With Nature Sing

 

With Nature Sing

With Nature Sing is a collection of six mosaics, dedicated on Februday 11, 2018, for permanent display at the Bethel College Mennonite Church in North Newton, Kansas.

 

Bee and Maple Tree

 

The hymn All Creatures of our God and King celebrates the visual beauty, music, and force of the natural world. I chose imagery from this hymn as the basis for my mosaics. The cardinal and honey bee mosaics represent all creatures lifting their voices in song; the sun and moon mosaics illustrate the burning sun with golden beam, and thou silver moon with softer gleam; the tree mosaic shows the rushing wind that art so strong; and the mosaic with the human face in profile visualizes sensory response to the beauty and sound of birds, and appreciation for mother earth, who day by day, unfoldest blessings on our way.

 

The mosaics remind us of our relationship with mother earth. As we delight in the beauty of birds and honor the necessity of pollinators, we must also live in accordance with them, embracing the sun and wind as vital sources of renewable energy. (Click here for information on my mosaic process.)

 

Sun

 

Cardinal

 Face, Head with Cardinal

 Wind

 Moon

 

Special thanks to Darlene Dick, David Kreider, Bob Regier, and Margo Schrag, members of the Art Committee of Bethel College Mennonite Church who are overseeing the commissioning of new artworks for the church. Recent art installations include works by Bob Regier, John Gaeddert, Conrad Snider, and me.

 

Peace and Reconciliation, by Bob RegierPeace and Reconciliation by Bob Regier, in the church’s gathering place

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many Gifts, One Spirit, by John GaeddertMany Gifts, One Spirit by John Gaeddert, in the south entryway

 

 

 

 

 

vessel by Conrad SniderVessel by Conrad Snider, near the columbarium

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With Nature Sing, by Lora JostWith Nature Sing by Lora Jost, in the gathering area

 

Mosaic Process: With Nature Sing

Mosaic process photo displayThese photos of my mosaic process are on display at the Bethel College Mennonite Church in North Newton, Kansas, through March of 2018. The photos accompany a recently-installed permanent exhibit of 6 mosaics  titled, With Nature Sing

 

 

 

Working on a tile nipperMy Mosaic Process

Making mosaics is a complicated process with moments of magic. Fitting the tiles in place is like putting together a puzzle, except that I create the puzzle pieces as I go along. Although one can buy tiles for mosaic-making or use all manner of things like paper, macaroni, seeds or rocks, I chip my own tiles from secondhand ceramic plates and other dishes that I find in a range of colors and patterns at thrift stores. I have accumulated many dishes over the years, with occasional gifts from friends and acquaintances who sometimes leave their broken dishes on my front porch.

 

Because I work with dishes that need to be continually broken and shaped, my tile nipper is always close at hand. But before I cut and shape the tiles with my nipper, I use it to break the dishes first with a good solid whack, dividing each into smaller pieces that I can more easily work with. I look for broken pieces that are the right shape and size to fill spaces, and I also cut and clip them to fit more exactly. By the end of a project my work table and floor are covered with tiny discarded bits from this process.

 

Bee mosaic in processBefore the tiling begins, I develop an idea and then make a plan. I play around with images and ideas by drawing in my sketchbook, often little pictures that would only make sense to me, and then I change and expand on these. When I have played around enough and have settled on a concept, I make larger drawings of the key elements at scale, sometimes using reference pictures from my own photos or ones I find in books or on the internet. The last step in the design process is to map the images and key color choices onto a plywood work surface, also called a backer board, with simple outlined shapes in black marker.

 

Mosaic in processI enjoy the creative process more if I leave some design decisions and color choices to resolve in the making process. I have twenty dishpans in my studio filled with dishes in various stages of brokenness, sorted by color, accompanied by smaller containers of smaller pieces that are sorted too, to choose from. I try to create mosaics where the imagery can be read through distinct color-shape areas, and yet I bring color-variation into these areas too, for added interest. Sometimes I sneak other objects into my mosaics to surprise the viewer, among them fossils, rocks, shells, or specialty tiles. My mosaics have become more sophisticated over the years, and yet I continue to learn more and more through the process of making them.

 

Mosaic work tableFor small wall mosaics like the ones in this exhibition, I work directly on plywood. I scrape and mar the plywood surface first with a screwdriver, and then seal the surface with watered-down Weldbond glue, the same glue that I use to affix the tiles. (For largescale projects on walls or buildings, one would use different materials such as concrete backer board and mortar.)

