Monday, November 23, 2015

Interview with Joy Smith

Joy will be taking over the Instagram this week! She graduated AU in 2012 and now works at a really cool company called Roto. Read on to find out more!

(BFA Thesis Show Titled: Building Buildings)

Tell us a little bit about what you do at Roto and how/if that effects your personal art practice.

I do so many things at Roto that it can be a little overwhelming to describe sometimes. As a Production Assistant, I am not quite a project manager, but I’m not a designer or exhibit build either. Roto has four departments: Projects, Design, Engineering, and Fabrication. I work in the projects department, which means I do a lot of interfacing, and sometime peace keeping between the departments. Typically the project managers spend a lot of time making the tough calls, leading the project team, and managing client relations. I am the project manager’s support throughout a project. On every project, and with every project manager that means something different. Vendor management is probably the bulk of my time, whether it’s working with a carpet company to coordinate installation dates and exact right color of carpet, a foam manufacture to create custom blocks, or an auto dealer to purchase “kid proof” Land Rover with no engine! There are many small things in our projects that we don’t have the engineers or carpenters build that I need to find a way to get them made whether I do them, or I hire someone to make them. There are many small design tasks that need to get done quickly, or can’t pull a designer away too. My job is filling a lot gaps, and help to make totally different accepts of production come together. Each one of my Instagram posts will have a story behind how that environment or piece came to be created! I will also post some interesting process references to better explain the level of coordination that need to happen at a company of this scale. Roto has taught me about how large scale visually immersive environments are created in a professional context.

(Zip Tie Grass made at Roto using 1400 zip ties)

Personal art practice is an interesting idea. I am not really sure if I’ve ever had a personal art practice in my life other than the work I did preparing for my senior show at NYSCC, Alfred University in 2012. I’ve always understood my art practice to be assignment and project based or client directed. I have many plans an ideas for fine art that I would like to produce in the future, but I make art almost every day in the work that I do at Roto. What I have learned at Roto is invaluable to the art making process as well. Budgeting, work plans, safety, material specifications, durability and so many other things go into it. Oh and if you don’t know, McMaster Carr is probably the greatest webpage ever and you can find almost anything for sale on the internet! I think very differently about my process of making. I have not physically worked on many personal art pieces in the last 3 years, but I have not stopped developing concepts. When it comes times to execute those concepts, they will become a project that I am managing, my professional art practice.

(Final install of Zip Tie grass in Amman, Jordan.

What were the most helpful experiences during your time at Alfred to prepare you for the job you do now?

I gained so much by the people around me at Alfred, and the professors I had! My foundations class had the fantastic visiting artist Lenka Clayton, Alicia Eggert was my sophomore sculpture professor, and the array of the grad students was phenomenal. All of this was in addition to the already wonderful Alfred Faculty! Having a supportive community dedicated to growth, exploration, play, and learning is so beneficial.
I spilt my time equally behind the design department and the sculpture department during undergrad. The two fed each other and my growth so well! On the 5th floor, I was learning Adobe Creative suite and my brain stated falling into sync with indesign and illustrator as creative tools. In binns-merrial basement, physical exertion and labor became my tools. I loved being able to mix 100lbs of sand one evening, go upstairs to work on a poster design, and pour hot ladles of glass the next day! I am very fortunate to have a similar balance in my work life at Roto. Some projects, I will be helping to put together a design package during a schematic phase, and some projects, I am able produce accepts of the project and go on installations!
During my junior and senior years, I was fortunate to have two fantastic jobs that taught me skills I use every day now! I was manager of the Moka Joka and marketing designer for the Fosdick Nelson Gallery. Designing for the gallery taught me about client directed work, having few and somethings not good photographs to work with, and most of all, it taught me design constraints. Managing the Joka, taught me budgeting and purchasing, scheduling, and working on a team. They were the foundations to my understanding of the professional world.
At Roto, we are facing new challenges with each new project. Adhering to ASTM Standards, and making things kid-proof while also exciting and educational are just a few of our constraints. We are forced to think creatively inside of never ending concentric boxes! I am thankful to have such a knowledgeable and creative community within a 8-5, 40 hour a week job!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Interview with Maria Bentley

Maria will be taking over the Instagram this week!

Maria T. Bentley was born and raised in Seneca Falls, NY. Growing up surrounded by the Finger Lakes, rural farm land, and State parks Maria was immediately drawn outdoors. Her work is influenced by earth materials hinting towards Earthworks. Religious influences and family experiences are other factors that play a role in her work. She sees the use of clay as a representation of the physical body, drawn from the Genesis creation story; recycling of material and life. Alzheimer’s and the aging process are explored in her color palate and surfacing quality. Her ceramic vessels and sculptures take on a figuratively charged quality representing people from her life. The combining of materials and use of light charges her work with multiple layers of meaning combined with the representation of an inanimate pulse. In each of her pieces Maria combines three or more materials experimenting with ceramic, wood, glass, neon, fluorescent lighting, metal, and fibers.
Maria received her BFA from Alfred University in May of 2015. Since then she has received a Gene and Pamela Bernstein Leadership Award, which funded her summer 2015 residency with the Alzheimer’s Glass and Iron Association at SAW (Salem Art Works). She will be giving a lecture on her residency, life after graduation and the Alzheimer’s project with Rosemarie Oakman this coming spring 2016 at Alfred University. Currently she is an Admissions Counselor and Portfolio reviewer at Alfred University.

