Meeting Mohamad Hafez at CCSU

How lucky am I to have to the opportunity to, not only meet the artists that we showcase at the CCSU Art Galleries, but also the artists who we (the art department) invite to present lectures for the students.

This week, as was the case, we had the honor to present Mohamad Hafez to speak about his most current body of work.

Mohamad Hafez Bio

When I first saw Hafez’ artwork at City Wide Open Studios in New Haven back in October and I was immediately intrigued.  It was as if gravity pulled me in closer to each piece.  The subject that his works portrayed revealed themselves to me immediately as I discovered a Middle Eastern citadel, shattered and ravaged by what one could easily identify as the trademark of war.

If anyone knows me they will know that I don’t shy away from politics.  In fact, I actually attempt to keep up with current events around the world.  And it’s not unheard of, amidst my friends and family, to have argumentative discussions about the state of world.

However, what I love more than politics is art with a powerful message.

A Refugee Nation - Shown at CWOS, New Haven, 2015.When I turned into the small room where the artist had his work displayed, I knew I had found a special treat.  This work by Hafez was skillfully crafted and installed in the perfect setting that is the Goffe Street Armory in New Haven.  A run down industrial space, the Armory space gave his pieces a sense of belonging, a kinship the works shared with the deteriorated walls, peeling paint, and rusty window frames and exposed structures.

The art history professor in our department contacted me to find a time frame for hosting an artist lecture in our gallery.  When I learned who the artist was that would be presenting a lecture, I was utterly enthused.  Admittedly, she was also a big fan of Hafez’ work like myself, and unfortunately she had missed seeing him speak at Real Artways in Hartford, so what better way to mediate that problem than by hosting his lecture for her students and the university body.

Both sides of the conflict. Shown at CWOS, New Haven, 2015.

detailShotIrrevocably, I loved everything about his lecture and message.  My favorite part of the presentation was his end goal.  He wasn’t just trying to make a statement with his artwork.  The work was born out of his necessity to feel closer to home, to his roots, and to his people rather than trying to spread his own idealistic beliefs.  He focuses his efforts on shedding these perceptions we have which corporate media has manufactured so wrongly in our minds.

He didn’t need to convince me, I was already on his side before I even saw his works of art.  I may not have first hand experience in the kind of suffering that war brings to cities, countries, multitudes of people but my empathetic heart stretches into a universe inside of me, feeling very helpless and wishing I could do more.  He did more by simply sharing his family life in Damascus with us.

He showed us the snapshots he took of every day life when he was finally able to go back to his country.  Homesick and nostalgic about the little details of his home country that most might miss if you’re not really looking, he shed light to his culture’s best aspects.  A culture where humility is of utmost importance is truly noticeable in the neighborhoods as you walk by front doors of houses completely clear of embellishment, they all look the same regardless of how much or little you may have.  He also shared how communities come together when there are neighbors in need.  He showed us pictures of a normal Friday night dinner with immediate family, gatherings of 15-20 people around the table having a grand meal and actively being a family.  It reminded me of some family gatherings I have been to myself, where family extends not only to brothers, sisters, and parents but also cousins, second cousins, uncles, aunts, and friends whom we consider family.

It was easy to relate to his stories, and though our cultures may be different, they are also so similar.

This was my take on the artwork and the artist’s presentation.  I am sure I could go on for another 600 words to critique the quality of the artwork but after all I have already said, I don’t think it’s as important as you (the reader/viewer) to draw your own conclusion and opinion.

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Quick Update

Today I’m posting some photos of my work. The following pieces were accepted into some juried exhibitions and I wanted to share my excitement here.

Like crazy, I have been entering some competitions for 3D artwork.  Last week I found out three of my pieces made it in.  The first was one of my “rhino” minis.  It’s about 3.75 by 3.5 by 3.75 inches.  It’s pretty tiny.  It was accepted to a “small works” exhibition put on by the Clay Studio in Philadelphia.  Since I used to live in Philly, this was such exciting news!!!  If you’re in the Philadelphia area, be sure to check it out, Small Favors XI opens on March 25, 2016 but you can find more information here.