 

Grouting a mosaicThe final stage is grouting. After I glue all of the tiles into place and the glue has dried, I vacuum the surface to sweep up bits of dust and debris before I begin to apply the grout, a cement-based material used to fill the cracks between the pieces. I use grey or tan grout which contrasts well with a range of colors, but colored pigments are available to mix into the grout, too. It is hard to judge what a mosaic will look like once grouted, so I usually go into the grouting process with some trepidation – how will it turn out? That said, grouting always brings a sense of unity to the work that is often pleasantly surprising. The grout is like magic that helps transform a pile of broken dishes into a pleasing cohesion.

 

With Nature SingThe grout must be removed from the face-surface of the tiles before it dries. Cleaning the tiles is a tactile process because my use of dishes creates an uneven surface, different from mosaics made from uniform commercial tiles. I use my hands and a rubber spatula to remove the bulk of the excess grout from the tiles before I begin wiping away the grout with a damp sponge and rags. The final stages of cleaning remind me of dental work. In fact, I use old dental tools that a friend gave to me to clean the smallest and shallowest pieces that I can’t wipe by hand. Finally, I buff the tiles with Windex, and then the piece is complete.

 

Click here for more photos of With Nature Sing.

#30IN30 International

I participated in the 30IN30 International challenge in November (2017), where artists were invited to make thirty art pieces in thirty days. The project was coordinated by Jessica Rold. I had a wonderful time participating, and was able to complete the project along with a number of other wonderful artists. Click on the boxes below to see each completed work, or flip through my Facebook albums #30IN30  and Process Photos for #30IN30.

RedbelliedVulturesFall DoodleAurgh!Vote!Skateboard PieceMini MosaicsPhone DoodleMini MosaicsStormBirdsLampMini MosaicSaxophone PieceSnowflakeThanksgiving Sketchbook DyptichWhat A DayCardinalWoofy Trading CardMini MosaicsSquirrel and Butterfly DoodleThe End

Banned Book Trading Cards

Chiano!

Lawrence Public Library, Banned Book Trading Card, 2017

I am excited to have my Banned Book Trading Card submission selected by the Lawrence Public Library, to be included in this year’s pack.

 

The 2017-pack of cards includes art by Lana Grove, Maya Weslander, Brisa Andrade, Chelsea Karma McKee, Johnna Harrison, and Elijah Jackson. All of the submissions will be on display this week at the library.

 

You can pick up a new trading card every day this week at the library, starting today (Sunday September 24, 2017) through Saturday. My card will go out tomorrow!

 

Artist Statement

 

My banned book submission celebrates Chicano! The History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement, by F. Arturo Rosales (Arte Publico Press, 1996). Chicano! is one of seven specific texts that were banned from classrooms in Tucson, Arizona, in 2012. Additional books and teaching materials were also confiscated. The books were banned when the Tucson Unified School District eliminated the Mexican American Studies program in response to a controversial state law meant to curtail ethnic studies programs. The law was widely understood to target the Tucson program.

 

At the unveiling of the selected banned book trading cards, Lawrence Public LibraryI chose to highlight a book that would draw attention to this egregious case of government censorship. Although Banned Books Week often celebrates novels and well-known classics, scholarly books like Chicano! are sometimes banned, too, and I wanted to show this. I turned the tables a bit with my image, too. Instead of portraying a story that occurs within the book, my image portrays the book itself within the story of its banning. My illustration shows a student protesting the banning of ethnic studies, with the book on her protest sign. Her mouth is taped, a potent image used by students in their protests against the ban.

 

Rosales wrote Chicano! to accompany a four-part television series by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which aired the programs in 1996. Both are heralded as providing the most comprehensive account of the Mexican American civil rights movement, a movement whose stories are, as Rosales notes, “practically untold.” It was interesting for me to imagine the elimination of the Mexican American Studies program in Tucson, and the protests over it, as a new chapter in Rosales’s book.

 

Chicano! was pulled from classrooms as a result of  Arizona state law HB 2281, which prohibits public and charter school courses that “promote the overthrow of the United States government,” “promote resentment towards a race or class of people,” “are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group,” or “advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.” An independent audit of Tucson’s Mexican American Studies program found it to be in compliance with the law and recommended its expansion. But the Tucson school district’s superintendent, along with officials from the Arizona Department of Education, decided the program was not in compliance, and the program was cut. The program was in limbo for many years, with some parts reinstated, as a challenge to the law made its way through the courts.

 

I am happy to report that in August of 2017, just last month, a judge found that Tuscon’s Mexican American Studies Program was a victim of ‘racial animus,” and proclaimed the Arizona state law to be unconstitutional.

