Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

Visitor Series Artist Statement

September 29, 2015

Greeting Earthlings,

I have finally written the artist statement for my newest art series and thought you would be interested in reading it.


Pleasant Pirate w Flower PowerThe Visitor series began as a playful and natural progression from preceding anthropomorphized artworks. I realized how extensively I personified my sculptures after observing my son do the same with his toys. With this realization, I decided to embrace and more fully explore character development in my sculptures.

In the past, I intuitively personified each piece as is often highlighted by their playful names. Some of these sculptural personalities are dark and ominous, some are humorous, and others are satirical. However, most are playfully constructed with a toy-like quality.

In general, via zoomorphic characterization and a collage-like multiplicity of influences, my artwork reveals personal observations and responds to the complex time and place in which we live. However, the Visitor series uniquely glorifies what I have come to recognize as my mischievous imagination. The fact that I posses this imaginative outlook is intriguing, and worth further artistic exploration.

The fundamental essence of the Visitor series is a sculptural praise of my son’s youthful glee and a rejoicing in the remnants of my own. Additionally, the sculptures are a playful acquiescence of my maturation that epitomizes my satirical worldview. Or, maybe, I just can’t help myself from creating sculptures with “super powers.”

I have been Directly Picked

August 20, 2015

Hello Lovely Readers,

I wanted to share this exciting news with you.  I have been included in the “Paradise City: Fall Northampton Directors Picks”.  GJF, Paradise City, PortraitYay! I guess I better get to work.



P.s. Portrait used in the feature article is not current. No I haven’t shaved my beard.

Winging It in Connecticut

August 7, 2015

Photo by my 7 year old son.

I know this post is way overdue. I had some issues with the blog format and needed a break, but it is now time to revisit my writing, and blog, Creating: A Life. Doing so could mean quick update or a long rambling existential reconstruction of the last several years of my life, or something in-between. There is much to contemplate on and about the various “in-betweens” we and I encounter; let’s see what happens.

My last post for Creating: A Life was on November 26, 2011. Since then my spouse, my son, and I, have settled in Connecticut. We bought an old farmhouse, with a large sunny yard, which we are slowly rehabilitating. The house was relatively well maintained; however, the yard was completely overgrown. To help me transform our property into a small food-producing homestead, I enrolled in the University of Connecticut’s Master Gardner program which has proven very helpful.

I also renovated a 24’ x 24’ saltbox style building into a studio. The building was originally an unheated workshop and garden shed. It required some structural reconstruction, new windows, rewiring, insulation, and new walls thanks to a sheetrock hanging day with extended family. Ultimately, the complete interior was transformed on my own except for the house’s electrical panel upgrade to a 200 AMP system and an instillation of a 100 AMP subpanel to the studio. I definitely needed to hire this job out. This renovation took me roughly a year and a half to complete.

While working on the studio, I took a break from my artwork, and concentrated on the Master Gardner coursework and cleaning up our property. This was a welcome change from my intense work during my 2011 McKnight Fellowship for Ceramic Artists, in Minnesota. The fellowship was very rewarding, although it did keep me away from my family for most of that year. Suffice it to say, I made a hell of allot of artwork and drank a lot of red wine. My favorite grape is Malbec – I like it for its tang!

Rat Rod with Insectual Power: Visitor Sereis 20015 Terra Cotta with Multi-Fired Surface 10.5

Rat Rod with Insectual Power: Visitor Series
Terra Cotta with Multi-Fired Surface
10.5″ x 12.5″ x 4.5″

My time away from art making was a good and welcome change. I actually didn’t spend much time dwelling or thinking about my artwork. I knew once the studio was done that I would pull through any apprehension I might have about restarting my creative process. I ended up starting a new sequence, titled the “Visitor” series, and began moving back into more functional work, figuring I would need some money to support my artwork and hopefully help with our finances. So I am now working on marketing my work.

All three of us are pretty well settled in our new home and state. We are cat people and have two great feline companions. Each one of us has our own place within our shared connected paths. My spouse’s career is librarianship, she is also a wonderful mother, spouse, and photographer (when she can find the time). Our son is a fantastic kid: very creative, enthusiastic about his interests, and growing up fast. Me? Well, I am kind of “whacking-out” in that I am trying to reinvent my-self, as a stay-at-home spouse, parent, artist, handy man, mini-homesteader, and, reflective introvert with an interest in the mystical in-betweens. Maybe more later! (I still have some issues with the blog format.)


