Art and Advocacy

I’m sure even non-American readers are aware of the contentious election America just experienced. We as a people are more divided than ever, individuals from every side of the culture wars are feeling more wounded and misunderstood than ever whether they have reason to or no, and no one seems to be experiencing any degree of peace – even the side who “won”. Basically, everyone is super freaking pissed right now for one reason or another.

Our two 2016 candidates were the least liked and least trusted candidates in all of history. However, one in particular seemed to have a larger issue with flat out verbal diarrhea, managing to isolate women, minorities, individuals with disabilities, and non-heterosexuals all in one fell swoop. His win caused a lot of fear and resentment among those who fall under any of the aforementioned demographics, leaving them feeling like their concerns and even their very existences literally don’t matter in this country. I’ll admit I was very angry after the election; angry for women who have been assaulted or sexually harassed and been told to get over it, angry for my non-white friends, for my gay friends, for my students who all have varying disabilities and health issues and depend on affordable health care.  At the same time, those Trump supporters who may despise the things that mindlessly fly out of his mouth, but voted on policy only are fearing being lumped in with his supporters who actually are sexist and racist simply because of who they voted for. Families aren’t speaking to each other and friendships and marriages are dissolving due to voting differences. However, as Jon Stewart so eloquently puts it in the interview below, “I don’t believe we are a fundamentally different country today than we were two weeks ago. The same country – with all its grace, and flaws, and volatility, and insecurity, and strength and resilience – exists today as existed two weeks ago. The same country that elected Donald Trump elected Barack Obama.”

Compassion and grace can still exist and thrive. Check out these artists who are using their visual voice to combat ableism, sexism, racism, and homophobia.

Ableism.

Chinese artist Jody Xiong developed a project, called “Mind Art”, through which individuals with disabilities could send electronic signals through their brain to activate detonators which would release bursts of paint, resulting in expressive abstract creations. Art, creativity, and innovation are not limited to those with traditional abilities.

Sexism.

I’ve written about Carol Rossetti before in a previous “Artists To Know” post. She tackles sexism, gender stereotyping, and societal expectations of women through her illustrations that tell real personal stories.“Everyone is entitled to self respect”.

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Racism.

I remember Mary Engelbreit being the illustrator in the 90s. I would always buy my mom one of her calendars for Christmas as a kid, and loved her colorful patterns and cheerful, whimsical style. Her children’s book style art always communicated kindness and positivity, but in more recent years she decided to use her art to communicate a more overt social statement. She illustrated the image on the right as a tribute to Michael Brown after his death, and received a lot of backlash for it. She responded to haters via the second illustration on the left, only saying, “The artwork speaks for itself,” and refusing to comment any further. It shows class to not take the bait when being insulted or criticized for your message.

Homophobia.

Akira the Hustler’s charming sculptures are inspired by the Chinese “Red String” belief that the gods tie an invisible red cord between two people who are destined to marry. What is revolutionary about his project is that he does not portray same sex couples as revolutionary at all. Viewers are not being hammered over the head with any heavy-handed political message. The sculptures are simply happy and whimsical depictions of love, each with their own unique story, each story given equal weight.

I illustrated the watercolor and ink piece below, titled “Adjoining”, a little over 5 years ago having no idea that it would actually resonate with me more today with everything going on than at its original inception. We have to break down our internal, self-imposed barriers and actually talk to people, actually hear them when they talk back. It’s hard, and it’s messy, but it is necessary.

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No one has lost their voice. No matter who you voted for, if you can’t see any good in the world right now then be that good. If someone around you makes bigoted comments, let them know you don’t appreciate that sort of talk and politely ask them to can it. If someone is being mistreated because of their religious beliefs, ethnicity, gender, ability, or orientation then stand up for them – be their friend. Our president is not responsible for how we behave. We are.

 

 

 

 

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Artists To Know: ArtPrize 2016 Edition

I almost thought I wasn’t going to make it to Artprize this year with everything going on, but in the end I knew I’d deeply regret it if I didn’t just make the time. I mean, even Donald Trump turned up for Artprize this year, albeit on different weekends. Apparently I went one week too early and missed him, oh darn ;).

