Creating a world of diversity and tolerance in New York City

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Snippet of “Diversity Garden” for NYC subway station art proposal

My blog has MOVED!  This is one of the last posts I’ll ever do here.  Don’t lose touch by not signing up to receive posts from my new blog site (which includes all these old posts too).  Sign up HERE!

I was recently selected as one of 14 artists to submit work for one of four New York City subway stations.  I submitted my proposal two weeks ago and I am waiting to hear back soon (fingers crossed everyone, and send good karma this way).  The project is quite large requiring 140 horizontal feet of artwork!  I can’t fit the whole work on this page, but here are a few “snippets”. My design illustrates a world where diverse individuals (the flowers) live together without prejudice or intolerance. In this world, every flower is unique and varied and thrives in harmony with its neighboring blossoms.

Neighborhood Influence:
To get my own feel for Astoria, I walked around the 30th Avenue neighborhood.  This community is a true melting pot of humanity.  Stand on a street corner for five minutes, and you’ll hear a half a dozen languages.  Watch the pedestrians, and see headscarves, yarmulkes, turbans, and Mets caps that only hinted at the mélange of different cultures that live in the area. It seems that everyone here has found their place, and that place supports the tolerance of others.

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Another snippet of “Diversity Garden” for NYC subway station art proposal

Designs and Metaphor:
The fanciful design of my diversity garden represents the Astoria neighborhood. The wild assortment of flowers pose as the diversity of nationalities, religions, and cultural traditions existing in this community. These differences complement each other and it is the vast variety of the botanical species that make the garden so appealing.  Metaphorically, my garden microcosm celebrates a post racial/bias world where differences and similarities are celebrated and supported by all members of a community.  I believe Astoria is growing into such a community.  The ribbons weaving through the flowers suggest the connectivity of the residents in this urban neighborhood and the many ways they touch each other’s lives.

I created the flowers similar in size to the subway commuters.  As people walk by the blossoms, I hope they feel that they too are part of this colorful garden, just one more welcomed flower in the tolerant landscape of Astoria.

Don’t forget to Sign up HERE to be moved over to my new blog address.  Don’t miss out on all future posts!  Thanks.   ~Kathy

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Same blog, just a new location

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Same blog, just a new location

I have moved my blog to be a part of my new website.  You can find it (including all the old blog posts) at http://kathyfergusonart.com/blog/.  There’s an easy sign up there to have blog posts sent directly to your inbox too.  See you there!

CLICK HERE to be redirected to my new blog address.

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Making a mural to celebrate 10 years of joy, fun, & friendships

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For the last ten years, I have been deeply involved with an amazing organization called the Roundup River Ranch, located in the mountains of Colorado.   One of Paul Newman’s SeriousFun Children’s Network camps, Roundup River Ranch enriches the lives of children with serious illnesses and their families by offering free, medically-supported camp programs that provide unforgettable opportunities to discover joy, friendships, and confidence.

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Roundup River Ranch celebrates its 10th anniversary this year and is commemorating the event with a huge mural to be displayed at Children’s Hospital Colorado. The mural is an assembly of tiles painted by those individual that the camp has touched in some way (campers and their families, camp counselors and staff, volunteers, donors, and many more individuals). As a board member, I was given the opportunity to contribute a tile to the mural as well.

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Roundup River Ranch is a place where sky, earth, water, and fire intersect into a special microcosm of Colorado’s natural beauty. I was assigned “Sky” as my element and the task of illustrating “what camp means to me”. What I love about camp is the joy that fills everyone who is involved in its mission. Camp is a place of friendship, acceptance, discovery, and joy. So for me…“Roundup River Ranch fills my heart”. I depicted a happy sun in a blue Colorado sky filled with love.

RRR Tile setup

If you would like to learn more about the Roundup River Ranch and how you can become involved, check out their website here.

 

 

 

I’m walking on water

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I traveled to Italy this week with my husband and some friends to see Christo’s newest work, “Floating Piers” on the beautiful Lake Iseo.  I have always loved Christo’s work and have been fortunate to see his “The Umbrellas” in California in 1993, and “The Gates” in New York City in 2005.