Photo by my 7 year old son.

Oh yeah, and I am growing a beard – aiming for wizard by fifty!

Two Simultaneous Series’: A Self-Published Article

November 26, 2011

For a period of roughly six years my creative development has revolved around two series’ of ceramic sculptures: Synthohumans and Orphaned Teapots. While making both bodies of artwork, I noticed an interesting relationship between the two. How and why these works developed is unique to each series. While both groupings evolved from my early Gizmology series, Synthohumans and Orphaned Teapots have different aesthetic intentions and content, yet their connection is a unusual. Though unintentional, this intriguing relationship begs consideration; in this article, I reflect upon my art making process and the artistry of these bodies of work.

The Synthohuman series developed as the Gizmology series transformed from fictitious machines to figurative sculptures. Several transitional Gizmology sculptures began my exploration of, and concern about, Western society’s male and female divisive gender roles.

A group of five life-sized ceramic sculptures, Synthohumans, aremy response to society’s gender conflict. I believe, as many people do, that the gender war should have ended long ago as this conflict is detrimental to everyone. Because of this divide and dual sexism in our culture, every male and female is in some way emotionally, spiritually, and physically suffering. Perhaps potential for healing lies within humanity’s third sex: the hermaphrodite, a being of both genders.

To explore this idea, I abstracted the figure by referencing an amalgamation of medieval armor, mid-twentieth century appliances and toys, tools, weaponry, mannequins, cyborgs, and various other objects. In addition, within the Synthohumans, I visually discuss my hope that future enlightened beings lie within the physical and emotional hermaphrodites of this world.

In today’s Western culture, hermaphrodites are hidden, shunned, physically mutilated, and emotionally harmed; the English language does not have a singular pronoun to represent the presence of both genders in one being. However, I believe it is the spiritual and physical nature of the third sex that may be able to heal the conflict between the predominant male and female genders. I find it interesting that, in some, but not all, ancient cultures, hermaphrodites were revered and were often spiritual leaders and medicine people of their communities:

 “The presence of gender-variant people historically and cross culturally is indisputable. They have been respected and reviled, subjected to high social honor as well as ostracism and annihilation. They have served humankind as shamans and warriors, as priests and prostitutes, as healers and artists, as political leaders, and as child raisers. They have also served as the scapegoats and guinea pigs of religious zeal, political xenophobia, and medical inquisition. Indeed, the transgender experience has been rendered invisible historically, leaving people today to imagine that cross-gendered behavior is a symptom of modern life” (Lev, A. I., 2004).

“The presence of gender-variant people historically and cross culturally is indisputable. They have been respected and reviled, subjected to high social honor as well as ostracism and annihilation. They have served humankind as shamans and warriors, as priests and prostitutes, as healers and artists, as political leaders, and as child raisers. They have also served as the scapegoats and guinea pigs of religious zeal, political xenophobia, and medical inquisition. Indeed, the transgender experience has been rendered invisible historically, leaving people today to imagine that cross-gendered behavior is a symptom of modern life” (Lev, A. I., 2004).

Good-Ole-Boy: Synthohuman. 2006, Terra-cotta, 36″ x 18″ x 12″

“The presence of gender-variant people historically and cross culturally is indisputable. They have been respected and reviled, subjected to high social honor as well as ostracism and annihilation. They have served humankind as shamans and warriors, as priests and prostitutes, as healers and artists, as political leaders, and as child raisers. They have also served as the scapegoats and guinea pigs of religious zeal, political xenophobia, and medical inquisition. Indeed, the transgender experience has been rendered invisible historically, leaving people today to imagine that cross-gendered behavior is a symptom of modern life” (Lev, A. I., 2004).I see George W. Bush’s Texas tough-guy swagger, his hawkish use of the US military for Iraqi oil, his catering to big business, and his father’s buddies for his political gain, as well as his incompetence that he disguised in American machismo to be an extreme abuse of American male privilege. I perceive George W. Bush as a playground bully who took his masculine anger and testosterone globally and the world has suffered severely as a result.