Though my boyfriend and I missed meeting an actual candidate, the election still haunted us in the form of getting semi-lost by missing an exit due to a sociopolitical argument that escalated on the car ride over. I think election time makes all Americans go a little psycho. Otherwise, the day went off without a hitch…

Good food, good beer,

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silly photo ops,

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a sighting of my favorite Pantone color,

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and a chance to live as my favorite Peanuts character for a hot second (Lucy forever!!!).

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Granted, walking around town for one day you only end up seeing a fraction of the art that is available, but I wanted to share with you my favorites of what I was able to see.

Kathy WeaverWar Devours Us

Weaver’s intricate charcoal and mixed media pieces have so much detail, incorporating collage and  stitched elements as you zoom in closer. Weaver aims to show the strength and courage of the refugee community amidst horrifying circumstances, and often less than a warm welcome when they attempt to find peace and safety.

Saya WoofalkPose System

This piece, featuring collaged bodies and colorful details (and skulls, have to love skulls), grabbed my attention right away for it’s dynamic composition and unique style. It was so different from anything else I would see during the day, and there was so much visual movement in both the contortions of the figures and even the psychedelic dotted background.

Chadwick and SpectorMuseum Anatomy

These pieces are painted on human bodies – enough said. The concept statement said that the artists used female portraits from the Renaissance that had been either hidden, lost, or destroyed. To recreate these paintings on paper alone would be a challenge. Can you spot the eye in the second photo?

 Scott Leipski10 Thoughts On Tuesday

This artist challenged himself to create a new piece every Tuesday for 10 weeks, and this is the end result. I loved how different each piece was from the other, like an eccentric cast of characters. I had a soft spot for the Alice In Wonderland inspired piece, of course.

Joao Paulo Goncalves – Portraits of Light and Shadow

This artist created portraits of Martin Luther King Jr., Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, and Vermeer’s Girl with the Pearl Earring using pixel art. But, this was no ordinary pixel art. The pixels are actually wooden blocks that protrude from the surface in varying degrees, and the different shades that you see are created by light and shadow from the light from the fixtures above hitting the blocks. I honestly can’t even quite wrap my head around how the artist figured all of this out to get such a rich gradation. It gives me a headache, so I think I will stop trying to figure it out and just enjoy the masterpiece :).

Zhao naIsomorphic Interpretation of the Four Seasons

These stunning paintings do one of my favorite things in art – merge living things in their environment. The detail is stunning, and the use of white space, absolutely perfect. These works incorporated a lot of symbolism, outlined by the artist on her Artprize profile, which I would encourage you to read for further insight.

Hope Network Neuro RehabilitationUnmasking Brain Injury

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I love love love the concept of this project. I work with a program that provides opportunities for expression through art for individuals with physical and mental challenges, so this was right up my alley. Using masks to create a visual representation of each artist’s personal story, 28 artists who attend the Hope Network’s rehabilitation program joined together to express how brain injury has affected them personally, and how they have triumphed. This project, featuring not only the mask itself but each individual’s accompanying personal story, was one of the most meaningful and powerful pieces I saw. I love art that visually represents personal stories. I have previously talked about the power of telling people’s stories through art, and also about shining light on the truth through telling your personal story. Stories are a powerful force for both recording history, erasing prejudices and misconceptions, and personal therapy, letting go of the burden of things you cannot change.

Has anyone else gone to Artprize this year? What were some of your favorites?

Artists To Know: Amazing Sculptures From The FIA

My boyfriend and I visited an interesting sculpture exhibit at the Flint Institute of Art this summer titled Form, Function, and Fantasy. The exhibit was divided into 3 rooms, each embodying one of the aforementioned themes. I captured my absolute favorite pieces from the exhibit, and wanted to share them with you. I know I discovered many new favorite artists in the process. I think all of the pictures I took were from the “fantasy” section, which for me is honestly not surprising. We accidentally went through the exhibit backwards, viewing fantasy first which may also have had something to do with it. Let’s be real, in art as in life, everything’s a letdown after that ;).

