forms

Drawing

Vignette: Michael McCardwell


As The Eyes Close We Lose Sight – from Michael McCardwell’s “The Death Snake.”


"The Death Snake" by Michael McCardwell, 18x24in, ink and colored pencils (2017), $350 |  BUY NOW

"The Death Snake" by Michael McCardwell, 18x24in, ink and colored pencils (2017), $350 | BUY NOW

Michael McCardwell’s drawings are dense in their collective linear construction yet loose enough to clearly communicate the fantastical imagery. The artist plays with our expectations by drafting forms that are highly suggestive of spaceships – science fiction forms from a bygone era in which stalwart heroes with bulbous ray guns occupied the galaxy. His forms conjoin to form larger, interconnected spaces, and at times, a long, snake-like shape. It all seems very playful.

Yet can we be absolutely certain of what McCardwell has on his mind? The use of clearly defined line and shape in virtually every square inch of the field is also a formal academic exercise in composition, and in “The Death Snake,” his statement considers mortality in stages reminiscent of Shakespeare or Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. Either way, there is an almost giddy emotional quality to these pieces, and perhaps the one certainty is that, even in the darker themes, this artist seems to find joy in his work.

"Orange Cross" by Michael McCardwell, 18x24in, ink and colored pencils (2017), $350 |  BUY NOW

"Orange Cross" by Michael McCardwell, 18x24in, ink and colored pencils (2017), $350 | BUY NOW

Besides being a studio art and humanities teacher for 27 years at Henry County High School, McCardwell has taught art at the Kentucky Community and Technical College System campus in Shelbyville, Spalding University in Louisville, at the former Shelbyville branch of Lindsey Wilson College, and taught basic skills such as reading, math and English at the Kentucky State Reformatory in La Grange. He was twice a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow.

McCardwell has work in private collections in the United States, Europe and Japan, and has been accepted into juried shows in California, Ohio, Illinois, Tennessee and Kentucky.

Hometown: Shelbyville, Kentucky
Education: BFA Murray State University, Kentucky, 1971; MA (Drawing), Morehead State University, Kentucky, 1974

"Shadow" by Michael McCardwell, 18x24in, ink and colored pencils (2017), $350 |  BUY NOW

"Shadow" by Michael McCardwell, 18x24in, ink and colored pencils (2017), $350 | BUY NOW

"YHWA" by Michael McCardwell, 18x24in, ink and colored pencils (2017), $350 |  BUY NOW

"YHWA" by Michael McCardwell, 18x24in, ink and colored pencils (2017), $350 | BUY NOW

"Picture" by Michael McCardwell, 18x24in, ink and colored pencils (2017), $350 |  BUY NOW

"Picture" by Michael McCardwell, 18x24in, ink and colored pencils (2017), $350 | BUY NOW

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

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Painting, Drawing

Vignette: Sunny Ra

"Radiate" by Sunny Ra, 32x48in, oil on canvas (2016), $1300 |  BUY NOW

"Radiate" by Sunny Ra, 32x48in, oil on canvas (2016), $1300 | BUY NOW

Artist, Sunny Ra. Photo by Dan Lubbers.

Artist, Sunny Ra. Photo by Dan Lubbers.

In striking abstract compositions, painter Sunny Ra uses the landscape form to investigate questions of identity in both a social and highly personal context.

“The foundation of my work originates from my experience of growing up Korean in Louisville, Kentucky. I did not have any Korean friends and since I spoke little Korean and could not read or write Hangul, I was an outsider in the Korean community. Similarly, I never quite identified myself as American since I was not white, and was living among majority white Americans.  I remember people would ask me where I was from or comment on how well I spoke English. I grew up feeling and eventually believing that I did not belong anywhere - perhaps nowhere. It is from this limbo that my night landscapes emerge and my journey into the obscure and the unknown began.”

"Untitled #3" by Sunny Ra, 9x12in, pastel on paper (2016)

"Untitled #3" by Sunny Ra, 9x12in, pastel on paper (2016)

It is a common, and let’s be honest, lazy assumption to confuse an individual artist’s racial and cultural identity. Ra makes paintings with no overt ties to traditional Korean pictorial forms, and her formative culture was Middle American, so it is fascinating to hear how she connects the luxurious darkness of her imagery with an evolving personal journey. 

“In these night landscapes, I revisit my childhood memories - what has been lost and what remains. Through the application of layers of paint, the images at first recognizable, slowly evolve and merge into the abyss of the dark palette. But through the darkness emerges light and color, a new image surfaces, perhaps this is where I belong.”

