Vignette: KCJ Szwedzinski

“Every time a story is retold it takes on a new life…” - KCJ Szwedzinski

"Hidden Histories I" by KCJ Szwedzinski, mixed media, 51x48x34in, 2017, POR

"Hidden Histories I" by KCJ Szwedzinski, mixed media, 51x48x34in, 2017, POR

Storytelling is the root of history. It's how we transmit the lessons of the past, either in oral or written narrative, and therefore how we learn about ourselves. And, of course, the first “written” stories were visual: pictographs on cave walls that carried the burden of documenting entire communities through cycles.

KCJ Szwedzinski’s work concerns itself with unorthodox realizations of narrative. Much of it uses textual elements functioning more as graphic motifs as explicit linguistic communication. In fact, it is often unreadable; transparent pages layered together to obscure all meaning, as in “hidden Histories II”, or positioned at the ends of an hourglass as in ”A Measure of Time”. And if the cut out, cursive text in “An Absence That Suggests A Significant Presence” is technically legible, our desire to read it is distracted by the play of light and shadow that the artist calls into existence with the folded-page format. Even more startling is how we are forced to ponder the question of why the enigmatic “Hidden Histories I” sculpture mysteriously places four dinner settings on the underside of the table.

"Hidden Histories II" by KCJ Szwedzinski, glass, wood, metal 54x20x8in, 2017, POR

"Hidden Histories II" by KCJ Szwedzinski, glass, wood, metal 54x20x8in, 2017, POR

“Narration, ritual, and object are each mechanisms for the transmission of memory,” Szwedzinski tells us. “As time passes, these stories and carriers of meaning become shadowed with the recollections of others and become imbued with added social, familial, political, and moral values not originally present. Every time a story is retold it takes on a new life, simultaneously preventing that information from being lost to history while slowly transforming into something new altogether. These mechanisms for transmission slowly shape collective memory across time and ultimately have a huge hand in shaping personal identity. My work reflects on the shifting nature of narrative across time and considers the intersection of art, ethics, and atrocity.”

Szwedzinski has work in a show at OPEN Community Art Center, with a closing reception on January 26 from 6-9 pm. She also has have work in an exhibition at the Dairy Barn Arts Center in Athens Ohio, OH + 5 '18: Ohio Border Biennial, which runs through March 17th. She was recently included in The Flow Magazine's Winter 2017 edition of the 13th annual Gallery of Women in Glass.

Szwedzinki exhibited frequently during 2017:

  • Descent: A Collaborative Book Project, University of Louisville, KY
  • Artists in Our Midst, Kaviar Forge Gallery, Louisville, KY (Juried)
  • Glass Show, Gallery 104, La Grange, KY (Juried)
  • Relative Perspective, Gallery K, Louisville, KY (Two person exhibition)
  • Terminus: Portfolio Exchange, SGCI Archives, Zuckerman Museum of Art, Kennesaw, GA (Juried)
  • Student Exhibition, Schneider Galleries, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY (Juried)
  • Apocalypse: A Collaborative Book Project, University of Louisville, KY 
hot shop head shot (1).jpg

Hometown: Jacksonville Florida
Education: MFA candidate. University of Louisville, Louisville, KY (expected May 2019):
BA cum laude, Art History and Printmaking, University of North Florida, Jacksonville, FL, 2009

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"An Absence That Suggests a Significant Presence" by KCJ Szwedzinski, book, 11x7in, 2017. POR

"An Absence That Suggests a Significant Presence" by KCJ Szwedzinski, book, 11x7in, 2017. POR

"An Excerpt From a Year in Treblinka" by KCJ Szwedzinski, 7x5in, 2017, POR

"An Excerpt From a Year in Treblinka" by KCJ Szwedzinski, 7x5in, 2017, POR

"A Measure of Time" by KCJ Szwedzinski, blown and sheet glass, stone granules, 10x6in, 2017, POR

"A Measure of Time" by KCJ Szwedzinski, blown and sheet glass, stone granules, 10x6in, 2017, POR

"That Which Comes Unbidden" by KCJ Szwedzinski, mixed media, dimensions variable, 2017, POR

"That Which Comes Unbidden" by KCJ Szwedzinski, mixed media, dimensions variable, 2017, POR

Written by Keith Waits. Entire contents copyright © 2017 Louisville Visual Art. All rights reserved

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Digital, Illustration

Q&A: Monica Beavers

“Rabbits are a lot smarter and tougher than most people give them credit for.”
– Monica Laake Beavers

"Big, Brown Bunny That Can't (Won't) Hop" by Monica Beavers, 8x10in, mixed media/illustrated book (2016)

"Big, Brown Bunny That Can't (Won't) Hop" by Monica Beavers, 8x10in, mixed media/illustrated book (2016)

Monica Laake Beavers was born and raised in the rolling hills of Northern Kentucky. She has always had a love for art and believes creativity is the spice of life. Monica received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, focusing in Graphic Design & Drawing, from Xavier University, and was at one time the Design Coordinator for Louisville Visual Art. She recently finished writing and illustrating her second children's book, "The Big, Brown Bunny Huh?".