Irina Zaytceva – Twins

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I was actually drawn to make a trip out to this exhibit based on this image I saw on the FIA website. I love the melding of old world artistry with fairy tale mermaids. The bold red coral shapes growing off of it give this piece add an element of abstract and modernity to the piece as well, bringing one more dimension to the mix. I am personally so much more of a drawing and painting person than a sculpture person, so I think I loved the fact that the surface of this 3D form was used as a canvas for 2D art as well, incorporating both types of design.

Richard Notkin – Heart Teapot: Ironclad Hostage II

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As a tea enthusiast, I absolutely adore looking at uniquely designed teapots. My absolute favorite thing about days off is my cup of tea right after I wake up in the morning, no joke, usually accompanied by doing some sketching, reading a book or the news. I am such an old person at heart at a mere 28 years on this earth. In all seriousness though, the design of this teapot inspired sculpture is flawless. Combining industrial elements with anatomy and figuring out how to transform the shape of a human heart into a vessel for tea somehow could not have been an easy task. You don’t even notice it’s a teapot at first, it just looks like an interesting sculpture. The fact that it hides its more mundane function is rather interesting.

Sergei Isupov – Zombie Fish

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I love the tall, thin forms, the monochromatic color scheme, and the detail that makes this piece look like a pen and ink illustration from a children’s scary story picture book come to life in 3-dimensional form. Very fun and inventive.

Krisaya Luenganantakul – Happy House #1

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As I read more about this artist, I discovered she has a whole series of these lovely, whimsical houses in vibrant colors and with floating, dreamlike, organic detail. The project is titled “Homemade – a project where the womb, the home, and the female are interpreted under a new light.” This project discusses the idea that oftentimes feminine traits are associated with weakness and fragility. However, patience, tenderness, forgiveness, and love are strengths that have made them universal protectors and caretakers for every family over time. And, important nurturing that determines the growth  and well-being of all humans takes place in both the womb and the home, centered around the female. It is interesting and different to see a project about female empowerment that is based on the value of women’s more traditional roles. I was originally drawn by the visuals, but found the idea behind the design very thought provoking as well.  

Michael Lucero – Hunter (Reclamation Series)

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There is no way I could not be drawn to this piece by color alone. I absolutely love pops of bold red amongst neutral tones, and use this color scheme in my own work often as well. There are a lot of interesting details the longer you look at it, and the contrast between the style of the head and body is staggering. Yet, when you look at the piece as a whole it is unified. I myself was working on sketches for a series incorporating faces being covered in various winged things, so of course I was first drawn to the most noticeable visual element of the moth over the figure’s face.

Akio Takamori – Karako With Striped Kimono

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I found this sculpture to be so incredibly calming to look at. The soft, round forms, harmonious pale colors, and flowing watercolor-like drips along with the neutral, solemn face were very peaceful to me. I think if this was in my house and I could just look at it whenever I got tense, I would never lose my temper.

Sunkoo Yuh – Horn Blower

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I loved the dripping glaze application in this piece because again, it reminded me of watercolor. I also loved the totem quality it had to it,the many figures and faces stacking atop one another. Each is such a distinctive, unique character in the composition.

Sara Lisch – Lion’s Journey

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This was another piece that reminded me of a children’s book illustration come to life. I love the muted color scheme, and the stylized features of the human and animals. There is definitely a story here, and it is left to the viewer to imagine where they are all headed to.

I’d encourage you to visit the links to see more of these artists’ work. All of their pieces are just as fantastic as these. I am forever in awe of 3D artists. The best sculpture I ever made was this cardboard, modeling clay, and found object punk-diorama time-based piece pictured below.

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It was a final project for my intro to 3D class in college, a time-based assignment meaning a piece that would somehow change over time as part of it’s presentation, not lasting in its original form. Basically, the so-so sculpted clay girl in the center was all white and pristine at the beginning, and then everyone in the class got to take turns sticking the different objects to her, dumping paint on her, and otherwise altering her form. It dealt with how perceptions shape identity, and was all anti-conformity, anti-media, and all that good stuff – very much what I was thinking about at that time of my life. Of course, my best sculpture would be ephemeral. What rotten luck. At least I’ll always have the pictures.