To portray my distrust of the good-ole-boy network and its nepotism, Good-Ole-Boy, employs various Wild West objects such as the cowboy hat, sheriff’s badge, bullets and pistol, to represent male roles and masculine anger that I see in many American men, including myself. The cowboy hat is intended to broadly depict Hollywood’s portrayal of the American male through iconic individuals such as John Wayne. Such representation is an extreme, narrow, and unnatural depiction of maleness. The revolving bullet head/mind represents our culture’s obsession with male-imposed violence that I see as unnatural and unhealthy. The six-shooter in the sculpture’s back speaks to my interpretation of the good-ole-boy network’s self-centered world view: “I will scratch your back if you scratch mine” or as “W” stated, “you’re either with us or against us.” The arms/hands are ceramic recreations of cannibal forks that were once used for removing brains from human victims.

Even though Good-Ole-Boy represents the negative aspects of Western society’s masculinity as well as the accepted violence and “boys will be boys” attitude that children are reared with, the sculpture is also effeminate and hermaphroditic. I incorporate such dual-gender characteristics in all Synthohumans to represent what might be an intellectual and emotionally enlightened being: an individual that is a humanist, and is respectful and appreciative of all life. I accomplish this humanist representation more effectively in the four other Synthohumans as they are more benign in nature.

Air Head: Synthohuman. 2004, Terra Cotta, 69″ x 12″ x 12″

For example Air Head reflects my philosophy of the importance in recognizing both the physical and emotional human hermaphrodites of this world. As with all of the Synthohumans, I do this by creating a figurative representation of a hermaphrodite that has both mechanical and humanoid characteristics. The head of the sculpture is a tromp-le’- oel (French for “trick the eye”) representation of an early twentieth century electric fan, finished in the iconic baby blue and pink used for infant and toddler’s apparel. While today, blue is associated with boys and pink with girls, a quote from 1918 cited by the Smithsonian Institute reveals that this was not always the case “…the generally accepted rule is pink for the boy and blue for the girl. The reason is that pink being a more decided and stronger color is more suitable for the boy; while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.” The fact that these two colors have changed from one to the other in their gender representation is interesting and substantiates my use of blue and pink to represent the interchangeable gender within the Synthohumans.

The iconic baby blue and pink along with the representational fan points to the irony of the gender biased term “airhead.” Though a male, I consider myself a good candidate for this derogatory term due to my forgetful nature, and not the negative sexual connotations that is embedded in the term when used to refer to a female.

I also use pink and baby blue to question, why we as a culture continue to define our children’s sexual characteristics with these colors before they are capable of defining their own individuality? The practice seems harmful and disrespectful to a child’s psychological development. Yet we continue to do so and, in the United States, it is challenging to find gender neutral clothing for children, especially infants.

Like Synthohumans, Orphaned Teapots, a divergent branch of the Gizmology series that emerged for several reasons. First, I wanted and needed a playful and humorous artistic outlet that would allow me to concentrate on pieces that were driven by form. Second, I also needed to work smaller in scale, because at that time, fitting my art practice within my academic and teaching responsibilities was difficult, especially when creating large scale ceramic sculptures like the Synthohumans.

Finally, these sculptural works were my response to the current market trend and interest in fun and funky teapots. While the Synthohumans focus specifically on the future of human gender, these playful metaphorical teapot creatures and implied orphaned objects were born in response to science fiction’s question: how will all of society and the world appear in the future? I created these ceramic teapots by combining a variety of three-dimensional influences, including toys, industrial machinery, tools, biological life, and mechanics, within a teapot archetype.

All Tanked Up: Orphaned Teapot. 2008, Terra Cotta 10.5″ x 13″ x 5″

With each new teapot, I reinterpreted science fiction’s cyborg and robots as they may appear in beings other than humans such as birds and insects. As a result, many of these metaphorical vessels reflect how I envision a fantastical future life might appear humanity and technology’s impact the environment and biological. In addition, to questioning the appearance of future sentient beings, I intend the Orphaned Teapot’s to represent orphaned creatures that – due to mutations, loss of habitat, etc. – will not be able to reproduce and thus become extinct.