When did you first think you would be an artist?

I’m pretty sure I was in kindergarten. The teacher pretty much wasn’t able to take the pencil away from me. I just kept drawing rabbits on everything – my fascination with rabbits started very young.

Who or what inspires you now?

My main inspirations are:

  • Walt Disney: say what you will about him, but I’ve always been a Disney kid from an early age. I respect his creative genius, ambition and persistence he carried throughout his career. He failed so many times early on in his career, but he kept on going. 
  • Movies, specifically Indiana Jones. I want my art to be able to force people to take a breather from the seriousness and monotony of life and just enjoy a moment, even if it’s fleeting. 
  • Saul Bass inspires me artistically. (Bass 1920 – 1996) was an American graphic designer and Academy Award-winning filmmaker, best known for his design of motion-picture title sequencesfilm posters, and corporate logos). He always focused on the communication of design and art. He was able to take complex opening scenes to films and simplify them to their bare minimum. When creating my books, I’ll try to start with a complex idea and try to simplistically break it down using a rabbit or other animals to typically convey the message in a lighthearted manner.
  • I’m very much fueled by quotes as well, specifically Charles Bukowski and Rudyard Kipling. 

Why rabbits? Tell us about the real-life “Bun.”

The bun, the myth, the legend! I’ve loved rabbits as long as I can remember. 

I chose rabbits because of my own pet rabbit, Grumpy, as well as my love for personification. Grumpy has a unique personality and had a very rough upbringing. I wanted to bring this personality to life. Grumpy may appear crotchety and not very trusting of those who first meet him, but he has a heart of gold! 

Grumpy, aka “Bertie McBean” (his stage name for the books), is a French lop by nature and a bunny jam packed with disdain. Hailing from Cleveland, OH, he was saved from a hoarding situation and relocated to Indyclaw Rescue in Indianapolis, IN. One fateful day, he was adopted by a lady (me!) and meandered to Louisville, KY. His knack for traveling and zest for life blew him upstream to Bellevue, KY where he currently resides. He is a free-range rabbit who loves acoustic music (especially Eddie Vedder), the smell of feet, and apples.

You also are heavily into sharks, and there is at least one shark painting on your website. These two animals wouldn’t seem to be a natural match, yet they dominate your unique sensibility. Why is that?

I think from both sides of the spectrum, they are extremely misunderstood animals and ridiculously interesting. Rabbits are a lot smarter and tougher than most people give them credit for. They have a lot of admirable qualities and unique habits (thumping, chinning, binkying, etc.). On the shark end, I’ve always been fascinated knowing they have been in existence practically since the beginning of time and yet have never had to evolve nearly as much as most animals have. Again, they are extremely misunderstood animals but carry a very weighty reputation. 

Additionally, both animals have such unique characteristics they’re a lot of fun to play around with and personify. 

You can draw and paint old school, but why do the two books you have published rely on computer graphics? 

I think this stems from my college Graphic Design professor Jonathan Gibson. He very much emphasized the importance of keeping a human touch when creating a design piece. He stressed the importance of texture and use of mixed media when designing. Too often people rely on a computer to create textures/effects and as a result, a lot of art can begin to look monotonous and generic and lack personality. 

"Big, Brown Bunny That Can't (Won't) Hop" by Monica Beavers, book marks, mixed media/illustrated book (2016)

"Big, Brown Bunny That Can't (Won't) Hop" by Monica Beavers, book marks, mixed media/illustrated book (2016)

My love of art began with drawing and transitioned into graphic design, but I like to use the two interchangeably. When creating my illustrations, I actually start by sketching them all out on a notepad. I then take photographs of textures that have personal meaning to me. For example, I’m a Red’s fan, so a lot of the grass used is from the Red’s stadium. Additionally, the furs used for Grumpy/Bertie McBean are actual photographs of his fur.

Additionally, depending on the project I first start with the idea and what my main message is. From there I select the medium to work in accordance to the theme of the piece. My current style wouldn’t necessarily be used if the message were different. I felt like this style captured the personality of Bertie McBean and what I was trying to convey. 