Alice-In-Wonderland-Style Crocodile Tears

This is me these past 4 weeks.

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“The War” 2010, Prismacolor Pencil

You remember that scene in the Disney version of Alice In Wonderland where she cries and cries until her tears fill the whole room and she floats away and almost drowns?

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Yeah, it’s kind of like that.

I have been busy, stressed beyond belief, and not wanting to do anything remotely mentally or emotionally taxing once I finally do get a spare moment. Incidentally, I’ve been playing a lot of Civ V, planning world domination. Honestly, becoming a ruthless dictator seems like it would entail less strain sometimes than my day to day existence as of late.

I took a break from my ongoing series I’d been working on to finish a piece for a summer gallery show coming up in June, and must admit that I have no further updates since then. To once again recap my free-time allotment over the last month, gaming>drawing.

It’s been a crazy ride, but there have been some bright spots amongst all the weeping and gnashing of teeth – like one of my best friends from junior high and high school’s wedding reception! She got married in India back in December, and her and her sister picked out these beautiful dresses for us to wear to the spring reception. I love my shocking pink and silver, Barbie Dreamhouse number ;). IMAG2772[1]

I also continue to be blown away by my Express Yourself Artshop students. Check this out!

I have no room in my apartment for a fantasy creature sculpture (a bummer, since I used to collect dragon stuff – no joke.), but I couldn’t resist buying a cool box! Each one is so unique. Here is mine in its happy little home.

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Now that so many of the students are selling their artwork, I swear they are going to be getting half my paycheck. I have no self control. Our current Virtual Gallery is for local purchasers only, so I’ve added a couple of paintings and jewelry pieces to my ebay shop under the category “Artshop” to give others outside of the Saginaw/Midland/Bay City area a chance to own some awesome art. Go check it out!

My next post will be a lot more informative, and filled with some new in-progress shots of the continuation of my series, PINKY-SWEAR! ❤ you all, signing off.

Artists To Know : Halloween Edition

In honor of Halloween, I thought an Artists To Know featuring the spookiest of artworks would be quite fun. Though I won’t be getting any trick-or-treaters due to the very non-festive large wooden sign out in front of my apartment complex reading “NO TRICK-OR-TREATERS!!!”, I do have a costume party to get to later tonight which I am quite antsy for. I’m going as a flapper this year, which I know is an “every girl ever” kind of costume, but … not every girl will have a snazzy vintage 1920s style beaded fringe dress from an antique store ;). Now, without further ado …

Ana Bagayan

Ana was born in Armenia in 1983, and earned a BFA at Art Center College in California. Her work is inspired by aliens, spirits, and ghosts and she has coined the term “Futurealism” to describe her aesthetic. She believes that whatever we can imagine can also be manifested into our physical reality.

Gus Fink

Gus Fink is a self-taught artist who has been making a living off of his work full time since 2000. His medium and subject matter varies, but each work maintains his signature creepy yet somehow endearing vibe. His “Antique Horror” collection that spans over a decade was featured in a clothing collection for select Hot Topic stores over the summer.

Michele Lynch

Michele Lynch is a multi-talented artist excelling in painting, mixed media, and sculpture. The characters she brings to life are all a little bit retro monster movie, a little bit steampunk, balanced out with a lot of sass and personality.

Mizna Wada

Japanese illustrator Mizna Wada has just mastered the cute-creepy, pastel goth world. I have always been quite a fan of the adorably eerie universe, so her art certainly struck a chord with me. Wada is another artist who brings her characters painted on canvas to life in 3D form, this time as fun plush dolls and vinyl figures. I must own one someday, when I am not on such a strict budget ;).