 

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Our group decided we wanted to view this work in every way we could.  We started the tour by helicoptering from the north end of the lake, flying over the steep mountains that border this lake before swooping down to circle around the various piers and island surrounds created by Christo.  After setting down, we walked the short distance to town to join the thousands of other tourists and walk the 5.5 km of golden fabric covered “floating” piers and walkways that are part of the exhibit.

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The walkways are assembled from 220,000 high-density polyethylene cubes that form its 53 foot wide walkways. Its surface is covered with a waterproof bright saffron-colored fabric that contrasts beautifully against the deep blue of the lake. I could see the movement of the water on the lake and feel the rocking of the waves under my feet. One of my favorite moments was just sitting on the edge of the pier and feeling the movement made by the water under me and the walkers around me.

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We finished off the tour with a ride on a stunning 1971 Aqua Riva power boat that carried us around the piers and wrapped islands in high style before speeding down to the south end of the lake to finish off our tour.

It was a special day with special friends and I feel lucky to have had them with me to share it with.   Now I have my fingers crossed to see Christo’s next planned installation in Colorado…”Over the River” hopefully installed in the next few years. Except this time, I’ll experience his art on a white water raft!

Museums in my backyard

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I am a member of an artist group in Long Island City (where my studio is located) that meets monthly to support each other, discuss art and our artwork. Recently, our fearless leader (thank you, Phoebe) organized a field trip to two museums in Long Island City.  We started at the SculptureCenter at 44-19 Purves Street.  “SculptureCenter’s space was built as a trolley repair shop for the subway system in 1907, but never used as such. In the 1940’s, the building was used for the manufacture, assembly, and repair of derricks, hoist, and cranes, which the facade reflects with the original signage from that era”(1).  Most of the sculptures displayed were a little too avant-garde for my taste, but I loved the building space with its exposed original brick and steel construction.

Our second stop was at MoMA PS1, “an exhibition space that devotes its energy and resources to displaying the most experimental art in the world. A catalyst and an advocate for new ideas, discourses, and trends in contemporary art, MoMA PS1 actively pursues emerging artists, new genres, and adventurous new work by recognized artists in an effort to support innovation in contemporary art”.(2)  I found the artwork at MoMA PS1 to be more polished and the conceptions behind them better expressed, but still very experimental.  My favorite work, a brightly colored web by Escobedo Soliz Studio, was strung in the entrance courtyard.  “This woven canopy encourages visitors to slow down, potentially reframing how they interact not only with each other but also with the landscape and sky”. (3)  I relaxed outside with my art group at the museum’s cafe to enjoy this canopy, a cold beer, and some great conversation.

What museums, galleries, parks, and other sites are in your neighborhood that you’ve never explored?

(1) http://www.sculpture-center.org, (2) http://www.momaps1.org, (3) the information plaque in the courtyard.

 

 

A visit to Storm King

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This weekend, I visited Storm King Art Center with my husband and friends. Widely celebrated as one of the world’s leading sculpture parks, Storm King Art is located only an hour north of New York City and provides the setting for a collection of more than 100 carefully sited sculptures created by some of the most acclaimed artists of our time. I’ve included photos of some of my favorite sculptures with partial descriptions lifted from the Storm King website.

Siah Armajani

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My husband posing as an anarchists

 

“Gazebo for Two Anarchists” is one of several works Siah Armajani has dedicated to twentieth-century anarchists—in this case, brother and sister Alberto and Gabriella Antolini, the latter of whom was imprisoned for transportation of explosives in the Youngstown Affair in 1918. The open lattice, or truss-work, suggests incarceration. The two gazebos at each end of the structure appear to symbolize the brother and sister, who are separated but nonetheless connected by the bridge. Each gazebo encloses a large chair with armrests that recall thrones or electric chairs. They are facing one another, suggesting an act of communication.

Chakaia Booker

IMG_5034Chakaia Booker works almost exclusively with recycled tires—slicing, twisting, stripping, weaving, and riveting rubber and radials to create and exaggerate the textures, prickled edges, and torqued forms of her radical refashioning. Booker transforms tires—iconic symbols of urban waste and blight—into extraordinary compositions of renewal. Discarded and now re-used, the tires are metaphors for the modern cycle of industrial manufacture and waste in an era of global expansion. “A Moment in Time” alludes not only to environmental degradation and decay but also to the possibility of transformation and redemption through the artist’s own brand of environmental spiritualism.