If you could do anything else but make art, what would it be?

I would be a marine biologist or zoologist, travel the world and study sharks.

What frightens you the most?

I hate caterpillars - really, …I do. In all seriousness though, my biggest fear is losing the ones I love the most and not following my dreams and looking back years from now and asking “what if…?”

What challenges you more than anything?

The question “what if?”

What is your favorite music to listen to when making art?

I typically mix it up between Eddie Vedder/Pearl Jam, Pokey LaFarge, Jim Croce, or the Eagles. 

I usually listen to pretty chill music when making art. I’ve been listening to the Into the Wild soundtrack a lot lately.

Favorite movie? Besides Jaws, that is?

Ha! I think, “I’m going to need a bigger boat” for that question (wokka wokka). Although it is hard to beat, Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade is my favorite. In my eyes, it’s the perfect storyline and end to a trilogy (the fourth movie didn’t happen). It includes a just the right amount of campiness, wit and quirk that separates it from a standard action/adventure movie.

What are you reading right now?

I’m in between three books, “Ham on Rye” by Charles Bukowski, “A Separate Peace” by John Knowles, and David Sedaris’ “Chipmunk Seeks Squirrel.”

What advice would you give a young artist just out of college?

Don’t get frustrated. Each path and experience will lead you where you want to be as long as you don’t lose sight of where you intend to go. After graduating you leave feeling like you’re on top of the world and reality starts to sink in with work, but remember, you chose art for a reason. You always have options and you chose art because you didn’t want a boring life.

If you were given a $100,000 what would do with it?

Start my own company full time and work on branding The Big, Brown Bunny. Start up my own rabbit rescue and probably travel to Egypt, Greece or South Africa- great shark diving area.

What does art mean to you?

Art means happiness. It’s my escape. It allows me to take a break from the real world and just create. It means taking a closer look at things and not accepting things as they are, it means endless possibilities.

If you could meet any celebrity who would it be and what would you ask them?

Walt Disney – What inspired you? What would you hope people remembered you for? What kept you going on the hard days? 

Harrison Ford – I would have to ask about Indiana Jones.

Hometown: Villa Hills, Kentucky
Age: 28
Education: BFA, Xavier University

"Big Brown Huh?" by Monica Beavers, 8x10in, mixed media/illustrated book (2015)

"Big Brown Huh?" by Monica Beavers, 8x10in, mixed media/illustrated book (2015)


Entire contents copyright © 2016 Louisville Visual Art. All rights reserved.

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Q&A: Sid Webb

“Art is a creation that aptly describes its time and place.”
— Sid Webb

"Untitled #1" by Sid Webb, 6x18in, ash and honeysuckle (2016), $350 |  BUY NOW

"Untitled #1" by Sid Webb, 6x18in, ash and honeysuckle (2016), $350 | BUY NOW

Sid Webb is a Lexington native who studied journalism at the University of Kentucky and attended the Atlanta School of Art. He came back to Kentucky to be the first art director at the Kentucky Educational Television network (KET), where he was an early advocate of using the digital canvas to create art and to make gicleé prints. He created a 13-part show for public television called Sid Webb’s Digital Studio, in which he demonstrated several ways to create art and paintings on a computer. After many years at KET, Webb turned to travel and editorial photography.

When did you first think you would be an artist?

I was convinced at a very early age that I would be an artist…maybe 10 or 12 years old.  I had done some freelance work for the new IBM plant in high school and local TV stations plus some other work in high school. Sometimes clinging adamantly to such an idea can lead one astray, as it did me. I joined the Air Force after my freshman year in college. At that time the military was very sensitive to the criticism that they were assigning recruits to the wrong jobs and they had developed an elaborate test to discover one’s potential military vocation. I insisted that I wanted to be a graphic artist and passed the test with a near 100 percent score. No portfolio was required. Just several hours of reading questions and guessing at answers to questions like “Which Speedball pin tip would you use to letter a diploma?” Even though I had passed the test, there were few graphic artists needed in the Air Force. No openings were available. There were plenty of openings for cooks and cops, however, and those occupations were in the same category as graphic artists for some reason. I opted for cop.

"Urn" by Sid Webb, about 11in tall, cherry wood (2016), $1200 |  BUY NOW

"Urn" by Sid Webb, about 11in tall, cherry wood (2016), $1200 | BUY NOW

If you could do anything else but make art, what would it be?

