5 things you may not know about artist Summer Wheat, plus a virtual tour of her Brooklyn studio

5 things you may not know about artist Summer Wheat, plus a virtual tour of her Brooklyn studio

One silverlining of being quarantined at home is the opportunity to see and share experiences that we might not normally be able to experience. Enter our favorite new video pastime: artist interviews and studio tours. Mint’s Chief Curator Jen Sudul Edwards, PhD, joined Brooklyn-based artist Summer Wheat in her studio for a bit of show-and-tell on her technique and processes.

Wheat’s painting With Side With Shoulder is part of the newest New Days, New Works exhibition, and her atrium installation Foragers will be on view throughout the fall. Here are a few fun facts that we learned during Wheat’s studio tour.

  • Summer Wheat is originally from Oklahoma City, OK, attended Savannah College of Art and Design, and has been living and working in Brooklyn, NY for the past 11 years.
  • She has created in many mediums, from painting and sculpture, to even making custom salt and pepper shakers. Wheat says that she “likes the idea of taking a drawing and making it something usable.”
  • Her creative process is two-fold: First, she always starts with a drawing, which she does alone and views this as an intimate space. Then she brings the drawing to the studio where she and her team make the ideas come to life.
  • Her installation on the windows of the Mint Museum Uptown’s atrium will be her third large-scale piece using this material, and reminds her of stained glass. “I wanted to start telling stories in this format,” says Wheat, who is excited to tell impactful stories through visuals, color, and dimension.
  • When the Mint opens, you’ll get to see not only Wheat’s atrium installation, but also her painted piece With Side With Shoulder that uses mesh in our newest exhibition New Days, New Works.

 

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‘Art helps kids find a voice. I teach kids to use it to express even if they don’t want to actually say the words out loud yet.’

‘Comics, graphic novels, and literature in general have always been a voice and vehicle’

A longtime teacher and supporter of the Mint Museum, artist Wolly McNair creates stories through his illustrations. McNair’s “Black Hornet” and “of Peace of War” illustrations were featured as part of the 2019 Never Abandon Imagination: : The Fantastical Art of Tony DiTerlizzi exhibition at Mint Museum Randolph. He’s also has been an active instructor with The Mint Museum’s Grier Heights Community Youth Arts Program since 2009.

Wolly McNair is a Charlotte-based illustrator. His illustrations, “Black Hornet” and “of Peace of War,” were part of the Mint Museum Randolph exhibit, “Never Abandon Imagination: The Fantastical Art of Tony DiTerlizzi.”

McNair found a love for drawing as a child, and received ample encouragement from his family. He created a business to include character design, story-boarding, animation, writing and illustrating for local and national companies. He self-publishes through his brand GOrilla Bred Publishing and currently is working on a couple of his own “intellectual properties.”

“One is a sorta of ‘what if’ story called Super Bastard. Every aspect of the name plays into the DNA of the story. It deals with the idea of power meeting endless power. What happens when the voiceless finally gain a voice and can enact real change by any means chosen. No more asking,” McNair says. “Using super heroes allows it to be entertaining while having a message and not become preachy. I think comics, graphic novels, and literature in general has always been a voice and vehicle to that can place people from different walks of life in the shoes of those they least relate to. See the stories and life of others, be it fantasy or reality.”

If that wasn’t enough, he’s also reworking his graphic novel Fairy Tale Knights that he wrote for his daughter after realizing there weren’t many comic books featuring Black characters. He also is working on a follow-up to his single-issue comic King Supreme. “It is more of a traditional comic in aesthetic feel, but nontraditional in some of its subject matter and content.” McNair shares more about his art and how art is a catalyst for change.

 

An illustration from the follow-up to “King Supreme,” one of McNair’s latest projects.

Tell us about the type of art you create.

My work is normally illustration based, but I often work both digital and traditional combining paint, markers, watercolor with digital colors to add texture. On a day-to-day basis, though, I work digital. Professionally I illustrate graphic novels, create worlds for character settings, concepts for characters in film, gaming, and comics.

My more gallery-based work is often larger in scale, and I typically do work that has lots of varied symbolism in it. Some things are literal, while other elements have a reason or meaning for placement. I often do several pieces in a small series with a central, connecting theme. Because I work in a character-driven world, and the world itself is but a stage full of characters, most of my gallery work also has a heavy character-driven base to it. 

Algorithms of B3AR by Wolly McNair

What do you want your art to say to America today, and what conversations do you hope it may spark?

The same as I would have probably wanted 10 years ago, and not just to America, but to the world. That we as a people (Black people or whatever term is considered appropriate) have a varied voice, have a beautiful hidden and forgotten history, and a terrible covered-up and watered-down history, and have influenced culture since there was such a thing. I want people to stop, maybe admire, maybe question, maybe reflect, maybe actually see … then ask questions, listen. Each piece, each series of pieces, all speak to different things, and I rarely completely explain my work cause lots of it is self explanatory, but I also want people to gather their own honest thoughts and start the conversation from there. 

