Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Studio Tour: Painter Karen Stolper

Longport Firehouse

It all started with one little painting that I had to have.  Found at the Arts Council of Princeton, Longport Firehouse packed a gentle wallop in just eight inches square.  The light and shadow were so enigmatic that it got me wondering about its maker.  A few kind emails later and I was in the Princeton, New Jersey home and studio of illustrator and painter Karen Stolper, where she lives with her husband, two young daughters, and dog, Whiskey.  

As the rain pounded away outside, I gratefully accepted a cup of Earl Grey tea, and listened as Stolper revealed herself to be that rare breed of artist: focused, composed, quietly self-assured.  Even rarer: she has always worked for herself and by herself, making a living doing editorial and illustration work.

A few years ago, seeking a change from the editorial work, Parsons-trained Stolper gave herself a year to paint.  She says it was a gift, not having to worry about whether the work was any good, or if it would be bought.  And though she still takes the occasional illustration job, like the children’s book she’s working on at the moment, her current unfinished “story to tell” is her architectural paintings, which showcase the fine detail of her eye and hand: delicate phone wires, a particular green, a shadow from an awning, a gable.

She tells me that she is inspired by her everyday environment: by the way light, shadow, sky and buildings all fit together.  Her methodical nature is as clear in her process as it is in her speech.  She paints one piece at a time, from beginning to end, and though she says when she is done with a painting, she is done; Stolper sounds concerned over the fate of her paintings.  "I want them to have a home, but that being said, it's like sending my children out into the world."

As our visit comes to an end, Stolper sits patiently as I take a reluctant photo of her.  She scratches behind Whiskey's ears, and then generously shares info on a local photo exhibit she thinks I should catch, and says that she'd like to see my studio sometime.  Then she hands me my coat and sends me out into the world.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Sing the Song of Valeria Nascimento

Black Hibiscus
Inspiration, Meditation, Lovely, Gravity-Defying, Stirring, - name any rousing word you want and Valeria Nascimento will bring it to mind with her gorgeous, intricate ceramic work.  Don't believe me?  Just click right here - - it's her link.

Actually, you have my permission to CLOSE my blog and go there with your whole heart.  Yep, that's right, I'm telling you to leave me, so you can fully commit to appreciating her art with your complete attention and a single browser.  (Just make sure you come back later, I'll miss you...)

Born in Brazil and based in London, Valeria Nascimento has a degree in architecture that has served her well in her porcelain work, blending an appreciation for the landscape with purity of form.  Look closely and you'll see that the single piece is as beautiful as the whole shape, just as in nature.  And that the collected is as important as the individual.   It's this unadulterated dedication to a natural aesthetic that makes her pieces sing.

Valeria Nascimento
Gold Flower
Hibiscus (detail)
Her pieces are mostly wall-installed, large-scale installations, and they defy the limits of gravity and fragility.  They also defy the limitations of porcelain itself.  Her work is paper-thin (if paper were on a diet) and Nascimento works mostly in matte black or white, both of which can be unforgiving to the form.  And apparently...she has no problem with unforgiving.

Worth the jump: see a video of Nascimento's recent, large-scale exhibition in London: Botanica here.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Happy to Be Scared: New Territory

New territory.  Setting out without a map is scary.  I'm not talking about Google Maps.  Or a GPS.  (Aside: Remember having that raggedy old copy of an AAA atlas tucked into the seat pocket of your parents' station wagon? I loved that atlas - it was so "Oh the Places You'll Go!)

I'm talking about doing things that you've never tried before.  I picked up speed at the end of 2011, and now I am very excited for the unchartered waters of 2012 - I want it to be frightening.  (In the most heart-singingly way possible, o'course.)

December 2011 found me completing and submitting an original one-act play into competition, learning Quick-freaking-books (bane of my existence,) and telling people no, I cannot help with your _______ (fill in the blank: auction, fundraiser, party, board meeting this time...)  Of course, submitting a play is MUCH easier than telling people no, but I did do them both!

This week I submitted my Lovebirds Placecard Holders to Poppytalk for their "Love Transforms" Wedding Market. (It's a holder for the seating card at the reception, and a bud vase for guests to take home as a favor.  Can be tailored to the couple's wedding colors, too.)  I know a million gorgeous artists/crafters will submit their creations, and that it's a real long-shot I'd be chosen, but I was proud of myself, just the same.  I stuck to my aesthetic and better, to a deadline!  Thought y'all might want to see some steps in the process:

Wet and trimmed...

Bisqued with birds...
Glazed with turquoise...

Loaded in the kiln...
Pretty maids, all in a row...

Friday, January 6, 2012

Making Room For the New...

RIP 2011 Reading List

  • Red Mist by Patricia Cornwell
  • Wonder Struck by Brian Selznick
  • Tinkers by Paul Harding
  • Witches of East End by Melissa de la Cruz
  • A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore
  • The Day I Ate Everything I Wanted by Elizabeth Berg
  • Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton
  • By Nightfall by Michael Cunningham
  • Great House by Nicole Krauss
  • A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
  • Candy Freak by Steve Almond
  • Simple Things by Amy Sedaris
  • Object of Beauty by Steve Martin

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Aaaaaahhhhh.....Fresh Starts!

Fresh starts.  Nothing better!  Put away the holiday clutter and bits and baubles!  Clean out the fridge of the moldy cheese!  Fill those garbage bags and pile up the recycling for tomorrow's collection!

Aaaaaahhhhhh....breathing room.  Take a moment.  Think about all that wide, empty, wondrous space of days ahead in this new year.  B.R.E.A.T.H.E.

Today's the day to take stock.  To carve out a bit of quiet for yourself after all the frenetic holiday comings and going. (Though those were lovely, too.)  Think about choosing a word for yourself for this new year.  Some friends I know have picked grand things like: balance, patience, flourish, focus and some others have picked simpler things like: read.  My word is: receptive - being open-minded, open-soul-ed, open to all the things the world has to show me/teach me/give me.

Today's the day to make a clean space.  Not sure where yet.  A desk, a shelf, a nightstand - maybe just in my head...  I've got a new notebook whose blank, pristine pages are filled with possibility.  Freshly-sharpened pencils, at the ready. 

Happy New Year, butter beans!!