Nestled in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina is one of the country’s oldest and most respected schools of craft. Opened in 1929 by Lucy Morgan who focused her initial instruction on weaving in order to help local women build cottage industries to help support their families. As noted on Wikipedia “…The school now offers Spring, Summer, and Fall workshops in craft disciplines, including weaving and dyeing, bead work, glassblowing, pottery, paper making, metalworking, and woodworking. It also offers fine arts subjects, such as printmaking, painting, and photography. Workshops are taught by visiting American and international artists and professors.”
Having known of Penland since 1970 when I first visited while attending a nearby alternative, Quaker school (the Arthur Morgan School), we went there twice during my middle school years for folk and contra dancing. It was at Penland that I learned to clog in 1971 so I was honored and thrilled when I was asked to return this spring for a 1 and a half week long residency.
My time at Penland was like an episode of Project Runway in that I had 9 days to arrive, acquaint myself with the community, photograph something or someone that represented the gestalt of the educational center, get this work printed, prepped and pasted. It didn’t help that my first 3 days there coincided with a stomach flu presenting as explosive diarrhea, fatigue and fever. I soldiered on. Arriving late Sunday night I spent the first day on the down low meeting students and staff in various studios. I started photographing on Tuesday knowing that in order to get the work printed, prepped and pasted I’d have to get the files to a printer by the following day. After deciding upon an image to paste, I drove to a printer and hour away in Asheville. Despite having been assured by the printing company that they could complete the job by Friday I was told when I arrived that the job required too much of their black ink and they wouldn’t be able to do it.
Hearing the voice of Project Runway mentor and spirit guide Tim Gunn I had to figure out a way to make it work. I called the printing company in Tucson, AZ I’ve been using for the past 2 years and told them my situation. I was assured that if I could upload the files to them by noon their time Wednesday (the day I was calling them), they’d be able to get them back to me by Friday. I sat the office of the print company in Asheville that bailed on the job to use their wifi and uploaded the files to Reproductions, Inc. (Let me take a moment to give this company a shout out. They’re a small, non-corporate, employee-owned print shop with personable service who charge me 12 cents per square foot for large format, black and white, toner based prints as compared to 80 cents per square foot at companies like FedEx Office. I love them.)
I informed the program director of my situation. Unbeknownst to me she called Reproductions, Inc and asked them to express ship the order such that I’d receive it the following day (which i did. I point this out only to express the irony that FedEx was able to get this order across country in a day when I’ve often ordered shipments from Reproductions, Inc the next day only to have it arrive 2 days later and I’m in the same state.) Regardless, I got the work and the count down was on. Because my glue doesn’t dry properly below 50 degrees and it snowed the day I placed the order, I waited until Sunday to begin pasting knowing full well I had to represent since I was in my home state.
The site I selected for the installation was a 1950s era, cottage with asbestos shingles used to store gardening equipment. It’s called Green Acres. And why did I chose Green Acres? Because Green Acres is the place to be. Farm living is the life for me. That, and it has great visibility. The images chosen was clay pieces waiting to be fired over 8 days in a wood kiln. Thus, the title for the installation is “Clay Pieces Pretending to be Contestants on The Apprentice (i.e., pots waiting to be fired.)”
Textiles student + hardcore, ready to go the distance assistant, Krysten Watson (You rule.)
Adam + Onay adding stoking the kiln to fire the pieces pretending to be contestants on “The Apprentice.”
Much love to the good people at Penland. Thanks for the opportunity and the experience. I hope we get to do it again.
Brooklyn Street Art coverage: http://www.brooklynstreetart.com/theblog/2017/04/17/chip-thomas-wraps-a-house-with-pots-in-penland-north-carolina/
I was invited to participate in the 2017 Joshua Treenial. The theme this year was event horizon. I ventured to Joshua Tree in January to find a potential location for an installation and to obtain source photos.
Thanks to local resident and artist Diane Best I was able to find an abandoned house on the property of Blake Simpson. Per Blake the house hadn’t been occupied for 10 years or more. Upon completion of the installation Blake was moved to use the space for community art happenings. My artist statement describes my thinking about this project.