How do race, place, and your environment influence your art?

Race and environment have an influence because both are a part of who and where I am, have been, or plan to be. As the world changes or stays the same, so do the reflections in my art. But the history is always shared as I learn and grow, coming from the background I grew up in, that places a roll in detail, the way I may position elements of a piece, or what I may decide to speak on. Not only I am influenced by these things, I also try to use these elements of who I am and where I am from to influence others in a creative and positive way. 

Are you finding new inspiration for your art during these current events?

Current events are actually the same events, just a different timeline. Many of the things happening have happened so many times before. Some of the “changes” are good to see, but mirror things of the past. I have hope that it will ultimately play out differently, and we are not right back here again. I still create, but I don’t want to create only as a result of another life lost, a continued struggle, racism or classism — I have over 400 years of history to use for that type of influence. I can, and do, create from that space without needing more of it. This doesn’t mean the fight is given up, it just means these events — good and bad — shouldn’t have to keep repeating. I’d rather get inspiration from seeing and knowing my kids won’t have to go through this and can live a happy life. Seeing them smile, not cry, not be afraid, not have to be strong would be so much more inspirational.

What positive perspective changes in society would you like to see evolve from the protests, pandemic and social struggles of now?

I just want to see a power shift. Power to the people. We already have a positive perspective or we wouldn’t keep getting up everyday, but I understand that those in true power have to come to an understanding, or no longer hold those positions, for the change to actually come and stay intact. I have seen people who only viewed life from where they sit come to realizations from my own personal conversations, and that was good to see.

More allies. I just want to see things handled better, artists of color given fair chances to speak and be properly compensated, voices amplified, corruption called out, and the people standing for each other instead of over each other. 

lOckS by Wolly McNair.

How do you believe art can be a positive influence on kids?

Art helps kids find a voice. I teach kids to use it to express even if they don’t want to actually say the words out loud yet. Art helped me to write, and writing helped to add to my art and the stories I wanted to tell. Art allows an escape as well. It opens up the mind, and it teaches discipline for many — patience and perseverance. Most importantly, it allows expression. I simply think it is needed, maybe not for every child, but it can be a lifesaver or game changer for many. Even in simply teaching kids how art can be used daily, and the options that are out there, at an early age can help them figure out the path that works for them, and test options as they grow. 

What are you reading, watching, and listening to these days?

I’m not reading much, other than the autobiography of Malcom X. I am listening to James Baldwin a lot lately, and Fred Hampton speeches, and Malcom debates and speeches. I go back to them from time to time. I have a stack of comic books and graphic novels that I haven’t read for mixed reasons, in part due to things I’m currently working on and not wanting to have any other creative elements that aren’t mine creep in.I listen to a lot of instrumental music, including Future Garage/Wave stuff — Nipsey Hussle, Lil baby. I listen to a wide range of things as I work based on where I want my mind to be. My son also creates his own music, so I listen in on it. My daughter is learning piano, so I listen to her. She’s self-teaching at age 9. They prove to me what is possible. I guess I am creating things that hopefully will aid others in the future more than anything.If I do watch anything, it’s the TV show Goodtimes, documentaries, an anime, or Property Brothers or something about buying or renovating houses. It is a different world for a few minutes per day.

Who are you following on social media right now, and why?

I follow a few people of course, but I honestly just float through looking at random things and seeing what catches my eye. There are tons of dope artists out there doing cool things.

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‘I hope we all can learn to see the value in slowing down,’ says Asheville-based artist Nava Lubelski

‘I need time and space to make work, but my inspiration most often comes from messes and mistakes.’

Asheville-based fiber artist Nava Lubelski transforms textiles with embroidery that pierces through splashes of stain and color. She fills tears and holes with delicate lace stitching that result in abstract creations. Her piece Chance of Flurries, 2011 is part of the permanent collection at The Mint Museum.

Studio location: Asheville, North Carolina

 

Nava Lubelski at home with her 7-year-old son.


Who are artists that inspire you and your work?

Lee Bontecou, Louise Bourgeois, Rina Bannerjee, Ghada Amer, Bruce Naumann, Lee Krasner, Tom Friedman, Helen Frankenthaler, and Sarah Sze.

What is your favorite piece or artwork that you created and why?

I’m fond of Day Dreams, 2008. I feel like the simplified color palette highlights the juxtaposition between luscious, detailed stitching and wild, organic splatters. I also am proud of the piece in the Mint Museum collection, Chance of Flurries, 2011.  