Now that your Salem Art Works residency is over what are you up to?
I am working on various projects within the Alzheimer’s glass and Iron team, and looking at another residency with them this summer. I am also preparing my lecture for Spring 2016 that will be hosted by the Judson Women’s Leadership Academy.

I am an Admissions Counselor here at AU. I started my position in September and have been traveling all over the Mid Atlantic region of the US meeting students and spreading the AU spirit. I am also doing some portfolio reviews for incoming high school seniors applying to the School of Art and Design. I am also the counselor advising our rock star art tour guides! I have (just this week moved into my new home in Alfred on South Main). I have a beautiful studio there, that I plan to set up immediately.

I was working as an assistant/ apprentice this summer for Kala Stein and was using her studio to make work and continue my studio practice. She taught me so much this summer! I also stayed at her home with her and her husband in the wooded area of Canadice NY. They inherited a camp that they have renovated with their own two hands and I was lucky enough to stay in one of those cabins all summer while working in the studio and helping maintain camp life. I did a lot of ceramic throwing this summer as well as metal casting and glass blowing with the Alz team. Currently in my studio practice I am exploring new methods of working with found objects and trying to incorporate my travels and all the people I am meeting into my studio practice.

Can you talk a little bit about the portfolio review process? I bet its super interesting!

This past week I was at two portfolio days it's a great way to get Alfred University out there to the students. I am able to meet with students from all over the mid-Atlantic (that's my counselor region). It's rewarding to have them share their portfolios and give them some feedback. With that being said I'm only one in a large team of professors and counselours that help in the admissions process. Meeting new people and looking at high school students work has reminded me where I started and how far my work has progressed.

Thats so great! How about this studio you're setting up, it's in your home? Do you have access to use the facilities here at Alfred and if not, how is this effecting your work?

My studio is perfection! So much light and space it's in my attic! I do not have access to the materials and studios that I have shaped my practice around so my entire way of thinking and making has shifted. I am using materials available to me and looking into buying a kiln down the road. My work is going to be new and completely different do to this shift. Hitting the "refresh" button on my studio has been cleansing and pushed me to be innovative with my practice and the way I approach materials.

Do you have any specific projects in mind for your new studio space/practice or anything you've started working on?

Well I have acquired a lot of painting supplies that have just fallen into my lap so I think I will start there. Exploring paint in general as a new material and medium. I am also going to explore surface and texture in both traditional 2-D painting style and some more non-traditional 3-D surfaces. I'm excited for these experiments.

That's fantastic! We're really looking forward to seeing how your studio set up is going and hopefully you'll have a little painting underway to share :)

Monday, November 9, 2015

Interview with Signe Ballew

Signe Ballew will be taking over the Instagram this week!

I grew up in Damascus, PA, a small town right on the Delaware. I graduated with my BFA from Alfred University in 2012, and have been bouncing around the east coast ever since. After graduating I had the amazing experience of working at Buck’s Rock Visual and Performing Arts Camp, in New Milford, CT. I got to work alongside of other Alfred students, and work with some crazy talented kids. After that I moved up to Brattleboro, Vermont where I interned at the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center. I had the opportunity to work hands on with the curator, director, development coordinator, educational director, and events coordinator. I helped install and de-install many shows and worked one on one with several of the artists. Working there made me realize how much I enjoyed working with artists in other mediums, and how much I enjoyed working in management. After that I moved back to my hometown and helped the local arts alliance set up an office, juried exhibitions, and got young students involved. After that I became one of the Artist Fellows at Peters Valley School of Craft. I started managing the Special Topics Studio which hosts a variety of mediums and classes from flameworking, to encaustic, printmaking, cake sculptures, and oil painting, just to name a few. I worked with several artists and found inspiration from new mediums that I had never worked with before. Between my two summers at Peters Valley, I moved to DC to work at a glass studio, where I learned how to repair stained glass, printing with powder on glass, and more fusing techniques. In the past four years, since graduating I have had so many opportunities to work with and create with new artists, and in the process it’s all made me realize just exactly what I’d like to do with my future.

I’ve always been a curious person, constantly wanting to learn why and how things work. I started as a photographer, but soon became intrigued by glass and its ability to take many forms. Creating an image on a transparent form does something to that image, takes it to a new place. My work tends to revolve around my love of travel, human interactions, relationships and just how things work. I am intrigued by so many things that this world has to offer and creating a moment captured in time from my own experience is how I can share it and put it out into the world.