In general relativity theory, an event horizon is a boundary in space-time beyond which events cannot affect an outside observer. In layman’s terms, it is defined as “the point of no return, the point at which gravitational pull becomes so great as to make escape impossible, even for light.”
My piece, “Inside out” focuses on an environmental point of no return. Environmental scientists identify 350 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere as being the point of no return. As stated on the website of the environmental organization 350.org:
“…Since the beginning of human civilization, our atmosphere contained about 275 ppm of carbon dioxide. That is the planet “on which civilization developed and to which life on earth is adapted.” Beginning in the 18th century, humans began to burn coal, gas, and oil to produce energy and goods. The amount of carbon in the atmosphere began to rise, at first slowly and now more quickly. Many of the activities we do every day like turning the lights on, cooking food, or heating our homes rely on energy sources that emit carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases. We’re taking millions of years worth of carbon, once stored beneath the earth as fossil fuels, and releasing it into the atmosphere.
Right now we’re at over 400 ppm, and we’re adding 2 ppm of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere every year. Unless we are able to rapidly turn that around and return to below 350 ppm this century, we risk triggering tipping points and irreversible impacts that could send climate change spinning truly beyond our control.”
Wildlife biologists predict that at the current rate of temperature rise, 1/3 of all anmal [animal] special are at risk of extinction by 2050 unless CO2 emissions are reduced by 30%. For this reason, stark imagery from the Salton Sea was used to dramatize the urgency with which we need to act to limit CO2 emissions and subsequent temperature and ocean level increases.
“It would take about 30 feet of sea level rise to connect the Salton Sink to the ocean and permanently fill it again. Realistically, climatologists expect at most 2 meters (about 6.5 feet) of sea level rise by 2100. Without significant reductions to our carbon emissions and/or physical intervention to block sea level rise, the Salton Sink (as well as all of the area reaching from Imperial Valley to the Sea of Cortez) will eventually be permanently under water. (https://saltonseasense.com/2016/01/14/the-other-changing-sea-level/#more-1166)”
Our pattern of carbon based energy exploitation and consumption has turned our planet upside down and inside out. The Hopi have a word for this called “koyaanisqatsi” which means crazy life or life out of balance.
The time to act is now.
Images by Diane Best are below:
Images by Gabrielle Houeix are below:
My artist statement was included in the structure with the hopes of raising awareness and prompting people to action.
Video of the dancing joshua tree: https://vimeo.com/212393820
thanks to artist andrew erdos for turning me onto this piece by jazz-minh moore included in her show at claire oliver gallery, nyc.
ursula rucker, poet, activist, mom, friend posted this photo today marking the 1 year anniversary of the installation of her mural in philly. the original photo is by donnell powell; tilt shift manipulation by jetsonorama (sans drama).
The prints that Justseeds donated on view at the Young New Yorkers Benefit show at Joseph Gross Gallery in NYC last night (April !, 20!5). Young New Yorkers is a restorative arts justice program for incarcerated youth in New York State. Read more about Young New Yorkers & the amazing work they do here:www.youngnewyorkers.com
From left to right: Grafica Mazatl, Chip Thomas, Pete Railand, Melanie Cervantes, Jess X. Chen, Thea Gahr, Roger Peet, Molly Fair.
While doing a 2 week residency at Random Parts Gallery in east Oakland this past May I learned of Studio Grand. Studio Grand opened in October 2013. It’s founder, Holly Schneider, artist, musician + dancer, was interested in creating a space for music + art that fostered community. I learned Holly was interested in me doing an installation at her gallery. However, in April 2014 she was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer + died 3 weeks later just before I arrived at Random Parts.
I met Holly’s husband, Jaimie, + gallery manager, Vanessa who were interested still in me doing an installation but of Holly.
Knowing that I’d be installing on a glass window I decided to experiment with creating a giant phototransfer. The process of removing the paper from the gel medium was far more laborious than I realized.
In the end it worked a little differently than I’d imagined. My vision was partially realized by finding a rotating color plate spotlight of the type my family used on our ever so hip aluminum christmas tree each Christmas. This provided a constant color change on Holly’s image.
I hope she digs it.