Nava Lubelski (American, 1968–). Chance of Flurries, 2011, acrylic paint and hand stitching on canvas. Museum Purchase: Funds provided by Mike and Betsy Blair in memory of Catherine Schiff Blair. 2016.31

How does your environment influence your art?

I respond to both chaos and calm. I need time and space to make work, but my inspiration most often comes from messes and mistakes. 

The yellow is”Tidying Up, 2020,” acrylic paint, hand-stitched thread and manufactured trimming on canvas.

 Are you finding new inspiration for your art during this shift of perspective in the world?

I’m finding it hard to focus on my usual work right now, with a kid at home full-time, and have been playing with more immediate projects, mailing out impromptu handmade books and working on drawings. Luckily, I am an imperfectionist, so I just believe in trying hard and seeing what happens, but it doesn’t have to go a certain way.

What positive perspective changes in society would you like to see come from the pandemic?

I hope we all can learn to see the value in slowing down. I think people are already seeing clearly that things are not and have not been working well for all of us.

What does your daily routine look like now? Have any recommendations for stress relievers to settle after another day done?

My husband has closed his office, so my work space right now is filled with a lot of additional equipment and in turn I’ve sprawled out into the living room. My afternoons tend to be busy with family/dog walks in the woods. Mornings are when I can catch some alone time. I enjoy lying in the dark and seeing what comes. I’m not someone who fears insomnia. I appreciate the quiet and the dark, and the chance to feel what I’m feeling and hear my own thoughts, though they aren’t always pleasant. 

“The Deadly Ooh Business, 2020,” acrylic paint, hand-stitched thread, yarn and wire on canvas.

What’s you cooking these days?

I like cobbling together Indian-type meals. I’m not good at following recipes, but I’m pretty good at winging it.

What are you currently reading?

At the moment it’s mostly news, although I read Red Clocks not too long ago. Most of my reading stamina lately seems to be used up by reading Fablehaven to my son.

What is your favorite music choice?

My husband has been at home playing guitar all day, so that’s pretty much my soundtrack right now.

What is your favorite podcast?

For easy entertainment I like Reply All.

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Mark Newport on knitting to relieve stress, the power of punk, and the best chocolate chip cookie ever

‘I would like us to realize we are all interconnected and interdependent, and act with empathy,’ says artist Mark Newport.

Mark Newport is the artist-in-residence and head of fiber at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan. A self-described fiber artist who has worked with print, photography, video and performance art, his most recent work includes traditional European and American mending techniques on used garments. His work Batman in Barcelona is part of the Mint’s permanent collection.

Studio location: Bloomfield Hills, Michigan

 

Artist and educator Mark Newport. Photo by Jeff Cancelosi


Who are artists that inspire you and your work?

Louise Bourgeois, Ed Paschke, Lee Bowery, Mardi Gras Indian costumes (Demond Melancon), and outsider art environments (Fred Smith Concrete Park).


What is your favorite piece or artwork that you created and why?

I don’t have one favorite. I am usually most interested in the piece I am working on or the piece I just finished. I think that is because the work is a step in a process of thinking and exploring, so I am involved in what I am doing in the moment. While I am interested in the work when it is finished, I also am already involved in the next thing that grows from what is finished.

“Redress 4”

How does your environment influence your art?

My work is currently small in scale and portable, so I only need a comfortable chair and good light to work. I prefer a space that is basically a white box with little on the walls beyond what I am currently working on. I also prefer to be able to control the sounds in the space—music, podcasts, movies or television, or silence.

Tell us about your new morning routine.

I wake up around 7 a.m. I usually do some exercise, then eat and read a little. I also play a game of Sudoku or two, and look at Instagram and email. I try to get to the studio by 9 a.m. or so. Between March 13 and last week, I was teaching online, so I was up a little earlier to get to Zoom meetings with colleagues and students.

Are you finding new inspiration for your art during this shift of perspective in the world?

I have been working on projects that started before the stay-at-home order, so I have not really found new inspiration. I am starting to look at the work in different ways because of the virus and the idea of something we can’t see moving between and into bodies. Likewise, I think ideas around healing, mending, and repair are taking on new elements and references in this moment.

Tell us about your afternoon. Are you working from home, going to your studio?

After lunch I work more in the studio for a few hours, take a walk with the dog for about an hour, and then spend some time writing songs and practicing bass and guitar. Before all of this I was in two rock bands. We were writing and developing music, and performing in the area.

What positive perspective changes in society would you like to see come from the pandemic?

I would like us to realize we are all interconnected and interdependent, and act with empathy. I would also like to see us embrace the idea that all tasks and jobs are important, and that people should be able to earn a living wage from all jobs. And how about universal healthcare?

“Amends 2”


How are you winding down your day? Have any recommendations for stress relievers to settle after another day done?