Fortunately, during my career I found several creativity roles that were very fulfilling. After college and art school, I came back to Kentucky to work for KET just as it was going on the air. During those early years I did set designs and construction, make-up, newsletters, ads, photography…you name it. Later, I became director of production, and then created and headed a department that sold and distributed KET programs to stations in other states. Surprisingly, that time was perhaps the most fun and productive. We were distributing GED and adult literacy programs and I tried to break new ground in reaching those who could benefit from KET’s creations. I had workbooks translated to Spanish and programs subtitled. I looked for ways to make the content work on computers and audiotapes. I looked for ways to help adult education centers.  Perhaps most importantly, I explored ways to get the message of “help” to those who needed it. In the process I met some very talented and wonderful people and felt gratified. 

You were an early practitioner of digital art and the use of computers for reproductions. What do see as the future of digital art?

I had one of those "ah-ha" moments sometime ago. I was thinking about the artwork and photography I have done over the last few years.

Early on, I became enamored with the possibilities for digital printmaking and the computer as an art-making tool. I also knew that inkjet prints would face stiff opposition from galleries and buyers. I thought the process needed to be elevated and legitimized, so I invented a new term for it: "digitography".

I pat myself on the back for seeing the need, and kick myself for not being outrageously inventive.

For my intended purpose, any word that too easily revealed its derivation like digitography did was destined for the scrape heap, where it soon found itself. The word that emerged and quickly claimed proper respect among the art community was "gicleé". It was a flash of brilliance.

"Untitled #2" by Sid Webb, about 11in tall, spalted maple and catalpa (2016), $800 |  BUY NOW

"Untitled #2" by Sid Webb, about 11in tall, spalted maple and catalpa (2016), $800 | BUY NOW

It didn't matter that the true definition could be easily discovered, which is "to spit," or "to sputter". What mattered was that it had a nice ring to it.  The beauty of the choice was that it is a French word, always nice sounding; and it helped that France was the birthplace of modern, avant-garde art. Also, it helped that the definition of gicleé, even when discovered, did not immediately reveal its connection to the mechanical and digital aspects of computers.

That leads me to the "ah-ha" about what I have been doing.

I have been doggedly creating "paintings" on the computer that looked as though they were created with traditional media. Again, I wanted to legitimize the computer as an art tool, and I have been trying to do it by demonstrating that my approach worked as well as other tools by inviting comparisons.

The epiphany was the realization that every new medium first gained legitimacy in this way. For instance, early films and radio productions "translated" books and theater before it found firm artistic footing of its own.

Even though I am someone who adopted the computer early on as an art tool, others have moved beyond "translations".  I decided I would, too.

What advice would you give a young artist just out of college?

The challenge is how to pay off the student loan, pay the rent, and have enough money left over to create art the way you want to do it. Facing this reality is often shocking and overwhelming . . . and defeating. I have a lawyer friend who told me that in law school he learned the law but left school with no idea how to practice it or run a business. That’s so very true of young artists just finishing their degrees. How to sell art is the very first thing a graduate needs to learn. I suggest an internship with a successful artist or photographer. Working in a craft shop or gallery is also a great option. 

Tell us about an important moment of transition for you as an artist?

Retiring from my day job freed me to explore the world around me . . . libraries, museums, friends, travel. I was usually free to spend as much as I wished on my art projects. I had no deadlines, self imposed or otherwise as a rule.

"Untitled #3" by Sid Webb, about 16in tall, wood (2016), $180 |  BUY NOW

"Untitled #3" by Sid Webb, about 16in tall, wood (2016), $180 | BUY NOW

What's your favorite place to visit?

Tough question. I love France because I have an insatiable appetite for great food, and it is hard to find mediocre or bad food in France. France, like so many other places I have visited, is candy to the eye and fresh air to the inner spirit. I am able to see and feel that which has become too familiar to local people. I do love my home but there lives within me a need to see beyond the next horizon.

What's the most challenging part when starting on a piece of work of art?

How to create the next piece and push beyond my “style”. My style is like my shadow. It is glued to me and I have little control over it. I can walk around a room with a single light source in the center of it and my shadow will mutate, but I still own it. I can’t shake it. But I try.

How long do you usually spend on a specific piece of art?

It depends. I may spend less than an hour to several days. Sometimes the pieces that take less than an hour to create have taken shape in my head over days.

Does art have a purpose? If so what is it?

It defines us, our place in time. Our culture. Our beliefs. None of this is too obvious until we travel and become aware of what surrounds us.

A few decades ago, André Malraux wrote a little book titled “Museum Without Walls” and I used it to make a compelling case that art is dead. Malraux thesis was that the industrial age had made it possible to exactly duplicate fine works of art so that people no longer had to flock to the museums of the world to see and appreciate them. 