All Tanked Up, with a gas pump handle and zooamorphic qualities, directly addresses humanity’s degradation of the natural world. The teapot spout/gas pump is a blatant response to American society’s addiction to oil and love affair with motor vehicles. The United States is so drastically dependent on this valuable and limited resource, and we continue to pour extravagant amounts of oil into our personal vehicles, infrastructure, products, food production, and economy. Unfortunately, global warming and oil spills have made it evident, that if we do not come clean of our addiction to oil, we will continue to slowly destroy the only home we have and cease to exist.

Construction Beetle with Black Tribal Tattoos: Orphaned teapot. 2006, Terra Cotta 7″ x 10″ x 4″

A more playful toy-like character, Construction Beetle with Black Tribal Tattoos, has a rusty looking yellow and green tromp-l’oeil surface with black markings that reflect America’s contemporary popular culture and the current interest in tattoos and body embellishment. It is interesting that tattoos, once a taboo in American culture are now popular and prevalent, especially, since their rise in popularity happened during the George. W. Bush administration’s reign of socially conservative agendas.

In both Orphaned Teapots and Synthohumans, I create surfaces inspired by aged-induced patinas, reminiscent of rust and decay. I do this to represent nature’s ability to recycle and reuse — an aspect of our world that I fid inspiring; I am obsessed with humanity’s discarded and decaying orphaned objects. These surfaces are intended to represent nature’s ability to re-incorporate and recycle our abandoned junk. By using tromp-l’oeil weathered surfaces, I intend to represent a hopeful visual narrative for viewers concerned with the current dystopia and the possible end of “life as we know it!”

At this point in my career, it is evident that I tend to work is series’, rather than a related string of individual artworks that evolve over time. However, much of the formal influences that inspired the Gizmology series also influenced the Synthohumans and the Orphaned Teapots. In addition, all of my artwork tends to contain social/political commentary. Thus the question remains, how are the Synthohumans and the Orphaned Teapots uniquely linked to each other?

Blue Bug with Tail and Graffiti: Orphaned Teapot. 2005, Terra Cotta 9.5″ x 12″ x 6″

Directly, the relationship is similar to that of a parent and child. The Synthohumans birthed the Orphaned Teapots. While the parent/child connection is rather simplistic, when I reflect upon my artistic intention behind these two sculptural series’ and the experiences that inspired the artwork, the parent-child relationship most effectively explains how the Synthohumans and Orphaned Teapots relate to one another.

At the time when I was working on these series’, much of my psychological life was spent struggling with the idea of bringing children into this world. These serial artworks are a result of my inner struggle with procreation. Fundamentally, I am completely disappointed with the havoc and destruction humans have leashed upon the earth, as well as the cruelty we inflict upon ourselves, each other, and other living beings. As a result I questioned the ethics of bringing another person into this painful and destructive world. While struggling with this, I studied literature about current environmental degradation, agriculture, bioengineering, and developed an interest and a philosophical belief in the importance of hermaphroditic individuals in contemporary society. Wendell Berry’s novels, poetry and social/political/agricultural essays also profoundly impacted my thinking at the time. All of these influences, questions, thoughts, and living during what seems to be humanity’s rapid implosion, has coalesced into two contextually related bodies of artwork that are also the culmination of my psychological and intellectual life prior to the birth of my son.

The Synthohumans are hermaphroditic characters embedded with a science fiction-like typology that question and consider the possibility of humanity’s evolution into a hermaphroditic being and/or psyche. This may not be so farfetched, when you consider the fact that many of the planets creatures, like reptiles and some polar bears are currently born single sexed as a result of the degradation of their habitat and global warming.

While simultaneously creating the Synthohumans, I began to consider the Orphaned Teapots as the Synthohuman’s children thus the teapots developed into odd and playful creatures. Each one has a unique characteristic or personality, although, they all share the same maker and are derived from the same place of origin, similar to a sibling group. While not siblings, the difference between the teapots and siblings is that their place of origin is derived from a single artist whereas many, but not all, siblings, are birthed are conceived from the genetic material of two creatures. Therefore, if we accept the cliche that the works of an artist are their babies, than artists like myself are artistic hermaphrodites. At the very least, most artists intellectually understand the reason why this cliche is used to reference the emotional attachment to our work.