Dinner with my wife, then we watch TV, and I usually knit. Sometimes I play backgammon on my phone. Knitting is my stress reliever.

What are you cooking? What’s your comfort food of choice?

I am a purely functional cook, and the second-tier cook in my family. I did make some cookies using a recipe from Haystack Mountain School of Crafts. They were sharing their recipes on Instagram and I tried to make their chocolate chip macaroons. They were edible, but I didn’t get them right. I will try again and hopefully I can go back to Haystack someday and eat them there.

What are you currently reading?

Working for the Clampdown—The Clash, the Dawn of Neoliberalism and the Political Promise of Punk

What is your favorite music choice?

Punk, ska and rock. I am listening to The Clash as I answer this.

What are your favorite podcasts?

Invisibilia, Hidden Brain, Revisionist History, Beyond and Back

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‘I’d like to see humanity place first in our decision-making process in terms of what’s best for America,’ says artist Juan Logan.

‘I’d like to see humanity place first in our decision-making process in terms of what’s best for America,’ says artist Juan Logan.

Juan Logan’s works have be showcased across the nation and worldwide in numerous solo exhibitions, including Beacon at the entrance to the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts+Culture, and the piece Some Clouds are Darker in the collection at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. Logan’s artwork includes paintings, mixed media and sculptures. His work is abstract, and addresses the interconnections of race, place and power. He has five works in the Mint’s collection.

Studio location: Belmont, NC


Who are artists that inspire you and your work?

Jack Whitten, Louise Bourgeois, Leon Golub, Adrian Piper, and Robert Colescott


What is your favorite piece or artwork that you created and why?

One of my favorite works of art that I created is a piece entitled Sugar House. It was made in 2011 and measures 6-by-16 feet. The piece was made using acrylic paint, glitter and lottery tickets. I worked on this piece seven to eight months primarily because of the many layers, along with the thousands of puzzle pieces. I was able to achieve everything I had hoped to, from the complexity of ideas to the subtle and apparent layers of form, texture and meaning. But most importantly,  this piece riffs off of the historical Sugar House used in Jamaica in 1837.

“Sugar House,” 2011, Acrylic paint, glitter, lottery tickets, puzzle pieces on canvas, 6’ x 16’

How does race and place, and your environment influence your art?

I think race is always made a part of our lives as black and brown people in ways that others lack the ability to understand, as it is not a part of their lives. I’m interested in talking about my experiences without necessarily trying to make it understandable to other people. We live in a world where we watch things happen to black and brown people, not because they’ve done anything wrong, but simply because of the color of their skin.

Tell us about your new morning routine.

I usually get up for the first time between 4 and 4:30 AM. I spend time catching up on the news of the day, have a cup of water, catch up on social media and then go back to bed for a nap. After all of that, I finally get up between 8 and 8:30 AM, shower, breakfast, a double espresso, more news, and then off to the studio for the day.

Are you finding new inspiration for your art during this shift of perspective in the world?

Yes. My practice has always included a response to what is happening in the world around me.  I have recently created a few works now that are related to COVID-19. They are looking at the structure of the virus itself and the notion of contact tracing.

Tell us about your afternoon. Are you working from home, going to your studio?

Afternoons into early evenings are generally spent in the studio.


What positive perspective changes in society would you like to see come from the pandemic?

I’d like to see humanity place first in our decision-making process in terms of what’s best for America, and hope for a cleaner environment.


How are you winding down your day? Have any recommendations for stress relievers to settle after another day done?

Relaxing at home working outside in the yard. Spending time with the family. Helping with our freedom garden, and catching up on the news of the day.

What are you cooking? What’s your comfort food of choice?

Chicken pot pie. Fried chicken (dark), grits, and collard greens.

What is your favorite music choice?

Blues and classical

What is your favorite podcast?

The PROJECT with Steve Rutherford

“Elegy LXXIII,” 2020, Acrylic on shaped canvas, 67 1/2” x 83 1/4”

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‘I believe something really positive will emerge out of this global experience of our shared vulnerability,’ says artist Sheila Gallagher

Artist Sheila Gallagher finds inspiration for her artwork in everything she sees.

‘I think the pandemic has really provoked me into asking serious questions about my art practice and more generally what the world needs artists to be.’

Artist, and mom to a high school senior, Sheila Gallagher is an associate professor of fine art at Boston College where she teaches courses on drawing, painting and contemporary art practice. While sheltering at home, she continues to sketch and work in her studio, is relishing a more leisurely schedule, and also tackling a few domestic projects like making curtains. Her artwork, Ghost Orchid Plastic Nebulae, is part of the permanent collection at the Mint.

Studio location: Boston, Massachusetts

 

Describe the artwork you create and medium you use.

