shore travelers, make sure to visit her group exhibit this weekend n Brigantine, NJ.
 
In my last clay endeavor I joined Renee and my fellow clay mates in a raku firing, which despite the heat, dirt and tedious tasks, proved to be an amazing experience (so much so that I look forward to it again!).
Below are some pics from our Raku firing day...
 
 
some of the pieces waiting to be fired 
 
(L) Some of our pieces waiting to be fired...
 
(R) pieces being loaded into kiln
 
 
 
 
 
Below -
(L) Preparing to fire;  (center) The heat is on;  (R) Digging holes to place for the fired pieces...
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
(L)uncovering fired pieces, the orange glow is non other than the heat contained within!
 
Below:
(L) placed in the hole for fast reduction;
(Center) dipping burning hot pieces in cold water;
(R) My fired torso, cooling down...
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
To follow my small piece through it’s phases from wet clay to a sizzling body of fire, was a  process of time, patience and mostly, as for many of us, sheer luck.
 
Still, there is something therapeutic and addictive in this mass field of exploration which, for some, will always bring us back for more!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Social Art Gallery Exhibit - meet Ruxana Saifa

 
There is no point in denying that as artists, participating in exhibits is an ambition highly regarded on our list of aspirations. For the most of us - we strive to share and offer our work to others, and yes, of course, we do hope to see profits from our efforts. But points of sales and exposure cannot be the drive alone. Art and the need to create do not transpire from commercial based perspectives… and it is not the exhibits, but the people we meet through them – that create some of the most interesting and rewarding chapters in our artistic paths.
 
.  I was recently invited to exhibit in a two person show in the Social Art Gallery, Albany, NY.   
 
Paired with an artist I had yet to meet, I could only be intrigued, as her medium is as unique, if not more, than my own. Inspired by her own journey and principles, Ruxana Saifa, teaches us once again that the means to convey the importance of relationships and humanity are simply endless. By using address mailing labels, which would otherwise turn to waste, Ruxana creates human scenes that portray us and embrace us. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Once you meet Ruxana, you will know why she is capable of such an accomplishment. Humble, kind, talented and genuinely sincere, there is no misreading her authenticity.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Needless to say our opening night was another heartening chapter. Thanks to all the supporting visitors and “re-visitors” (yes, you Wendy!!) as well as the welcoming staff members leading the Social Art Gallery project. Most of all, a huge thanks to Janet Tanguay, who knows how to make anything happen, works hard and although known by the company name of “Art n Soul”, she is to me – “Heart n Soul”.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The secret was in the wine

 
 
Invited to entertain the walls of a wine cellar, I decided to create a few pieces which would answer to the specific theme. There is something about a glass of wine that seems to offer more than just its tasteful content – there is an alluring ambiance and a concealed consensus appreciating all good things matured. 
 
With this in mind, I decided to out-step the boundaries of my usually strict "all-figurative" approach, and incorporate a wine glass into a new piece.Albeit my apprehensions, as the piece took form I was pleased to have succumbed. 
 
Slender, feminine, petite yet fully matured, I chose to name this piece “Petite Syrah” – a wine described by the experts as “full bodied, while baring a very mellow structure”.
 
 
To fully satisfy the theme the next two pieces were created together, back to front images, each offering the viewer an intimate invitation - respectively assuming the titles “A Toast” and “A Night Cap”.
 
Last I’m sharing a picture taken at the opening night, April 1st, at Harmony House, Cohoes, NY,
with the wine series in full.
 
 
 
Here I am surrounded by my family also known as -"amazing support team" /"logistics"/ "art managers" and "advisory board", as well as Janet Tanguay and new local friends. 
Janet (to my son's immediate right), is not only the diligent angel-agent responsible for this and many other shows, but also a huge inspiration for some of my recent pieces.
 
For anyone visiting/living in the area, the exhibit is showing through April 30th.  If visiting on Friday evenings you can also enjoy wine tasting - to inquire check - http://www.harmonyhousemarketplace.com/wine.html.
Next door is also a great bake shop & restaurant, where more of my larger pieces are on display.
 
As for me... on to more pieces for my next show!
 
 
 

New works

While racing to keep up with all my commitments and shows (and if that sounded like a complaint, it was not… keep it coming, it’s wonderful!), I take on yet but another “assignment” - to create a piece to hang in the Entrepreneurship Department within the offices of a Chamber of Commerce.
 
I admit, I always love a good challenge (I rarely deny one), and timing is never an issue but rather a component. But I’m not alone in this…  how many of us are most creative when we have no free time, and most productive when we have hungry deadlines to feed? So, yes, I’m in.
 
My challenge? – keeping true to the figurative work I love, driven by capturing personal moments we can intimately identify with, while creating something which is suitable for an office in a corporate setting.
 
My theme? Well… Entrepreneurship – and thankfully, a subject conveniently saturated with ideologies and instructive quotes to lean into.
 
With an understanding that this piece would be visited by an audience of newborn risk-takers, viewers who have outgrown their security blankets and are seeking to realize  their dreams, this piece needed to deliver a message -  Do it! Take the plunge!  Leap!
 