The same day I found out about the small piece getting accepted into that show, I also found out two of my other pieces were accepted into a different juried exhibition.  These pieces were both made last year, one in the spring and the other in the fall.  It makes me happy to finally have my pieces be shown.  These two were juried into an exhibition for the National Association of Women Artists.  You can check out the exhibition artists’ work on their website.  Please check it out and feel free to share the link with the world.

Soon I will post the photos of all my new works since last summer.  For now, I need to finish my many works in progress and make new pieces.  Thanks for stopping by.

Review of my Open Studio experience

Hello Friday and everyone out there.  It has been a few days but I am still feeling the energy from this past weekend.

In this post I am more than excited to at least show you how this past weekend’s exhibition went.

Let’s review: The event was called Open Studio Hartford and it was featuring close to 250 artists from across the state.  This was their 26th year organizing the city-wide event.  There were 20-something venues that opened up their free space to artists.  I was in the beautiful industrial and historic Colt building (Yes, as in Samuel Colt firearms).

Again and again I go over the same thoughts after finishing a weekend of exhibiting my artwork.  As exhausting as the whole event seem to be, I still love every minute of it.  It’s amazing to hear such great feedback from your viewers, but also fellow artists.  It pumps energy back into my little body to keep creating artwork.

Preparations for Open Studio started at least a month and a half before the exhibiting dates.  Spinning clay on the wheel, drying the pieces, putting together forms and adding textures to their surfaces, bisque firing pieces, glazing them, firing them once again, photographing finished pieces, and pricing pieces is some of the work happening in my basement studio.  Included in that month, or two, were some sleepless nights and long days and hours.  All of which, in my mind, paid off when I was able to relate to others through my artwork and my experiences.

My work was well received.  Many commented on my display, something I built up to after a few attempts and many tips from other artists who so graciously offer advice.

People had plenty of interesting comments and many were attracted to the horsehair pieces as well as the pit fired finishes.  These were my biggest sellers.  Some of my newest mugs were taken which makes think my craftsmanship and my forms (think a good/comfortable handle) are improving.

Here are some pictures from my display:

The downside of the weekend was that I had very little chances to escape my post to visit other artists’ displays.  Especially because it was spread out so much throughout Hartford it was impossible to be there for your clients versus escaping to other locations to see fellow artists.

I would love to hear comments on my display, but mostly I’d love to hear back from anyone who attended Open Studio Hartford and their thoughts on the city-wide event.

Art in the state of Connecticut

Fall is the time of year known for the abundance of apples growing, the Oktoberfest events happening everywhere, Thanksgiving plans stewing, and the bright alluring colors of the foliage.

If you are an artist you are probably enjoying all these great attributes of the season, but you are also probably very busy creating work for one or multiple autumn art festivals.  For now I am keeping my head afloat with new work, but the first show is coming up in three weeks and there’s still so much to do!

This is the time to get organized to be efficient.

So what is happening in Connecticut that has me excited and busy all at once, you ask?  This year I am first-time participant of Open Studios in Hartford, a city-wide event where.  This will be happening Saturday & Sunday, November 14 & 15, 2015.  There are close to 250 artists participating in this event, it is sure to leave your art yearning satisfied!!

There are 22 locations throughout Hartford that will be featuring art and artists from around the area.  Below is the list of locations with addresses:

#1 Oak Hill Art Studio, 120 Holcombe Street
#2 Hartford Weaving Center, 40 Woodland Street
#3 Connecticut Historical Society, One Elizabeth Street
#4 Venom Vintage & Creative Art Space, 11 Whitney Street
#5 Passages Gallery, 509 Farmington Avenue
#6 Majorca, 2074 Park Street
#7 Arbor Arts Center, 56 Arbor Street
#8 Real Art Ways, 56 Arbor Street
#9 30 Arbor Street, 30 Arbor Street
#10 The Dirt Salon, 50 Bartholomew Avenue
#11 1429 New Park & Bartholomew
#12 Trinity College Fifth Year Fellows, Trinity College
#13 Kempczynski Gallery & Studio, 130 Washington Street
#14 Colt Gateway, 140 Huyshope Avenue
#15 Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts @ Colt Gateway
#16 First Presbyterian Church, 136 Capitol Avenue
#17 Hartford Artisan Showcase, CT Convention Center
#18 Hartford Dada Art Show, Capital Community College, 950 Main
#19 Hartford Prints, 42 1/2 Pratt Street
#19 Lindsey Fyfe Studio, 75 Pratt Street #504
#19 The Tobacco Shop Gallery, 89 Pratt Street
#20 ArtSpace Hartford, 555 Asylum Street
#20 Union Station Great Hall, One Union Place
#22 M. D. Robertson Photo Arts, 69 Myrtle Street C2