George Cutts

19893581763_10f2474314_oGeorge Cutts’s “Sea Change” is composed of two identical, slender, curving, stainless steel poles that turn slowly in opposite directions. The poles are anchored to motorized disks that are sunk below ground and encased in a concrete box. The slow, synchronized rotations of the poles produce fluid, undulating movement as the poles seem to sway and flex, blending the mechanical with the natural. An experienced deep sea diver, Cutts has noted that he intends this lyrical, kinetic sculpture to evoke the motion of seaweed as it moves with the flow of ocean waves and currents

Zhang Huan

IMG_5031Zhang Huan’s work engages with Buddhist philosophy and rituals and with the artist’s notion that the contemporary condition is continually revitalized through an engagement with the past. Three Legged Buddha—a copper and steel sculpture standing twenty-eight feet high and weighing more than twelve tons—represents the bottom half of a sprawling, three-legged figure, one of whose feet rests on an eight-foot-high human head (a self portrait of the artist) that appears to be either emerging from or sinking into the earth.

Menashe Kadishman

The two simple forms of Menashe Kadishman’s “Suspended” engage in a gravity-defying balance that belies expectation. Seen from a distance, atop one of two adjacent hilltops, the sculpture’s balancing act is surprising. Viewed up close, the massive scale of the steel work becomes apparent and its structural viability even more difficult to comprehend. With no visible evidence of the engineering holding the sculpture up, the mass seemed to float freely in space.

In a second sculpture by Kadishman, he focused on nature, particularly on tree and forest themes, and worked on an environmental scale. “Eight Positive Trees” reveals this ongoing fascination, which harkens back to his youth, when, like many other Israeli children, he planted trees throughout the new country.

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“Suspended”. That’s my husband holding up the sculpture; he’s so strong (wink! wink!)

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“Eight Positive Trees”

Grace Knowlton

IMG_5050Grace Knowlton created “Spheres” out of materials including concrete, clay, copper, steel, and iron. All bear subtle and unique imperfections that evidence their hand-crafted origins. The spheres—of widely varied scale—seem to walk a fine line between natural object and work of art when placed in Storm King’s environment. She initially set out to make ceramic pots, until, as she has said, “I got so interested in closing the pots, in making a secret space closed off forever, that it caught me and I never went back.”

Maya Lin

IMG_5019Viewed from above, the undulating swells of earth forming Storm King “Wavefield” appear to naturally rise from and roll along the grassy terrain. The seven nearly four-hundred-foot-long waves, ranging in height from ten to fifteen feet high, proceed at the same scale as a series of mid-ocean waves. The resulting effect recalls the experience of being at sea, where sight of adjacent waves and land is lost between the swells.

Alyson Shotz

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We used bike to get around the 500 acre property. You can see us reflected in the fence!

The individual pickets of Alyson Shotz’s “Mirror Fence” share their shape and height with picket fences enclosing front and back yards all across the United States, but Shotz’s fence is reflective and extends in a straight line, enclosing nothing.

The artist is interested in making objects that change infinitely, depending on their surroundings. The light at different times of day, the weather … what the viewers are wearing, all these are just some of the variables that will make the piece different every time one comes in contact with it.

Kenneth Snelson

IMG_5053When conceiving of “Free Ride Home”, Kenneth Snelson first created a small maquette of metal tubes and knotted strings, envisioning what it would be like to walk under and through its silvery linear forms. One of the arches began to take on a descending fast plunge and it reminded her of the shape of a bucking horse. So, Free Ride Home, the name of a race horse, became the name of the sculpture. Inspired by anatomy, cables function like muscles and the aluminum tubes like bones.

David Stoltz

IMG_5038“Day Game” slithers, loops, and rises from the ground, its form suggesting an animated quality, as if the steel were electrified by a charge of dynamic energy. Its calligraphic qualities reflect Stoltz’s training as a graphic artist.

You can find out more information and sculptures on the Storm King website.  Which ones are your favorites?