Sure enough, I’m offered the quote “Leap, and the net will appear”, John Burroughs – which is a guiding phrase and even a motto in this office.
 
Excellent. With a clear concept in hand, and with much thanks to a very open minded and not to mention, a very creative initiator - thank you Janet Tanguay, I had set out to work. 
 
Here are some snapshots from the process and the final result....
 
Our version of  “Leap, an the net will appear” is now complete and being delivered tomorrow! 
 
 
 
 
 
 

surprising myself - dancer series

I particularly enjoy creating dancers, which is why I proposed this as the theme for my work when chosen to participate in an invitational exhibition in Lancaster County Arts Association.
 
With only nine available pieces currently in my studio, I needed to expand. So, haunted by previews and publicity over the new Black Swan film, I found myself compelled to revisit the classic ballet dancer.
 
Why had I neglected this category? Is it only my perception, or have we undeservingly pushed these elegant creatures to the back row while favoring the contemporary and modern dancers over the years?
 
To begin my process I searched for inspiring models – sketches, pictures, material that depicts not just dancers' unique moments, but ones distinctive to ballet … Soon enough, I found myself lost in a treasure of eloquent gestures and undeniable grace, I begin.
 
 
My first piece, Allegro – (although at the time I did not know there would be more), is taken from the Ballet glossary meaning brisk; lively;  a term applied to all bright, fast, or brisk movements.
 
 
With so many ideas, I couldn’t possibly be satisfied with just one pc… so...
 
On to the second,  Avant - moving forward (often used when the dancer is moving towards the audience).  
   
 
And last, for now, Adagio – at ease; (also known as a sequence of well-controlled, graceful movements performed as a display of skill;).
 
 
 
The exhibit at Lancaster County Arts Association opens next weekend  at
149 Precision Ave, Strasburg, PA
Opening reception - March 27th, 1-5 pm.
 
I’ll be showing there with four fellow artists, Denny Bond, Rosanne Colvard, Con Karlson, Bob Madden, (all participants selected from the 2010 annual LCAA exhibit)
 
Hope to see some familiar faces!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

"Together"

Beginning March I will be exhibiting in “Together” – a group show taking place at New Century Gallery, in Chelsea, New York city.
For me, this title takes on multilevel meanings. It’s not just a theme.
We are 15 artists, 3 of which exhibiting works created in wire mesh.
 
Do you mind?” a friend has just recently asked me. I’m not surprised by the question, I’ve been asked before. But, the answer is the same. Do potters mind that they share clay as their prime medium? Do painters mind that they share oil?
True, there is often an advantage in introducing new mediums as the public eye searches for things they haven’t seen before. But can any artist actually claim his way just through the exclusivity of his medium? I would like to think not.
 
Wire mesh is not common, but it’s not my invention either. I can claim rights on my concepts and their execution, but not on my choice of medium. Nor do I want to.
 
A flat sheet of wire mesh is no more than an empty canvas, a lump of clay. It’s what it is for all artists – a medium. What will evolve from it, the varying forms it will assume when deriving from different hands, hearts and minds – that is each artist’s uniqueness.
 
So, do I mind?
No.  I’m happy to share the stage with other wire mesh artists, or should I say, other artists using wire mesh.
 
 

“The American Woman (in art) – who is she?”

The American Woman (in art) – who is she?” – Yesterday I attended a gallery tour at the Philadelphia Museum of Art addressing the role of American Women in art. Evolving from subject to artist, I am reminded how lucky I am to be born into a time where the starting line for emerging artists is no longer gender bias.
 
I take it all for granted as many of us do, but some of the most significant changes in the art world for women took place as recent as the late 1960’s and 1970’s.  Just as I’m born, other mothers are creating a foundation where women not only learn art, but practice and teach, develop and discover. And I thought - it was so obvious.  
 
Little did I know that as I struggle to survive my teen years... women of direction such as the “Guerilla Girls” are in combat, paving paths I did not even know I would aspire to reach. “In 1985 The Museum of Modern Art in New York opened an exhibition titled It was supposed to be an up-to-the minute summary of the most significant contemporary art in the world. Out of 169 artists, only 13 were women.” From this note they emerged and with much thanks to their outrage and fearless creativity, the same signs that carried their protest now compose an exhibit on the same walls they contested, and not at all in vain, as they entertain alongside the works and achievements of many women artists, certainly much more than 13.
 
With no intent to size down any of these achievements by women of joined forces,  this tour took me back to a time where there was no unity. To explore the works and life of someone as daring as Mary Cassatt, I am truly inspired. With no female comradeship or allies she took them all on, rebelling the deprivations she faced, all on her own, for most of her life, for art.
And, she did it. She delivered. Not only did she become one of the most famous female artists of her time, she was recognized, she delivered her perspectives on relationships, on women, like few before.
 
So with a reinforced awareness and new appreciation of this legacy as well as the journey  through which it’s evolved, I’m back home, sleeves rolled back, as inspired as ever to create, create, create.