In his view we needed to disconnect the ideas of “original,” and “art”. In other words the fact that a piece is an original or part of a limited edition may make it costly, but its cost doesn’t make it art. 

This of course leads back to the question of “what is art?” To be candid, the answer is a moving target with philosophical overtones. The layman’s answer often is “I don’t know what art is, but I know what I like.” That usually puts an end to the discussion as the remark is often intended to do. But there is a measure of truth in it. 

"Untitled #4" by Sid Webb, about 16in tall, wood (2016), $180 |  BUY NOW

"Untitled #4" by Sid Webb, about 16in tall, wood (2016), $180 | BUY NOW

The German word “gestault” describes that measure of truth. But the best way to think about it may be by using music as an analogy. Most people know when a singer or an instrumentalist hits a sour note or is off key. The ability to detect harmonic sounds is built into our physical make up, at least in most of us. We are painfully aware of singers who are off key or hit a bad note and we know when the rhythm is not quite right. But being aware of the correctness of those essentials of music doesn’t determine the kind of music we enjoy or make us good critics. 

In a general way, what most of us think of as good music has to do with lots of other things. If we play an instrument or sing in a group we are certain to pay closer attention to music than others who don’t. The music we grew up listening to affects our appreciation of it and how we feel about music outside of that genre, too. 

As with music there are physical attributes we humans have that determine our feelings about art. Perhaps surprisingly, one is in our inner ears that keep us balanced and on our feet. Gravity and that liquid in our inner ears keeps us keenly attuned to weight and what’s up and what's down. 

The physical mechanics of the way most of us see color is another factor. Some people are color blind or “tone deaf” to color, but most of us know when colors clash. It takes only a little experimentation to sharpen ones sensitivity to the harmonies of color, but as with music, our taste in color has much to do with our cultural background and where we live. 

So in both music and art we humans share common tools for creating and appreciating them. From there, defining what is good or bad, great or worthless becomes a stroll in the wilderness of philosophical thought that leads to questions like these: 

"Untitled #5" by Sid Webb, about 16in tall, spalted maple and walnut dowels (2016), $325 |  BUY NOW

"Untitled #5" by Sid Webb, about 16in tall, spalted maple and walnut dowels (2016), $325 | BUY NOW

— Is craftsmanship important or necessary? 
— Can utilitarian objects like knifes and forks, pottery, etc., be considered art? 
— What’s the difference between arts and crafts? 
— Is folk art really art? 
— Is performance art, art? 
— Should commercial art be considered as worthy? 
— Does museum ownership make it art? 
— Must an artist know art history to create “real” art? 
— Should photography be considered art? 
— If a sculptor creates a model that someone else casts into bronze, should the piece be considered art? 
— What if the sculptor intends that only one piece be cast but two are actually made. Is the second piece art? 
— Must a work have lasting value to be considered art? 
— Are movies to be considered as art?

Twenty-four images a second pass the shutter of a movie projector. Should we select only a few of the frames to consider as art or are each of the frames to be considered art? 

I could go on, but you get the idea. 

Music is also exposed to these same sorts of questions when trying to separate “great” music from the commonplace, but the answers are usually less vague and troubling. We all know what music is; because, it seems, we trust our ears more than our eyes, and because the word “music” never took on a double meaning as the word “art” has. It makes the discussion about great music easier. Music is also less complicated in other ways. Utilitarian items crafted by a master can be considered art, but elevator music remains merely utilitarian. 

Various details of Webb's work.

Various details of Webb's work.

Art critics will say that you cannot know what “art” is until you have immersed yourself in it. On the other hand I suspect many artists would tell you the process is more important to them than the product. 

In Kurt Vonnegut’s book, “Man without a Country,” Vonnegut, in his usual direct and pithy style, cuts to the chase on the subject. An artist friend told him the way to recognize great art is to look closely at a million pictures. Then he would know what art is. He told his daughter this and she agreed. She told him that after working as an artist for years she could roller skate through the Louvre going “yes, no, yes, no, no, yes,” confidently assessing the value of the works as art. 

I have my own definition of what “art” is that’s fairly encompassing but leaves a few corners uncovered. I choose to think of it as a creation that aptly describes its time and place and sometimes foreshadows its successor. 

I fill in the blanks from the gut.

Name: Sid Webb
Hometown: Lexington, KY
Age: 74
Education: Majored in journalism and political science, University of Kentucky; Atlanta School of Art (High Museum)

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