I am an interdisciplinary/hybrid artist and I use any material necessary. I make paintings out of smoke, plastic trash, live flowers … anything. I also make videos and do live drawing performances.

Who are artists that inspire you and your work?

Oh so many! My new art crush is Formafantasma that uses lidar technology to make visually riveting animations that explore life from the perspective of a forest. I am always inspired by the work of artists like Doris Salcedo, Sister Corita, Sarah Sze, and Sanford Biggers who have great minds and deep hearts and really understand form and materiality. And anyone really who knows how to draw: Leonardo, Rembrandt, and Gros. Even though he is unpopular, I think Hans Bellmar makes incredibly beautiful lines.

I also love the work of a little known self-taught Bahamian painter named Amos Ferguson. But if I could only have one piece of art to behold for the rest of my life it would be Stargazer, a small transclucent white marble statue of a female figure from approximately 4,000 BC that I saw at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, and think about all the time. Cultures come and go.

What is your favorite piece or artwork that you created and why?

I think it may very well be Ghost Orchid Plastic Nebulae, a large plastic painting that was commissioned by The Mint Museum and included in the Under Construction exhibition (now part of the permanent collection). I really had to wrestle it to the ground to get the composition to work, and I ended up really liking the psychedelic palette and all of the hidden images and words. I also think it might be one of my favorites because it probably has more hours of me in it than almost any other piece, and I have very fun memories of working with two saintly assistants, Claire and Rachel, who have great voices, and were always singing and willing to pull all nighters with me.

Sheila Gallagher (American). Ghost Orchid Plastic Nebula, 2018, melted plastic on armature. Museum purchase with funds provided by Wells Fargo. 2018.48

How does your environment influence your art?

Everything in my sight line influences my art. I am like a bower bird drawn to every shiny piece of trash. My house and studio are chock full of images and objects and books and small pieces of ephemera. Anything can be a material or mnemonic device. My teenage son has accused us of “drowning in meaningfulness” and likes to remind me that not everything can be special . But I wonder, why not? I don’t think I am quite a hoarder, but under the right wrong circumstances could definitely lean that way.

Tell us about your new morning routine, including when you start your day and how you spend the early hours.

I have to say, I am growing quite fond of my “shelter-in-place” mornings. Now that my son is finishing high school online, the mornings are much more leisurely. I usually wake up around 7:30 AM and listen to a book on tape for about 30 minutes. Then I go downstairs and get tea and toast and take them back to bed and read under the covers. I try not to look at the news before I meditate. At around 9 AM I start checking texts and emails and jumping all over the internet. When I feel myself going down an unproductive rabbit hole, I jump up and make the bed and a to-do list and try to get cracking.

Are you finding new inspiration for your art during this shift of perspective in the world?

I think the pandemic has really provoked me into asking serious questions about my art practice and more generally what the world needs artists to be. I am definitely going inward and trying to cultivate intuition and discernment, which I have to trust will ultimately manifest in artwork, Inshallah. For now it doesn’t feel right to plan a big exhibition, and I have put aside some large projects. Like a lot of artists I know, in this moment I feel drawn to a collective creativity while at the same time find myself more comfortable doing small and quiet solo things like sketching and making little collages in my sketchbook.

Tell us about your afternoon. Are you working from home, going to your studio?

With everyone working remotely, my house has never felt more crowded, and I feel very grateful to have a studio for escape and solitude. Most afternoons are a combo platter of studio and house. Everyday I do e-mails and draw and I try to stay connected with my art practice, teaching job and friends. Taking walks is the new going out for drinks.

I find I have a new found interest in domestic projects like making curtains, cooking soup, and organizing the laundry closet. My house has never been so clean. Now that Purell is an endangered product, we have started making artisanal hand sanitizer (called Mom’s Napalm) out of grain alcohol, witch hazel, eucalyptus oil, cloves and my secret ingredient: holy water from Saint Brigid’s Well in Ireland.

Gallagher created her own artisanal hand sanitizer while sheltering at home that her family named “Mom’s Napalm”

What positive perspective changes in society would you like to see come from the pandemic?

I believe something really positive will emerge out of this global experience of our shared vulnerability. There is a possibility for deep transformation where the world’s resources, scientific intelligence and good will are forever put at the service of the common good and protecting the most fragile amongst us. I was very moved by a An Imagined Letter from COVID-19 to Humans by Kristin Flyntz , which eloquently imagines a more earth-centeredb mindset.

Have any recommendations for stress relievers to settle after another day done?

After dinner we usually read and/or watch a show. I am really into the series the New Pope Stylin. Lately we have also been getting into making “God’s Eyes” out of yarn. Very easy and very therapeutic and a welcome break from the screen. I am also a big fan of online yoga classes.