Hometown: Louisville, Kentucky
Age: 35
Education: MFA, Hunter College, CUNY, 2011; BFA, University of Pennsylvania, 2005; Painting Certificate, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 2005
Website: http://www.sunny-ra.com

"Harvest" by Sunny Ra, 11x14in, oil on paper (2016), $450 |  BUY NOW

"Harvest" by Sunny Ra, 11x14in, oil on paper (2016), $450 | BUY NOW

"Untitled #2" by Sunny Ra, 9x12in, pastel on paper (2016)

"Untitled #2" by Sunny Ra, 9x12in, pastel on paper (2016)

"Kinetic" by Sunny Ra, 14x11in, oil on paper (2016), $450 |  BUY NOW

"Kinetic" by Sunny Ra, 14x11in, oil on paper (2016), $450 | BUY NOW

"Untitled #1" by Sunny Ra, 9x12in, pastel on paper (2016)

"Untitled #1" by Sunny Ra, 9x12in, pastel on paper (2016)

"Might" by Sunny Ra, 11x14in, oil on paper (2016), $450 |  BUY NOW

"Might" by Sunny Ra, 11x14in, oil on paper (2016), $450 | BUY NOW

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

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Ceramics

Feature: Tom Marsh Legacy


“By practicing a potentially usable art and by insisting on its usability, and the commonness and local peculiarity of his materials, he points it toward the older, finer, healthier sort of artistic success: that such excellent workmanship, such beauty and distinction, might again become ordinary.“ — Wendell Berry on Tom Marsh*


Artists, Ginny & Tom Marsh.

Artists, Ginny & Tom Marsh.

If past is indeed prologue, then perhaps we live in the present only by the leave of our ancestors; formative influences, and most especially our teachers. Tom Marsh was a teaching artist in the Greater Louisville area for more than 25 years, first at Silver Creek High School in his native Indiana during the 1960’s, and then as the founder of the Ceramics program at the University of Louisville’s Hite Institute for Art, where he taught until his death, in 1991.

It is also said, by those who loved and admired him the most, that he was demanding. Surely this is a requisite quality for any worthwhile mentor, and, from all accounts, Marsh set expectations as high for his own work as he did for anyone else, and the program he developed for U of L was unorthodox, moving beyond traditional studio parameters. Certainly experience has taught us that innovation often translates for some as ‘difficult’.

Marsh was raised by missionaries, and studied painting with Mary Spencer Nay at the University of Louisville. A missionary trip took him to Mashiko, Japan, where he ended up staying for several years, studying pottery with Sakuma Totaro (1900-1976), and learning various strands of Buddhism, most notably Rinzai. Once he returned to the U.S. he eventually resettled in Borden, Indiana, living his later years in adherence to ethical and spiritual practices born of his time in Japan, building an aesthetically spare house in the secluded woods that featured multi-functional space - the bed was raised on pulleys to make room for working.

Works by Marsh Pottery,   Install Image from UofL Faculty show (1984) . Photograph courtesy of the Hite Art Institute.

Works by Marsh Pottery, Install Image from UofL Faculty show (1984) . Photograph courtesy of the Hite Art Institute.

This holistic approach was indicative of what University of Louisville colleague and current faculty Jim Grubola calls the, “potter-philosopher” ideal that Marsh strived to embody. He brought it into his teaching, breaking out of the confines of the studio to instruct students in building outdoor kilns as a part of curriculum, a practice that brought many conflicts with both the Louisville Fire Department and University officials.

"  Approaching" by Marsh Pottery,   conjunction in situ (1992). Photograph courtesy of the Hite Art Institute.

"Approaching" by Marsh Pottery, conjunction in situ (1992). Photograph courtesy of the Hite Art Institute.

As for the work, Marsh’s ceramic pottery follows the Japanese aesthetic that finds beauty – “art,” in the strictly functional: large scale vessels for storage (because smaller pieces for daily use were commonly made from lacquer or wood), and tea pots. The full, earthen physicality might seem to contradict the western (mis) perception of delicacy as a defining characteristic of Japanese art; these are full, solid forms of visual and tactile weight. Their functionality never feels in question.

Another U of L associate, retired Print Faculty John Whitesell, describes how Marsh developed his techniques for the “expanded form jar,” in which the walls of the vessel are pushed to their limits and the outer surface begins to “crack”: “He would go beyond what you would imagine was possible… he would just keep working it, and working it.” The resulting complex, “fractured” surface texture became a trademark of Marsh’s work, a careful balance between structural integrity and creative aesthetic. However much the artist valued function, the rustic, earthy beauty of the work was always astonishing.

Whitesell also talks of “the anonymous potter,” which is a term that evolved when Marsh worked alongside his wife, Ginny Marsh. In the images of work shown here, from a 1984 sabbatical exhibit at U of L’s Schneider Galleries, all of the work is identified as simply Marsh Pottery, with no distinction given as to which Marsh created which piece. While there may be some who felt they could detect differences, Grubola, for one, could not be certain, because the nature of the vessels had gone in such an elemental direction: “Particularly towards the end,” says Grubola, “the work became more intuitive and less refined.”

"Mark" by Tom Marsh. Photo Courtesy of Hite Art Institute.

"Mark" by Tom Marsh. Photo Courtesy of Hite Art Institute.