As I continue pushing my artistry, I have realized that the content of my work is influenced by the present. Thus, these two series’ are derived from the world and the time period I live in, much like their predecessors in the Gizmology series. However, the concept and content of Synthohumans and Orphaned Teapots are born from an external and an interior struggle; I see these two bodies of artwork as direct evidence of my thoughts, concerns, and feelings, during the time that the work was being made. This is nothing new when considering the history of art and art making, but fascinating to me when reflecting upon my creative process and its progeny.

Written by Gerard Justin Ferrari


Lang, C. and Kuhnle, U. (2008). Intersexuality and alternative gender categories in non- western cultures. Hormone Research; 69(4):240-250. doi:10.1159/000113025.

Lev, A. I. (2004). Chapter 2: The legacy: Gender variance in history. In Transgender emergence: Therapeutic Guidelines for working with gender-variant people and their families. New York: The Haworth Clinical Practice Press.

Smithsonian Institute. (n.d.). Boy’s sailor suite, 1908. Retrieved from History Wired: A Few of Our Favorite Things website:

2011 McKnight Fellowship for Ceramic Artists.

July 1, 2011

Photo by Jack Hill*

For the past six years I have applied for several grants and fellowships and repeating the applications the following years. The process is time consuming, frustrating, and at times demoralizing. No one likes getting rejection letters, even when it is a common experience as it is for me and numerous other artists. I have gotten used to referring to the winter months as “Grant Writing Season,” a time when much of my energy is spent writing, editing, word-smithing, and organizing applications. After each grant writing season is over and I have received the rejection letters from the various funding foundations, I go through a period of remorse, self doubt, and am frustrated by all of the time I seemingly wasted. Time that could have been spent on other aspects of artistic career, like making more artwork and sending portfolios to galleries and workshop venues. I have often wondered how much more financial success I might have gained if I gave up on grant writing and just spent my time making and marketing my artwork.

I didn’t discontinue the grant and fellowship applications, so I will never know. But I do know that my current work the Poisoned Cocoon series is extremely time consuming. In the past two years I have made less than five pieces each year. This is in part because of other life responsibilities and interests such as stay-at-home dad, gardener, household handy man, cook, baker, and so forth. The limited time I have for studio time is well spent. The meticulous nature of my artwork also require me to price it at the higher end of the art market, which then places it into the arena of art collectors, high-end galleries, museum collections, and the amazingly enlightened people who absolutely need and value artwork in their lives. Suffice it to say these people are limited.

Well, I am happy to say that with the help of an ah-ha moment inspired by the writings of Lial A. Jones, museum director at the Crocker Art Museum, continual editing and support from my spouse, and my own bullheaded persistence, I finally landed the large and prestigious 2011 McKnight Fellowship for Ceramic Artists. This award has helped my self-esteem immensely. It has been a couple years since my art career has produced any real financial gain. The fellowship will enable me to spend more time making art, promoting the work, and participating more fully as an artist. The very first thing I am going to do is attend Charlie Cummings’ workshop, Clay: An Interdisciplinary Medium in the Digital Age, at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts. For some time now, I have been interested in employing contemporary image transfer techniques in my artwork, and now I will have the opportunity to do so. I am also really looking forward to being able to spend time with other artists.

Photo by Jack Hill*

The only downside to receiving this fellowship is that I must remain in Minnesota to accept it, which I did. This normally would not be a problem, except for the fact that my spouse simultaneously was offered and accepted a position in the Northeast United States, the region of my childhood. Thus she and my son will move East and I will stay in the Mid-West until Spring 2012. This situation will be very difficult for the family and marriage. It is hard to think about not being with the two of them on a regular basis; however, in the end I am sure the distance will create a greater appreciation and love for each other. I will be racking up quite a few frequent flier miles, that’s for sure. The positive side to this situation, is that I will have quite a bit of studio time and hopefully will create a fair amount of artwork for the final fellowship exhibition at the Northern Clay Center in Minneapolis. Then, I can take this artwork East and hopefully establish gallery representation in art-loving North East cities.

I am both excited, and apprehensive about the upcoming 2011-12 McKnight Fellowship Year. I know it will be especially hard on my son. He is only three and used to my almost continuous presence. It will be hard for him to be in preschool full-time and in a new living condition. He is at a point in his psychological and emotional development where he needs and is comforted by consistency, which will be completely and totally rearranged for him — it won’t be easy. It will also be hard on my spouse, who will be starting a new job and for all practical purposes will essentially be a single mother for the year. Along with being partners, my spouse and I are also best of friends and we will miss each other, tremendously. I am sure that I will go through some parental/spousal abandonment remorse and guilt. On the other hand, I will have a tremendous amount of time to work on my artwork and art career, I just hope I can survive the loneliness and sorrow that will come with it.