It seems like you've really been a Jack of all trades since graduating! You say these experiences have made you realize exactly what you'd like to do with your future, what are you currently working on (or who are you currently working with) and what kind of future are you working toward?
Not too broad at all. So currently, I have just recently moved down to Asheville, North Carolina where I am working at the Biltmore Estate, and studio monitoring at the Asheville Glass Center. For the past few years working in so many different non-profit organizations I have realized that I would love to one day open a non-profit mini craft school of my own. I am in the process of looking into and applying to grad schools for arts management. I would love to run a place that does after school programs for kids during the school year, and in the summer have both kids and adult classes. Working at so many different places I have had such amazing opportunities to work with and make connections with so many different artists that have offered to teach and work with me in the future. I love working with artists and organizing classes and events that get people involved in the arts. Just seeing the joy on someone’s face when they learn something new makes all the struggle and hard work worth it.

Going the arts management route sounds super rewarding! Do you still maintain your own studio practice or would you call what you do social practice?

Now that I have more studio access I’m getting back into it. I’ve been teaching myself flameworking for the last year, but I think my focus ends up being more of a social practice. I love making the connections and being able to connect those I’ve met to others I know for collaborations or just for inspiration.

What kind of work are you doing at the Ashville Glass Center? Any big projects coming up?

I'm helping out in the flameworking studio, just doing some demos and making sure the studio runs smoothly. My only big project coming up is just trying to get things together for a class I'll be teaching this summer at Peters Valley. So I'm having to come up with materials lists for students and planning what techniques and tricks I'll be teaching, and just getting back into it so I'm not as rusty.

What's the class you're teaching at Peters Valley?

I'll be teaching an imagery on glass class. Working with mainly float glass, layering decal images, dremeling designs, powder printing, fusing, just doing a bunch of different techniques. It'll just be a three day class and the students will be able to walk away with, hopefully, lots of sample pieces and ideas for new projects.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Interview with Lily Reeves Montgomery

Recent Alumni Lily is taking over the Instagram this week! 

Lily is a sculptor working across all mediums, with a current emphasis on light art and performance. She received her BFA from Alfred University in 2015, and is currently pursuing her Masters in Fine Arts at Arizona State University. Her work is heavily influenced from southeastern folk art and southern gothic literature, and she uses light as a visual metaphor for the phenomena of life. By using ritual and supernatural aspects in her performances and installations, she comments on the decline in the variety of outlets for this shared spiritualism, and creates a metaphysical environment that speaks to this awe-inspiring presence of life and interconnectivity which we so often dismiss.

What inspired you to pursue a graduate degree right after your undergrad?

More than anything I didn't want to stop making work at the scale or momentum that I had been making at Alfred. I realize now I should have taken time to think about it, because graduate school is a huge commitment and the work only gets harder, and there is a lot more of it.
I also had this realization that I was graduating undergrad without many tools of my own, or means to make the work I wanted to make. We are so spoiled at Alfred!! I got really scared that I would stop making work altogether. Now it's a goal of mine to graduate with an outstanding body of work as well as infrastructure that I can start my own studio with. People go to graduate school at different stages of their life and for different reasons. Mine was to continue to live as an artist without having to get a job I didn't like, and to have a support system so I could build the life I want to have for myself in the future. I also wanted time to figure out what that future looks like and see what kinds of opportunities I would encounter moving somewhere that was completely different than anything I've experienced before.

How has your practice been evolving? What kind of work are you making now?

Right now I'm making a lot of installations that have performative aspects, which involve the physical body to touch on ideas of the human spirit, using spectacle to refer to ceremonial rights of way, but in a contemporary form. My practice is always changing, and i'm interested in looking at modern rituals in general, and not solely dealing with spirituality. I've been looking at political rituals, punishment in the justice system, celebrations and other forms of rituals we do often without realizing their inherent symbolism. The roots of these rituals and their performance are really interesting to me, and seeing different variations across cultures (mostly across america) has been drawing my attention lately. I think the biggest change in my work is how it has been informed by my research. I always held creating work intuitively with such high regard, and while that's really important to me still, I've begun to find out that knowing the discourse in the field your working in is equally, if not more important. Also it helps me talk about the work better. Karen Donnellan would be proud of my research skills now. I used to get in trouble for not doing any research.

What are some big differences you've noticed between Arizona State and AU?

They are completely opposite in a lot of ways! ASU is one of the biggest colleges in the country, and coming from Alfred was a huge shock. The weather is opposite too, the curriculum is different as well. I think AU has a more structured way they move their students through their program. At a larger university there are a lot more things going on, and finding your way around can be difficult. Phoenix has a lot of opportunity though, there more things you can apply for because the city is so large, and they have a state-wide arts budget, something like 1% of any building or renovating project has to go towards the arts. My studio is in downtown Phoenix, a move the University just finished last year, so there aren't a lot of tools down here yet. It's kind of nice because you begin to realize the things you need to make your work. There are also some other people here who did their undergrad at Alfred, so it's pretty cool to find alumni all over the place. Alfred definitely connects you with a larger network of artists all over the country. I guess those are the things I've noticed so far, but I Imagine programs are different everywhere and that's kind of the beauty of higher education.