Students came to U of L to study with Marsh specifically tolearn the Japanese-based techniques and life philosophy he expounded. Laura Ross, Wayne Ferguson, Sarah Frederick, Fong Choo, Pam Korte, Bran Hazelet, and Gwen Heffner are but a few notable potters for whom Marsh was a mentor, and many of them still live, work and teach in the area.

"Teapot" by Ginny and Tom Marsh

"Teapot" by Ginny and Tom Marsh

All of the concentration suggests that Marsh never did anything halfway. One of his teaching tools were sophisticated, multi-media presentations that he also took all around the U.S. at a time when such things were not common. “For someone so dedicated to a simple agrarian lifestyle,” remembers Whitesell, ”Tom was well-versed in technology, and had multiple projections fading in and out… synched to a pre-recorded soundtrack. It was very impressive.”

"These pots and cups and bowls are not busy calling attention to themselves as 'art objects.' Their preferred habitat is a kitchen, not a museum. They invite use. They are not just viewed. Viewing, by itself, will misunderstand them--just as, by itself, it
will misunderstand the food." — Wendell Berry

Examples of Marsh pottery are in permanent collections of museums worldwide, including the Museum of Modern Art in Kamajura, Japan.

Name: Tom Marsh (1934 -1991)
Hometown: Sellersburg, Indiana

The Marsh's 30 cubic foot cross draft salt kiln (c.1979). Photograph courtesy of the Hite Art Institute.

The Marsh's 30 cubic foot cross draft salt kiln (c.1979). Photograph courtesy of the Hite Art Institute.

"  Approaching Conjunction"   by Marsh Pottery,   stoneware   (1984). Photograph courtesy of the Hite Art Institute.

"Approaching Conjunction" by Marsh Pottery, stoneware (1984). Photograph courtesy of the Hite Art Institute.

"Vase with Brass Rings" by Marsh Pottery, 14in H, coarse stoneware   (1973). Photograph courtesy of the Hite Art Institute.

"Vase with Brass Rings" by Marsh Pottery, 14in H, coarse stoneware (1973). Photograph courtesy of the Hite Art Institute.

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

*From “Tom Marsh/Potter: Twenty Three Years of Clay”, published by University of Louisville, 1979.

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Ceramics, Print Making

Vignette: Elizabeth Stevenson

"Untitled #1" by Elizabeth Stevenson, 4.5x4.5x4.5in, fired white clay (2015)

"Untitled #1" by Elizabeth Stevenson, 4.5x4.5x4.5in, fired white clay (2015)

We are officially in the Holocene (“entirely recent”) epoch, which began 11,700 years ago after the last major ice age, but many argue for the current period to be term “Anthropocene”—from anthropo, for “man,” and cene, for “new”—because human-kind has incurred a profound enough impact on the earth to merit the classification. Claims about global warming aside, mass extinctions of plant and animal species, and pollution on a large scale have inarguably changed the planet.

"Untitled #4" by Elizabeth Stevenson, 11x15in, collograph relief print on paper (2015), $150 |  BUY NOW

"Untitled #4" by Elizabeth Stevenson, 11x15in, collograph relief print on paper (2015), $150 | BUY NOW

Elizabeth Stevenson is directly inspired by this concept in her work, “… it fueled me to keep creating,” she explains. Natural patterns are what originally inspired me to create this body of work. The lines I would see in sand when water washed over it or the small orb like forms of pollen particles. After looking to so much of nature for inspiration it made sense to study the science surrounding it. Once I had a better understanding of how nature works and the way in which humans are destroying it I found even more reason to create work motivated by it.”

For Stevenson, the process begins with a study of microscopic images: “Beginning with open organic forms I wished to investigate natural configurations that I saw and abstract them.” In the very beginning, she finds the three-dimensional forms to be soft and fragile, almost vulnerable to the pending manipulation by the artist’s hand. Her carving is primarily deductive, removing mass to create new empty space.

“The forms continued to push me to create and find different processes for making, which led me to develop a more jagged and unraveled representation of the natural world. With these new lines and shapes I began to look to more macroscopic imagery for inspiration. There is a glacial quality in the appearance of the newer pieces, as the lines seem to melt and become undone. Fluid lines drip off into empty space, or are they being contained? All of these forms seemingly contained within a circle, which I can only explain as an attempt to control what I was creating or to control the things that inspire me.”

Age: 21
Hometown: Louisville, Kentucky
Education: BFA candidate, Interdisciplinary Sculpture, Kentucky College of Art + Design at Spalding University, Louisville, Kentucky

"Untitled #3" by Elizabeth Stevenson, 13.5x10.5in, monotype print on paper (2015), $100 |  BUY NOW

"Untitled #3" by Elizabeth Stevenson, 13.5x10.5in, monotype print on paper (2015), $100 | BUY NOW

"Untitled #2" by Elizabeth Stevenson, 3.5x3.5x3.5in, fired white clay (2015)

"Untitled #2" by Elizabeth Stevenson, 3.5x3.5x3.5in, fired white clay (2015)

Written by Keith Waits. Entire contents copyright © 2016 Louisville Visual Art. All rights reserved.

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