Gallagher at her studio in front of a collection of yarn God’s eyes that she’s made for a friend’s shrine. “I highly recommend Gods eyes as excellent pandemic therapy,” she says.

What are you cooking? What’s your comfort food of choice?

Seafood soup and warm buttered toast, and hot tea with coconut cake, and red wine.

What are you currently reading?

Lots of poetry, too much news, Hyperallergic, Jerry Saltz, Richard Rohr, John Prendergast, and Akin by Emma O’Donoghue.

What is your favorite music choice?

These days I find myself drawn to chanting, and silly 80’s dance music.

What is your favorite podcast(s)?

I am more of a books -on-tape kind of gal. Right now I am listening to Kevin Barry read his new novel, Might Boat to Tangiers.

Argentinian-born glass artist Silvia Levenson on how the pandemic is affecting her work

Silvia Levenson posing against a simple backdrop

‘I know that everything is changing around us and we are profoundly changing our being in this world.’

Argentinian-born artist Silvia Levenson, now a resident of Italy, has hopes that the pandemic will help people to come together to break cultural barriers and overcome xenophobia. Her glass sculpture Until Death Do Us Part is part of The Mint Museum collection.

Studio location: Lesa, Maggiore Lake, Italy


Who are artists that inspire you and your work?

Louise Bourgeois, Doris Salcedo, Loris Cecchini, and Eva Hesse

What is your favorite piece or artwork that you created and why?

I have two favorite pieces: Until Death Do Us Part and She Flew Away.

Until Death Do Us Part conveys my answer to the violence in homes, when someone who would protect and love you became the perpetrator. This topic is so actual now, as thousands of women and girls found the bravery of report abuse. Every year 50.000 women and girls are killed by a partner, ex-partner or relative. An now with the pandemic, lots of women are trapped. The fact that the cake is beautiful and made of glass is very functional to my idea.

Wedding cake made of glass with a white grenade used as a topper. the words "until death do us part" words on the backdrop
Silvia Levenson (Argentinian, 1957–). Until Death Do Us Part, 2013, kiln-formed glass, metal structure, plaster, wire. Museum Purchase: Funds provided by the Mint Museum of Craft + Design Collections Board and the Charles W. Beam Accessions Endowment. 2018.64

She Flew Away started from a childhood memory. In Buenos Aires, Argentina I played for hours on the swing. At a certain moment I took off my shoes and climbed up on the wooden surface. I remember that ambiguous feeling. On the one hand I wanted to fly away, but on the other I was terrified of that possibility. Later that sculpture represented a loss: the loss of childhood, life or visibility.

"She Flew Away" by Silvia Levenson

How does your environment influence your art?

I need calm and loneliness to create. Living in an small village, in an old paper factory is great for me. But my inspiration comes from books, news and my memories.

Tell us about your new morning routine, including when you start your day and how you spend the early hours.

I start my day at 7 or 8 AM. Sometimes I walk for one hour, sometimes I start my day with meditation, and sometimes I feel the urgency of working in my studio. I can say that I have more energy in the morning. I usually don’t answer to my phone until 3 PM.

Are you finding new inspiration for your art during this shift of perspective in the world?

Now I am working on the idea of invisibility. Invisibility can be a joy or a sentence. I know that everything is changing around us and we are profoundly changing our being in this world. I will see how all this will influence my art work.

Tell us about your afternoon. Are you working from home, going to your studio?

I am so lucky to have my home and studio together. I combine my life between the two. I spend lots of my time on the computer in any case, but now my assistant cannot come to work with me, so I am making everything for myself and the process of producing sculptures in glass is very long, but I enjoy that!

What positive perspective changes in society would you like to see come from the pandemic?

I would like to see more empathy. When the virus started in China, in Italy several people in Italy thought that it was a “Chinese problem.” Many politicians and people were so racist even with citizens from China living in Italy. But after few days, Italians become the “new Chinese.” The same in the U.S. and United Kingdom. I hope people will understand that we are all humans, and that if the Coronavirus can expand and cross borders, why we are so connected to walls and borders?

How are you winding down your day? Have any recommendations for stress relievers to settle after another day done?

My advice would be to pay attention to the fake news. Being critical and looking for the right information is a sort or resistance high now.

What are you cooking? What’s your comfort food of choice?

My partner Marco is cooking and I love everything he makes.

What are you currently reading?

The Lies That Bind by Kwame Anthony Appiah.

What is your favorite music choice?

Mercedes Sosa

13 lbs of love by Silvia Levenson

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After years of exploring racism, inequalities, and crises through his art, Dr. Leo Twiggs feels pull of pandemic

Dr. Leo Twiggs and his wife at his induction to the South Carolina Hall of Fame.