Here is a postcard that has been going around, but if you need more information, be sure to check out their website at: openstudiohartford.com/  

Hope to see you there!  I have been working on a lot of new work for this show.  At my table you can find some awesome sculptures, big and little, as well as some great practical pieces like coffee mugs, bowls, pitchers, tumblers, etc.  I want to leave you all wanting more, so come see me at the Colt Gateway (#14)!!

Exhibiting Natural Forms

We have entered the last week of our current exhibition and I recommend for all of you (within reasonable distance of central Connecticut) to come and visit “Natural Forms” before it closes on April 9th.  That’s this Thursday, so hurry up!

As I get back into the rhythm of writing, I can’t help but feel a bit guilty for not having written in two months.  So I am hoping that this post reaches the masses so they can discover the beautiful artwork we presently have installed in our CCSU Art Galleries.

It was a chaotic few weeks prior to the opening of Natural Forms on March 23, 2015.  Logistics for transporting artwork to our gallery took a bit of communication, team work and lots of energy.

The four exhibiting artists were Josh Axelrod, photographer from Vertmont; Amelia de Neergaard, installation artist living and working in Connecticut; Raphaela McCormack, a fiber artist originally from West Ireland living in Rochester, NY; and finally Bryan Nash Gill, a Connecticut artist who worked making relief prints and sculptures.

Raphaela McCormack - Of The Sea
Raphaela McCormack – Of The Sea

All the artists’ work relates so well to each other in this exhibition, it is as if they spoke the same language or carried the same spirit.  And it’s how we relate to all of it that makes for an important insight.  Come and sit on our bench and enjoy the serene movement of de Neergaard’s “River of Trees,” it will clear your mind.  Need a breath of fresh air?  Axelrod’s landscape photos can provide you with that as well.  Or you can get lost in any of Gill’s etchings which seem to have endless layers to them.  As for McCormack’s forms, you can almost picture her vessels drifting on the water toward the horizon.

Amelia de Neergaard by her "Gyre Locust" pods
Amelia de Neergaard by her “Gyre Locust” pods
Josh Axelrod next to his photographs "Taking the Turn" & "Arc"
Josh Axelrod next to his photographs “Taking the Turn” & “Arc”

McCormack’s abaca pulp (made from banana leaves) forms were the original inspirations for Cassandra Broadus-Garcia, the curator (my boss), to put these four artists’ work together and create a very raw escape from the concrete and technological.

Hoping that you will appreciate browsing through the pictures from the exhibition, I leave you, also, with a short video of Bryan Nash Gill from Martha Stewart’s American Made series.

Call for Artists from CAFA

Phew, it’s hard to believe the whole first month of the year is already behind us.  And yet I find myself thinking about June.  Can anyone out there believe I am already thinking about June?!?  As the blizzard cold creeps into the house, I cannot help but wish for the June sun and heat.

So what’s so special about June?

CAFA’s Annual Exhibition opens June 19th at the Mystic Arts Center (MAC) in Mystic, Connecticut.  So what does that mean for artists out there?  Get your art ready, we are already receiving art work submissions online.  Visit: www.ctacademy.org for all the details.

The online entry deadline is April 10, so while you have a little bit of time, those months seem to fly by when you are having fun.  The carry-in entry date is June 14 & 15.