*Jack Hill Photography and Design –

Alone on the Prairie

December 14, 2010

Drawing in the StudioHomesick Blues, Angst, and My Modest Request for an Awesome Gallery Owner

Well if you read my blog in the past you might have noticed that I would generally post at least once a month, which was my goal when starting the Creating: A Life blog experiment. Well it has been since early summer since my last post and it is now early winter, we are into this year’s holiday season. I suppose there are numerous reasons for the lack of posts, the most prevalent being that I went through a period of disliking computing and also being disheartened by my artistic career. I am not sure how to think about or appreciate the new phenomena of social networking. I don’t believe I am a complete Luddite, however I am reluctantly accepting the fact that it is and will most likely be a major aspect of my life and career as an artist.

At the core of my being I am a home-body, who would rather stay relatively close to my domicile, and within close proximity to family members. However, not so close that I can’t disappear into my studio. As a stay-at-home dad with a converted garage studio, I have grown to love my domestic life. As a result of the Mid-Western winter with its negative below temperatures and numerous feet of snow, I am starting to miss my extended family. This is more prevalent this year as my wife and I decided not to travel the four-six day trek to and from my North Eastern relatives this December, its no sleigh ride!

This decision was difficult, because we both love being with family during the holiday season and we especially want our son to be with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. So that he will feel comfortable with them, especially if he ends up a single child. It pains me to think that he might be lonely in this world. Even though I know he will be, it is inevitable, loneliness seems to be major aspect of the human condition. The car trip is grueling and often filled with treacherous weather conditions and flying is not economically viable. We also need some together time. In addition, I desperately need some major studio and career building time, because, I am feeling quit a bit of angst about my artistic career.

The thing is my artwork is going quite well and I am happy with my new series, the “Poisoned Cocoons”, however, how do I effectively market them? When I was an academic, my main focus was making the work, exhibiting it, and publishing it. It was great when it sold and it did subsidize of my studio, however, selling was not as financially critical then as it is now. There are so many questions that I don’t know how to answer, when it comes to promoting my artistic career. One of the down falls of arts education in general, is the lack of promotional skills introduced, encouraged, and/or mentored by institutions higher learning. Most colleges and university art programs train pupils solely in the skills of making art, and currently graduate students are primarily trained and prepared for teaching positions. This is the path I successfully took, until my resignation from academia.

I now see how unfortunate it is that, I and many other educated artists received little or no training in the area of artistic self promotion and marketing. Especially, because I once was in a professorial position and might have been able to help artists-in-training promote their artwork. What I did gain from my education is an appreciation and knowledge of good effective art. Since, I have honed my art making skills and received some notoriety as an artist, I know that my artwork has worth to some collectors. The question is, how do I promote my artwork in such a way that it maintains its worth to more collectors, businesses, institutions, museums, and galleries, and do it on an extremely limited budget? I know that it can be done, there are people who do make their livings as fine artists, so I have hope.

I am slowly taking steps to start gearing up for an art work promotional push, but I do wish I was closer to my extended family in the east, to pull from their emotional support. And of course it wouldn’t hurt to be closer to the eastern cities and their appreciation and financial support of the arts.

So suffice it to say, I am feeling “alone on the prairie”, and some how I have to “pull myself up by the boot straps”, “kick myself in the butt” and embrace my current situation. Chances are no one is going to come along and become my patron, those day’s are pretty much gone as we artist know, especially in these woeful financial times.

Pieces and PartsHowever, I would really love a great gallery owner to fall in love with my work and believe holistically in its potential and purpose as an artistic commodity and promote it relentlessly. This is a possibility is it not!

So hello there Great Big World, I am sending you good energy and hope via electrons, the internet, social networking, asking you to please lead me to the most awesome gallery owner and/or agent the world has ever known, or at least that I have ever know, to help me promote my artwork!