Leslie Ann O’Dell

Leslie Ann O’Dell combines fine art, photography, and digital design to create her haunting works. SHK Magazine summed it up nicely when they said of her work, “O’Dell’s work is comprised of haunting imagery… Ranging from dark imposing landscapes to mystifying portraitures, that evoke sensations of vulnerability, demise and the fear associated with such sentiments”. Of course, being a portrait girl myself, I am most drawn to her depictions of figures. They are truly different from anything I have ever seen.

Happy Halloween everyone! Have fun being someone new for a day, and a lovely evening to all.

Have you ever wondered what monsters dress up as for Halloween? :)

Have you ever wondered what monsters dress up as for Halloween? 🙂

Artists To Know: ArtPrize 2015 Edition

My boyfriend and I visited ArtPrize in Grand Rapids this past Friday. Though I had a piece in it last year, I didn’t have a *big* project ready this year that I wanted to enter so I decided to attend simply as an art appreciator. With inspiration quite literally around every corner, I came back impressed and invigorated, as always. I wanted to share some of the pieces that really stopped me in my tracks. Keep in mind, I was only in Grand Rapids perusing for a day, and as any of you who have attended in the past know, this gave me but a small cross section of ArtPrize 2015. If any of you have been over to ArtPrize, feel free to share other artists/pieces you saw that I may have missed! I definitely left wanting more, but am glad I got to make it to the event this year, even if just for a day. I encourage you to visit these artists’ personal websites I’ve linked to and learn more about their work and the story behind why they create what they do. They explore a variety of poignant themes in a unique and engaging way.

Kristi Lynn Studios – One Hundred Faces

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Ahni Sallaway – I Am You

Kate Askegaard – A Breakthrough

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Little did I know until visiting her website myself, her piece in ArtPrize last year, “A Plea, Remember Me”, was also one of my favorites. Miss Kate has a new fan!

Candace Compton Pappas – 200+

Each bird represents one of the over 200 school girls that remain missing after they were kidnapped from their school in Nigeria by the terrorist group Boka Haram.

Jacqueline Baerwald – Melondy, Issues of Adolescence (You can read her like a book, or can you?)

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Monica Stegeman – In Her Place

John Leben – Back To Nature

Another thing about ArtPrize I always look forward to is the installation art and large scale outdoor sculpture. Red seems to be a popular color, and so by happenstance I matched all the art.

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Dream home?

Dream home?

This yarn room reminded me of one of those nightmares wear something about your surroundings is not quite right, but you can't seem to figure it out...

This yarn room reminded me of one of those nightmares where something about your surroundings is not quite right, but you can’t seem to figure it out…

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I love the contrast between my giggling face and that none too pleased look in the eyes of my fierce dragon companion.

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Eating delicious food is almost (or maybe equally as?) as exciting as looking at amazing art, and my boyfriend and I enjoyed dinner and Violin Monster at The Green Well, as well as vegan gelato from Love's Ice Cream which is so amazing it haunts my dreams.

Eating delicious food is almost (or maybe equally as?) as exciting as looking at amazing art, and my boyfriend and I enjoyed dinner and Violin Monster at The Green Well, as well as vegan gelato from Love’s Ice Cream which is so amazing it haunts my dreams.

Artists To Know! Installment 6

Susan Saladino

In her bio on her webpage, Susan Saladino states that her work revolves around her belief that “we as humans have a kinship with all life”. In her series of sculptural figures, the series that first hooked me onto her work, they are made using materials from nature, and are often blindfolded. To Saladino, the blindfolds symbolizes humanity’s turning away from realities they find uncomfortable and would rather not face. She believes that the blindfolds must be removed to make the required changes, and that change must occur, especially as it comes to environmental conservation and animal cruelty. I am completely enamored with tree forms, which is why this series featuring the gowns made of branches caught my eye. This blindfolded woman looking up and away from the red bird she cradles could symbolize a variety of different things to different people, but to me, knowing the artist’s symbolic intent further increases my appreciation for her detailed and ethereal work.