Expect CAFA’s 104th Annual Exhibition to be bigger and better.  Why, you ask?  For starters, we have two great jurors, Jaclyn Conley and Mark Patnode.  Click on their names, check out their websites, you will not be disappointed.  Another reason for bigger and better, we have increased some existing awards and we have added some awards, including President’s Award for $250.

If you are not an artist but are interested in visiting the gallery for an amazingly interesting and diverse collection of art, don’t miss our Awards Reception on July 2, 2015.  Details will be posted here and on our website: www.ctacademy.org, and in the Mystic Arts Center website: www.mysticarts.org.

Good luck to all who enter the competition!

Playing Catch-up: Art and Artists in Connecticut

These past two months became the busiest for me.  Everything seemed to happen during this time.  Birthdays, reunions, concerts, side projects, plus work which never ends.

I must admit I let this blog slow down a bit.  However, I didn’t stop going to galleries, seeing art, and meeting artists.  Today’s post is dedicated to telling/showing you a little about what has been going down.

First, there was Spectrum Gallery with Monica.  It was an exhibition my friend entered because I had sent her information months earlier.  Fellow ceramic artist Monica Hewryk, whom I met in ceramic class at Central Connecticut State Univ.  She is one of the hardest working people I know and she is full of energy, a dynamic impulse which propels her closer to her goals.  Monica started working as an assistant at the CCSU ceramic studio, and she’s been making use of her free time to make more ceramic pieces and showing them at exhibitions, festivals, and wherever else she can find.

These are her pieces at Spectrum Gallery:

Spectrum Gallery, as I am just learning, is an extension of the Arts Center Killingworth, in southern Connecticut.  The gallery is located in Centerbrook, CT in a little fork intersection.  Barbara Nair, the director of it all, is a wonderful host at these exhibitions and festivals she and team put up.  She packs her gallery at opening receptions, she works the floor talking to guests so much it’s hard to cut in, and she works well with artists.  These are a few pieces in her gallery:

Then there was Maria’s exhibition in New London, CT.  Maria Colombo was the artist-in-residency at Expressiones Cultural Center from Argentina in October.  This was her second time around, and her work really evolved from the first exhibition she put on last year to the one she created last month.  Her medium is simply paper, however she never spends money on paper.  The paper she uses for her pieces are always taken from recycling bins or trash cans, she always finds multitudinous of magazines, newspapers, printing paper, etc that people discard.

Maria’s pieces are reactionary layers upon layers that transform from a two-dimensional form to a sculptural growth in the space in which she works.  Check them out for yourself:

While at Expressiones, I was lucky enough to bump into one of Hygienic Gallery’s resident artist and she was nice enough to give me a quick after hours private tour of the gallery.  It’s a great space and I liked the pieces I saw there.  Of course I couldn’t help but take some snapshots, here they are:

A group of exhibiting artists, of which I knew 95%, were exhibiting at the Dirt Salon in Hartford, CT.  My friend and artist Carolanne Pinto was presenting her Master’s Program body of work, and I offered a couple of hours of time to help her install some of her pieces.  The exhibition opened the same day as the Richard Welling show at CCSU, but I was able to catch the last little bit of it and I was glad I did.  Check out these awesome pieces:

November also marked the end to my dry spell because I finally put some of my work to showcase.  When I met Barbara at Spectrum Gallery, she didn’t miss a beat, immediately she asked me if I wanted to put work in for the next show.  A couple of weeks ago I brought her my four pieces which are now on sale in her gallery, just in time for the holidays.  She will also be selling those pieces online, you can check them out here.

Then, of course, came the making of the dress which some of you might have already seen from this post so I won’t go into detail about it.

This past week I met with CAFA president, Robert Frink, and artist Gigi Liverant, recipient of ‘Best in Show’ in CAFA’s Annual Exhibition this past summer.  Robert and I wanted to get a feeling from a member artist as to how we could make CAFA even more engaged with the artists, and how we could improve our leadership with our members.  She thought it was wonderful that we are trying to create additional exhibitions during the year.  Our 1st Online Photo Exhibition is still ongoing, so submit here.  It was a great meeting as we got some great feedback.  This is Gigi Liverant’s ‘Best in Show’ piece:

bestinshow