Art Making: Rejection and the Courage to Continue

June 2, 2010

It has been some time since my last post. I have been busy putting the garden in, watching the earth grow as it recovers from the long winter, and recover from winter myself. I live in the upper Midwest after all where winters are cold and severe.

So far, I haven’t discussed my art making or artistic life, primarily because I would rather my artwork speak for itself, and because information about my artistic career is available on my website,, it has seemed unnecessary.

Fortunately, artwork does not tell the artist’s biography, but instead reflects the maker’s influences, inspirations, and/or muses. If it is good artwork it will take on a life of its own, transcending the maker. As a result, in some ways the artist becomes irrelevant or simply an aspect of an artwork’s birth. With this understanding, I tend not to speak of my life as an artist, although, I do like to discuss my artwork when invited to do so.

Uncharacteristically of myself, this particular post addresses a difficult aspect of my artistic life. In the past few months I have received rejections letters from three grants that I applied for. These grants would have provided finances for me to continue my art career in a more substantial and productive way. Since, my resignation from my professorial position, my fund base is slowly dwindling. In addition, and for a variety of reasons my artwork is not selling. In the past, I did not worry so much about financing this aspect of my life, because, my teaching income funded the making of my artwork.

Now that I am no longer receiving a paycheck, I am beginning to feel the oncoming financial crunch, which in all honesty is only part of the trials and tribulations of being an artist. Unfortunately, in America money is the primary accepted form of applause, and we also need it to survive. Thankfully, I receive various forms of applause for my artwork, which I definitely appreciate. However, when someone buys a sculpture of mine, I feel the value of my artwork and artistic role is substantiated. When a person is willing to trade their skills, time, and living for my artwork (skills, time, and living) in monetary form, this high level of appreciation shows a remarkable amount of faith in me as an artist. Which of course boost my ego and gives me courage to continue my artist role, not to mention the continuation of my being.

What I am trying to say is, that this past winter and early spring has been extremely difficult intellectually and emotionally. I am tired of rejection and I have been wondering why I chose to be an artist, if I did, as it certainly is not an easy way to exist or make a living. There are of course, wonderful aspects of the artist’s life, which revolve around the actual art making, study, and exploration that occur when I am in the “flow” of a creative period. The hard part is the continual realization that I live in a society that for the most part doesn’t really care about what I do, or give a damn about art-making in general. This might not be so bad if challenging artwork, which I like to think I make, was not also feared, misunderstood, and marginalized.

Suffice it to say, that I have been second guessing numerous aspects of my artwork and artist role, which has been difficult. So where do I go from here, where will the next well of energy come from to keep me going as an artist? So far grant applications haven’t been successful at providing funding, career enhancing kudos, or ego enhancing energy?

The only thing I know to do is to continue working and keep trying various avenues to promote myself. My entrepreneurial skills definitely need to be encouraged, found, and/or honed. Maybe the next few years of my life will be a study in learning how to be more entrepreneurial. If so, it may also prove to be the most challenging and difficult aspect of my artistic career, I have to admit that I face it with reluctance and fear.

I was hoping for a boost of energy and funding from a reputable arts foundation to keep me going, but I guess that is not in the cards at the moment. Somehow, I will have to find the courage and emotional energy to continue making my artwork, which usually means just getting up and out to the studio and working. I have done it numerous times before, I guess I can do it again. Hopefully, I will learn how to make a living from my artistic endeavors.

This blog post is for all artists who are struggling to continue their lives work. Please take Courage!

The Art of Rejection by Arthur GonzalezIf you need a little humor and an emotional boost to get you through all those rejections, take a look at Arthur Gonzalez’s book, The Art of Rejection. It is an artistic parody and some pretty damn good artwork literally drawn on the numerous rejection letters he has received, throughout his artistic career. I highly recommend it, it has helped me.

P.S. Arthur Gonzales did not pay me to write kudos about his book. However, if you want to buy it from Amazon via the above link, I will get a little kickback as an Amazon Associate.

The Stolen Four

March 2, 2010

Today I found out that one of my favorite art works, Blue Bug with Tail and Graffiti, was stolen from Concordia University, in Saint Paul, MN, after the 3rd Biennial Concordia Continental Ceramics Competition.  A very good contemporary ceramic exhibition that ran from January 28th -February 19th.