After years of exploring racism, inequalities, and crises through his art, Dr. Leo Twiggs feels pull of pandemic

An American painter, artist, and educator who grew up in the South, Dr. Leo Twiggs’ phenomenal exhibition Requiem for Mother Emanuel was showcased at the Mint Museum Randolph. Requiem was his artistic response to the massacre of nine church members during a prayer meeting in the historical Charleston house of worship, Mother Emanuel AME Church. Here he shares his thoughts on how the pandemic is affecting his daily routine and inspiring his art, as well as the positive effects he hopes to see after.

Studio location: Orangeburg, S.C.


Describe the artwork you create and medium you use.

Innovative batik painting—wax and dyes on cotton fabric mounted on hard board.

Who are artists that inspire you and your work?

Hale Woodruff, Aaron Douglas, Jackson Pollock, and Joan Miro, among others.

What is your favorite piece or artwork that you created and why?

I work in series. The Commemoration Series (Flags) and the Targeted Man series evolved into Requiem For Mother Emanuel, a series of nine paintings lamenting the victims of the shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. It is a favorite because it is a place I arrived at after years of exploring the issues of racism and inequalities in our country. Mother Emanuel challenged me to vent my emotions while maintaining the aesthetics and integrity of the creative process. Conversation, the painting at the Mint, is an extension of that new exploration.

A batik painting from Twiggs' "Targeted Man" series.

How does your environment influence your art?

I was born in the South. The sights, smells, sounds and traditions of the region impact my work, especially the southern African American experience.

Tell us about your new morning routine, including when you start your day and how you spend the early hours.

I paint in spurts, allowing lots of time in between for contemplation. Batik is a slow process and it fits my tempo. I am currently working on a painting commissioned by the Inaugural Committee at Claflin University. When it is complete, I will get back to my regular routine.

Are you finding new inspiration for your art during this shift of perspective in the world?

Yes, just as it was when Hurricane Hugo came through and after 9/11. The Hugo series is on YouTube.

"Milly's First Steps" a commissioned painting.

Tell us about your afternoon. Are you working from home, going to your studio?

My studio is attached to my house so I can work all night if I wish. More often I work until late hours after midnight. There is a solitude about the night that I find invigorating.

What positive perspective changes in society would you like to see come from the pandemic

Learning how fragile humanity is, and how insignificant bickering and harboring racial animosities are.

How are you winding down your day? Have any recommendations for stress relievers to settle after another day done?

I am catching up on some reading and some great biopics on Netflix. I like listening to jazz, and the documentary of Miles Davis is elegantly filmed and the music is powerful. I began my work life in 10th grade as a projectionist, so I saw hundreds of movies through high school and college. Now I look for storyline, editing and cinematography. There are some good things out there.

What are you cooking? What’s your comfort food of choice?

My wife is such a good cook that I am spoiled, relegated to great aromas and looking in the pot. Anything she cooks is comforting.

What are you currently reading?

The New York Times Series 1619.

What is your favorite music choice?

All that is jazz.

What is your favorite podcast(s)?

PBS, All Things Considered, and sometimes Phil in the Blanks.

"Dreamers" batik on cotton collection.

‘I feel an impulse to be bolder, more direct,’ says artist Damian Stamer

Photo by Katrina Williams/Fifty Two Hundred Photo

‘I feel an impulse to be bolder, more direct,’ says artist Damian Stamer

Damian Stamer is a North Carolina native whose art is influenced by his Southern roots and rural landscapes. Though he’s painting the same subject matter, Stamer says he’s finding a different energy and urgency to work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Studio location: Nestled in the woods of northern Durham County, North Carolina


Describe the artwork you create and medium your use

I paint architectural remnants that dot the rural landscape of the Carolinas. These are mostly oil paintings on panel, but I also love printmaking.

Who are artists that inspire you and your work?

Anselm Kiefer, Beverly McIver, Neo Rauch, Matthias Weischer, Cecily Brown, Willem de Kooning, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Cy Twombly, Dana Schutz, Adrian Ghenie, Kerry James Marshall, Vincent van Gogh, Enrique Martinez Celaya, Gerhard Richter, and Robert Rauschenberg.

What is your favorite piece or artwork that you created and why?

I appreciate different pieces for different reasons, but if I had to pick one at this moment, I’d say St. Marys Rd. 8. It depicts an abandoned house on St. Marys Road just a few miles from the studio. In addition to enjoying how it turned out visually, it’s one of my favorites because I wrestled with it for over two years before laying down the final brushstroke.

St. Marys Rd 8

How does your environment influence your art?

In a way, my environment is my art. I paint my everyday surroundings. These are the places of my childhood. They allow me to explore memory, with all its faults and fictions, and investigate the tension between personal and historical truth.

Tell us about your new morning routine, including when you start your day and how you spend the early hours.