Willy Verginer

Willy Verginer resides in Ortisei, Italy. He has been exhibiting his characteristic sculptures since the early 1990s. His exquisite figures carved out of lime tree wood are earmarked by solid color blocking against pale ivory, often with surreal touches. His sculptures interact, but their eyes never truly meet, and they can often be found with things growing from their hands, objects balanced on or connected to their bodies, or cut off at the torso or limbs and sinking into the floor as if it were made of liquid. The series the sculpture shown above is from is titled “a fior di pelle”, meaning “to flower of skin”. It is meant to describe hypersensitivity and to express the fragility of the youth and the ability to dream. Moving, calm, and eerily realistic, I would love to see some of his work in person someday.

Nicole West

I discovered this artist on pinterest, at first thinking her work was some really unique alternative fashion photography, and later learning oh my gosh, those aren’t photographs of real people but SCULPTURES! Is your mind as blown as mine was? Her gorgeous fantasy sculptures are made using polymer clay, and the perfect understanding of human form is apparent if you observe the perfected muscle tone down to the slight undulating in and out of the shape of the arm and the tiny indent in the elbow in the second photo above. As if the sculpting wasn’t amazing enough, each figure is adorned in luscious, detailed costuming including unique decorative jewelry and beyond fabulous hairstyles. Each has a dewy glow, so that it radiates human warmth and you’d be shocked to touch one and find it hard clay rather than soft, velvety skin.

Christina Robinson

I found Christina Robinson on etsy and was instantly intrigued by her whimsical, stylized figures that have a fun children’s book style cartoonishness to them but with a Tim Burton kind of twist. Really, no direct comparisons can be made though, because Robinson’s style is all her own. She paints as well, using the same playful colors and prominent faces with rather neutral expressiosn that still manage to say so much. Her bold, expressive style is certainly memorable.

Christy Kane

I don’t remember how I first discovered Christy Kane, but it was sometime in late high school. I remember ordering her short story book, a play on children’s morality tales including detailed photographs of her dolls posed to enact the sordid turn of events. Shortly thereafter, this short film came out.

Her dolls make up the true island of misfit toys. I love how they are not meant to be conventionally perfect and beautiful and everything you normally think of when you think of dolls, and I love the attention that is paid to each doll’s individual “story”. Each of them has a life, memories, experiences, likes and dislikes. That is truly giving your art life.

Kirsten Stingle

I discovered Kirsten Stingle on pinterest also. Her sculptures are primarily porcelain, and she uses a straight pin to detail the tiny faces, hands, and feet. Stingle is focused on storytelling, and believes our stories are what connects us to one another and explains who we are. She aims to combat isolation by presenting stories common to the human experience. This is something I value as well, and aim to do with my own work, so I really connect to her concept. I know I can relate to her figures struggling towards figuring out an arch for their life and forming their own identity; I suspect we all can.

I was left completely in awe of these artists. After a failed foray into paper mache in a summer art class (My “princess” turning out none to regal…), followed by a lumpy, bubbled copper ice skater I churned out for a project in junior high (I got a B on it! The calamity! Yes, I was one of those kids, but only in art class ;)) , I kind of shied away from sculpture. Forced to revisit it in college, I thought it would be amusing to share some of my projects of the 3-dimensional variety.

Miniature of the Library of Celcus in Ephesus. I thought it would be fun because I love books ... KILL ME NOW!

Miniature of the Library of Celcus in Ephesus. I thought it would be fun because I love books … KILL ME NOW!

We were supposed to make an abstract sculpture out of these little blob guys (balloons filled with plaster) that portrayed a tension between beauty and repulsion. I called this "Sisters". Alternate title, "A Very Angry Drag Queen" (note the feathers and nails).

We were supposed to make an abstract sculpture out of these little blob guys (balloons filled with plaster) that portrayed a tension between beauty and repulsion. I called this “Sisters”. Alternate title, “A Very Angry Drag Queen” (note the feathers and nails).

Just remember guys, nobody’s perfect ;). Keep working at your art and trying new things and you will find your niche. Don’t let fear of failure stop you from experimenting, taking new classes, learning new things … Many of our projects will not be successes but hell, at least you can have a good laugh about it later, right?