How am I supposed to emotionally and intellectually deal with the thoughts and feelings that go along with such an occurrence?  Three other excellent artists’ works were also stolen. Leopold Foulem’s, the most established of the four of us, has his work in numerous public and private collections.  I would be honored to have my work in a collection alongside his, as well as with Keven Snipes and Eva Funderburg’s.  I guess I do, because whoever stole this work has a very nice collection of contemporary ceramics, valued at over $12,000.

Who and why would someone steal this work?  It is not like the average American has knowledge of the art world much less the ceramic art market.  The thief or thieves are not going to be able to take the work to local pawn shop and convince the owner to buy these artworks.  From my experience people who buy art  either have deep pockets or are willing to sacrifice much of their income to surround themselves with art — these are fine, noble, and, rare people.  So what is the motivation? Does the thief have connections to the black market? Are they just avid lovers of ceramics and willing to go to such drastic measures to surround themselves with it?  Am I honored to be in their stolen collection, I don’t know, maybe I am?

Blue Bug with Tail and Graffiti, was one of my favorite pieces.  I was keeping it for my private collection, and exhibiting it as NFS (not for sale).  I make one-of-a-kind pieces that cannot be reproduced.  I might be able to recreate a facsimile of the original, but the nuances can never be recreated.

If this pieces is not recovered, and/or not damaged,  I am sure that Concordia University will reimburse me for the insurance value of the sculpture.  I can definitively use the money, as my studio fund is slowly dwindling, and my wife and I live very close to the bone at the moment.  My new series has not been available for public viewing yet,  so I am not creating an income.  However, money comes and goes, but the artwork of  the “Stolen Four” is more important than its monetary value.  If it wasn’t, artists would not create, as most of us are rarely compensated for our creative efforts.  Art making for the most part is a labor of love and a lot of handwork and perseverance.  Most people with aspirations of making a living as an artist don’t, and many stop making art all together.  The point being, I would rather have my sculptural teapot back, safe and sound, rather than be reimbursed for its market value.  I keep a record of who owns my sculptures.  Therefore, it is very surreal and uncomfortable not knowing where my artwork is and who is taking care of it.

I have to admit, in a very strange and weird way, I feel slightly honored that someone deemed my work good enough to steel and that it is in such good company.  Farewell Blue Bug with Tail and Graffiti, I will miss you!

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Zen Garden: Sand Messes

February 28, 2010

My son is becoming more independent. Which is wonderful, as every extra minute he occupies himself means more time to accomplish small tasks, like washing dishes, cooking, baking, sweeping, and so forth.

For the last month or so he has not been very enthusiastic about the studio playground, and has shown little interest in his sand box, trucks, blocks, toy mower, or drawing. Unfortunately, we often left the studio, my favorite place, after just a few minutes. However, lately he has developed an interest in making “messes” with sand. He will spend up to fifteen minutes or more, spreading sand over the floor, on shelves, in buckets, and in random places throughout the studio. Normally, I am annal about having a clean and orderly studio, although, when he is making “messes” I let him go, and deal with the destruction later. If I am quiet, I can draw or read while he is sand-drawing and he might not notice me for some time. This is great, because, I can actually get a little bit accomplished. Occasionally, he will want me to help him clean up one of his creations so that he can start over anew, I willingly oblige him.

The hardest part of my parental role is having patience for studio time. I have all but given up on the possibility of working on art during the day. I work at night and during the weekends when my wife can take care of our son. However, when he is creating sand messes, I refer to them as “zen gardens”, I might be able to read an article or place a few lines on a drawing. It gives me hope that one day we will be able to work independently for an extended period of time. In the mean time, I enjoy watching him experiment with his world and try to give him as much freedom to play and create as possible.

Form Follows Function or Does It?

December 10, 2009

I have been wanting to write another blog post for some time. Let’s just say that every time I seem to have a moment, I’ve chosen to work on my artwork rather than writing (e.g numerous blog post ideas and the article I have been laboring over). I am working to complete six pieces for my new series by early January so that I can start looking for a new gallery to represent my work.

Fortunately this post will be a relatively easy endeavor, and then I’ll head out to the studio. Here is an interview with Brad Cushman, the gallery directory at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Brad invited me to be in an exhibition that he and his colleagues developed called “Form Follows Function or Does It?” I hope you enjoy it!