Before this all started, I was waking up between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. to paint, but then I decided it would be a good idea to sleep in to make sure I get enough rest for a healthy immune system. So now I’m waking up around 8 a.m. and beginning the day with meditation and exercise.

Are you finding new inspiration for your art during this shift of perspective in the world?

Although I continue to paint the same subject matter, I’m finding a different energy and urgency to the work. It’s hard to describe, but I feel an impulse to be bolder, more direct. To quote my favorite musical, “no other road, no other way, no day but today.”

Tell us about your afternoon. Are you working from home, going to your studio?

My studio is a short walk or very short drive from home, so I’m back and forth between the two quite a bit. In addition to painting, I have better wifi at the studio, so I’m usually on that computer if I have a Zoom meeting. I’ve also been taking a walk with my parents every afternoon. We stay on opposite sides of the road. We talk about our fears and what makes us anxious. We talk about the latest news and our plans for the day. We walk by the farm and say hello to the steers or take a moment to appreciate the redbuds’ blossoms or songbirds’ calls. We say what we are thankful for. These walks have been an incredible gift.

What positive perspective changes in society would you like to see come from the pandemic?

This pandemic definitely has a way of putting things in perspective. Although it can bring up a lot of fears, it may also help us realize the many things in life that we are grateful for, the precious nature of every present moment.

How are you winding down your day? Have any recommendations for stress relievers to settle after another day done?

We started watching movies every night, which seemed like a bit of an indulgence compared to the normal schedule, but it has been a fun way to relieve stress and relax.

What are you cooking? What’s your comfort food of choice?

First off, I feel very privileged to have ready access to food during this time. I’m fortunate to live with a partner who is an amazing cook, so I’ve been washing a lot of dishes to do my part in the kitchen. Red lentil dal is a favorite, but I’m pretty spoiled because everything is delicious. It’s like a gourmet quarantine.

What are you currently reading?

Interviews with Artists: 1966-2012 by Michael Peppiatt and a lot of digital NYTimes.

What is your favorite music choice?

The Avett Brothers

What is your favorite podcast(s)?

The Daily (NYTimes)

Artist Anne Lemanski talks life in the mountains, ‘gin and tonic season,’ and her epic life-size tiger on a ball

The inimitable Anne Lemanski talks life in the mountains, ‘gin and tonic season,’ and her epic life-size tiger on a ball

Multidisciplinary artist Anne Lemanski, based in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, creates everything from two-dimensional collage to three-dimensional sculptures. An artist of the natural world, she focuses on the complex, sometimes tense relationship between humans and animals, and her work is part of the Mint’s permanent collection. Here, she shares her favorite creation to date, how her mountain life influences her work, and the way Mother Nature always “will take care of business.”

Studio location: Blue Ridge Mountains, NC


Describe the artwork you create and medium your use

I make sculpture that is constructed by hand stitching a skin, often paper, unto a copper wire framework. I also transform small hand-cut collages into large format digital prints.

 

Who are artists that inspire you and your work?

Joseph Cornell is always a go-to when I need a pick me up. Contemporary peers whose work I greatly admire include Adonna Khare, Josie Morway, Walton Ford, Hilary Pecis, Alex Dodge. I also find kindred spirit in quilts and folk art.

 

What is your favorite piece or artwork that you created and why?

To date, it is Tigris T-1, a life size tiger balancing on a ball. It was an engineering feat. I wanted it to be freestanding, and it is. I also love the color and pattern of the skin, which consists of a print that I created using straws. It has many cultural references without being specific.

How does your environment influence your art?

I live and work in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I see something in nature on almost a daily basis that is beautiful, surprising, or even tragic. I am hyper-tuned to my immediate surroundings. There is really no separation between the way I live my life and my artwork.

 

Tell us about your morning routine right now. 

My morning routine is the same: coffee and the New York Times.

 

Are you finding new inspiration for your art during this shift of perspective in the world?

No. I have been raising alarm via my artwork regarding environmental issues and the exploitation of resources and man’s impact on the earth for years. Eventually, Mother Nature will take care of business.

Tell us about your afternoon. Are you working from home, going to your studio?

My studio is right next to my house, so my routine hasn’t really changed. I’m finding it difficult to concentrate.

 

What positive perspective changes in society would you like to see come from the pandemic?

I’m a bit of a pessimist, so I’ll keep my thoughts to myself for now.

 

How are you winding down your day? Have any recommendations for stress relievers to settle after another day done?

In my house, gin and tonic season has officially started.

 

What are you cooking? What’s your comfort food of choice?

My cooking habits haven’t changed. Last night I made a delightful asparagus and mushroom risotto. We make everything from scratch, and that won’t change. My favorite comfort food is fettuccine alfredo with homemade pasta.

 

What are you currently reading?

The news. I listen to audiobooks when I work, but I am not currently listening to any.