A snack with zero calories

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I love getting stuff in the mail.  I don’t mean bills, promotional magazines, or jury duty summons.  I mean fun stuff!  One of my daughters treats herself to monthly makeup subscriptions (Boxy Charm and Glam Bag) and my son subscribed to a monthly healthy snack club (Graze) last year.  My other daughter subscribes to a weekly food service (Blue Apron) that delivers recipes and pre-portioned ingredients to her doorstep.  I’m not really into makeup, healthy snacks are an oxymoron, and why would I want to cook when I live in NYC and can order takeout?  So what would I like for a monthly gift…why an “Art Snack” of course!

ArtSnacks is a monthly subscription service that delivers new and  uncommon art products, providing artists with an opportunity to try out top-of-the-line art supplies. I purchased the one-year monthly package for $200 and I got my first box today.  Here’s a look at what art supplies I received and my critique of each one.  I received a General’s Layout Pencil ($0.75 retail), a Caran d’Ache Fibralo Brush Marker ($2.25 retail), a Kuretake No. 7 Brush Pen ($7.00 retail), a Spectra AD Marker ($5.15 retail), a Denik Custom Mini Sketchbook ($5.00 retail), and a green Life Saver.

After eating the Life Saver, I decided to test out each item.  The General’s Layout Pencil was great.  This pencil has been around since the 1930’s and is still a favorite of illustrators and cartoonist.  The graphite is soft enough to make beautiful dark-to-light gradations and doesn’t smear. Honestly, this is the best pencils I’ve ever owned.

Next item was the Caran d’Ache Fibralo Brush Marker.  The fiber tip offers the control of a marker and the flexibility of a brush.  I added a little water to the ink and developed a pale watercolor wash.  The specially formulated ink is designed not to bleed through paper though it did slightly bleed through the thin notepad paper I tested it on.  Other than that it’s a pretty ordinary pen with only a single tip.

I got another orange pen, a brand new Spectra AD Marker, an alcohol-based marker that makes permanent marks and carries less odor. It has a chisel tip that makes three different line widths plus a brush tip that creates smooth varied lines. I liked this juicy marker with it’s dual tips and versatility.

My favorite pen of the bunch was the Kuretake No. 7 Brush Pen.  This pen is similar to a foundation pen as it uses ink cartridges. It comes with two cartridges, the first that easily clicks into place while the second cartridge stores inside the pen body.  The dark black ink flows smoothly and evenly onto the paper with excellent control.  I’d love to get this pen in a variety of ink colors. The ink is not waterproof so you can add shading by wetting the drawing.

The last item was a mini sketchbook by Denik.  Denik’s mission statement is, “Art can change the world.”  A portion of the sale from every notebook goes to help build schools in developing countries.  While I admire their philanthropy, the notebook was flimsy and made with very thin paper.  Definitely not worth its $5 retail price.

Overall, a fun present to myself for less than $17.  I can’t wait until next month!

 

 

Get your free monotype

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Today is the last day of the LIC Arts Open and LIC Open Studios.  At my studio today (12-6 pm), I will be giving away monotype notecards.  I will also be demonstrating how I make these monotypes and the many layers it takes to create one.  Please stop by to get your FREE notecard.  Here’s a glimpse of some cards I made yesterday during the open studio tour.  Reis Studios, 43-01 22nd Street, Studio 225, Long Island City.

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Here’s a look at my printing demo set up (while it’s still clean!)  Come by and try your hand at printing too!

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Fun ideas for the weekend

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Fun ideas for the weekend

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Looking for something to do this weekend?  Head on out to Long Island City for the LIC Arts Open 6 and an opportunity to visit hundreds of artists’ studios.  Have you ever looked at a painting in a gallery and wanted to know “how did they do that?”  This is your chance.

Begin at Reis Studios (43-01 22nd St., LIC) with 200 artist studios to start your tour. See the inner workings of my art studio #225 where I’ll be demonstrating how I use a Gelli Plate to print the collage papers I use in my work and making FREE greeting cards for those who drop by.  Come by to get yours.  Studios open this Sat. & Sun. from 12-6pm.  Directions below.

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