 

Sources:

 

–Arte Publico Press https://artepublicopress.com/product/chicano-the-history-of-the-mexican-american-civil-rights-movement/

–Chicano! The History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement by F. Arturo Rosales (Arte Publico Press, 1997)

–The Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/cifamerica/2012/jan/18/arizona-banned-mexican-american-books

–Huffington Post http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/arizona-mexican-american-studies_us_59510a8be4b0da2c731ce325

–NPR http://www.npr.org/2017/07/14/537291234/arizonas-ethnic-studies-ban-in-public-schools-goes-to-trial

–NYTimes https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/23/us/arizona-mexican-american-ruling.html?mcubz=1

–University at Albany website http://www.albany.edu/jmmh/vol3/chicano/chicano.html

–Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mexican_American_Studies_Department_Programs,_Tucson_Unified_School_District

Fire and Flood in the 12×12 National Juried Exhibition

FireFire

2017

Bic and Schneider ballpoint pens

12″ x 12″

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FloodFlood

2017

Bic ballpoint pen, UniBall pen

12″ x 12″

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Both “Fire” and “Flood” are in the 12×12 National Juried Exhibition at the Lawrence Arts Center through December 23, 2017. Come check it out.

Crossing The Line, Harrisonburg, VA

Does This Make Sense?“Does This Make Sense” is a drawing I made for the recent exhibit Crossing The Line, at the Margaret Martin Gehman Art Gallery, Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg, VA.

 

The exhibit was curated by Rachel Epp Buller, who also provided the installation photos below. The exhibit brochure and blog explains the impetus for the exhibit and work:

 

“The conference during which this exhibition takes place, Crossing the Line: Women of Anabaptist Traditions Cross Borders and Boundaries, invited presenters to consider border and boundary crossings in terms of ethnic and religious heritage, gender and sexual identity, geographic borders, private and public spaces, or disciplinary expression. The artists included in this exhibition most often cross lines in order to experiment and question, to make statements, or to think back through time.”

 

Crossing Borders (1)Artists in the exhibit included: Teresa Braun, Jen Dyck, Kandis Friesen, Jayne Holsinger, Jerry Holsopple, Mary Lou Weaver Houser, Gesine Janzen, Lora Jost, Audra Miller, Jennifer Miller, Teresa Pankratz, Jessie Pohl, and Karen Reimer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Does This Make Sense?

Does This Make Sense?

“Does This Make Sense?” is a ballpoint pen drawing on clayboard (18″ x 14″) that I recently completed for an exhibition in conjunction with next summer’s conference, Crossing the Line: Women of Anabaptist Traditions Encounter Borders and Boundaries, at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, VA, June 22-25, 2017. Rachel Epp Buller, Associate Professor of Visual Arts and Design at Bethel College in N. Newton, KS, will curate the exhibit.

 

Artist Statement

 

This piece  includes words that have personal meaning for me about critical thinking. Borders between cultures, between different ways of thinking, between different sets of values, even between groups within a shared culture offer both a dividing line and, if we can look across these borders, the possibility of thinking critically about the ideas on each side of the line. And I am of course never fully on one side of the line or the other at any given time; these borders are permeable. Who I am is formed out of ideas and values from my Mennonite heritage and from my experiences and commitments in the wider world. When I think across borders I often find myself asking the important age-old question, “Does this make sense?” By looking both ways, I find new ways to engage my commitment to decency and peace.

Taking On Life, Poetry Reading and Art Show

Taking On LifeI am pleased to have this illustration in Lawrence Magazine for a story about the Douglas County Corrections Facility’s writing program, in its current issue (Winter 2016). Tonight, December 5, 2016, there will be a related poetry reading and exhibit at the Lawrence Public Library, 7pm.

Here is a link to Lawrence Magazine on line.  Find the story “Taking On Life” on p. 73, an artist profile of me on p. 33, and my illustration on pp. 76-77.

“The Toll” at the Lawrence Arts Center through Oct 22, 2016

The Toll

 

“The Toll” is a ballpoint pen drawing, 22″ x 30″, that I made for the exhibit “Currently Nontraditional” at the Lawrence Arts Center through Oct. 22, 2016. The exhibit includes works on paper by 12 artists, each responding to some aspect of what 2016 has meant to them.

 

Artist Statement about “The Toll”

2016 has been a year of violence, mass shootings (including one in Hesston, Kansas, near my hometown), terrorism and war. To depict the pain of 2016, I drew many individual paper cranes as the overall pattern in my drawing. Most cranes are marked, wounded or shot, crumpling and falling to the ground. A few shots miss and a few cranes survive. The paper crane became a symbol for international peace after Sadako Sasaki, a Japanese girl who was a victim of radiation sickness from the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, attempted to fold a thousand paper cranes before she died. My drawing is about the fragility of peace and the toll of violence, with an awareness that every person killed in a mass attack, is an individual who was loved and will be missed.