W. A. Ehren Tool

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Artist’s Statement

“I just make cups” is the only statement I am comfortable making about my work.

In the Marine Corps, the gap between what I thought I was doing and what I did was vast and painful. I joined with a desire to serve and I still have that desire. I don’t think anything I do will change the world, and nothing in the world releases me from my obligation to try. Making cups feels like a pretty impotent gesture, in the face of all of the horrors surrounding us. Peace is the only adequate war memorial. Any other “memorial” is at best a failure and usually a lie, promoting war as a good and noble thing. War is not a good thing. I still love the Marine Corps and Marines, which makes it harder to watch young Marines kill and die. Wars never end they ripple and echo forever. After serving in the “91 Gulf War” I have lost my ability to point fingers. The line between good and evil is a line in every human heart. We choose every day. We live with the consequences, even when we are ignorant of how our actions affect others. I believe there is some kind of judgment or karma, even if it is not the satisfying cinematic ending many people might picture. Judgment is not mine.

My opinions about my work and what I do feel unimportant. I just make cups, and if they are ever anything else it is because of the generosity of people who take the time to look at the cups. The cups are only something more if something resonates with the viewer or, better yet, the user of the cup. I am very grateful to people who see something in the cups.

I have given away more than 21,500 cups since 2001.

I hope the cups can be touchstones to start conversations about unspeakable things. My father and grandfather never talked about their wars until I came back from mine. I didn’t understand why they didn’t talk until my son asked “how come you were bad and now you’re good? You were a soldier right?” I didn’t say anything. I changed the subject and held back tears. To be demonized or idolized for something you did or didn’t do in a context you can never explain, by someone you love, is too much. It seems easier to just not talk — to “suck it up” and “move on.”

I just make cups. Making ceramics means I have five hundred thousand to one million years to find a receptive audience for my work. I hope a few of my cups will make it through these times. From my hand to your hand to some point hundreds of thousands of years in the future. Cheers!!! I hope you always have enough to eat and drink….I love you. Blah blah blah

Strength to love, + E

W.A.Ehren Tool was born in Charleston South Carolina in 1970. Raised in Sunny South Central Los Angeles, South Dakota (3 years), then back to Los Angeles, Tool joined the Marine Corps in 1989, serving in Desert Shield and Desert Storm (Gulf War One). Tool was a Marine Embassy Guard in Rome and Paris, 15 months each, and was Honorably Discharged as a Sergeant after just over 5 years of active duty. He attended Pasadena City College, received his BFA from the University of Southern California in 2000, and his MFA from the University of California at Berkeley in 2005. Tool has made and given away over 21,500 cups since 2001. He is married and has one son.

Beth Lo

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Artist’s Statement

My work in ceramics and mixed media collage revolves primarily around issues of family and my Asian-American background. Cultural marginality and blending, tradition vs. Westernization, language and translation are key elements in my work. Since the birth of my son in 1987, I have been drawing inspiration from major events in my family’s history, the day-to-day challenges of parenting, and my own childhood memories of being raised in a minority culture in the United States. I use the image of a child as a symbol of innocence, potential and vulnerability.

Beth Lo makes work in ceramics and mixed media about family, culture and language. Her Good Children vessels and sculptures have been exhibited internationally and she has been the recipient of a United States Artist Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Individual Artist Fellowship, Montana Arts Council Individual Artist Grant and an American Craft Museum Design Award. She is also a children’s book illustrator and professional bass player. She retired after 30 years of teaching ceramics at the University of Montana in 2016.

Eva Kwong

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Artist’s Statement

“Love Between the Atoms” refers to the attraction between the protons and the electrons in an atom. I see this attractive force as something that bonds us all together in this world. It is this attractive force which forms bonds at the subatomic level which makes thing work in the physical world that we experience. It is this attractive force that enables us to build forms with clay and to draw people together and build relationships with each other. In many ways, mutual attraction of one form or another is what enables us to connect and create interactions on microcosmic as well as macrocosmic levels, from the physical to the emotional.

I am interested in the interconnection of the myriad of layers in the world, from microcosm to macrocosm. Maybe it is because I grew up with both eastern and western cultures. I was brought up with the traditional chinese concept of yin and yang that underlies all life forms and energies. This was discussed every day by my grandmother, who also passed on to me the joy of making things. Growing up in Hong Kong and New York, I learned to look at everything through the lens of both cultures.

This interest in opposite ways of perception, the intertwining of dualities, has informed all my work for several decades since I was student. I am interested in the juxtaposition of mass/space, land/air, solid/hollow, male and female forms. I feel I am a hybrid hovering between opposites.

My work-study experience at the Rhode Island School of Design Nature Lab sparked my continued interest in forms and concepts from nature. Most of my inspirations for my work come from my direct observation of things in nature and within my life. Often it starts from a question or thought about some human experience; for example, pondering about how our bodies function under the skin, or fertility, and mortality.

I like to make things. It is my way of experiencing and understanding the world through my own filter. It is like ”tapping,” a term used by the Australian bushmen to refer to a sense of an animal or water nearby. It is a gut-felt, intuitive impulse to puts things that I feel, think about, question, or observe in my life into concrete form.

My artwork is a way to understand myself and the interpenetration of the worlds within and around us all.

Eva Kwong was born in Hong Kong and moved to New York as a teenager, where she thought of the visual language of art as another universal language. Her sculptures reflect her bi-cultural background and her interests in natural forms and microbes. Eva received her BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and her MFA from the Tyler School of Art. She has been awarded grants from the National Endowment For the Arts, Ohio Art Council, Arts Midwest, PA. Council on the Arts, NCECA, and the McKnight Foundation.

Christopher Adams

Artist’s Statement

I utilize biological concepts including speciation, convergence and mimicry to create sculptural works of organic abstraction. The sculptures suggest a variety of creatures, but not a specific organism. In the concept that drives my art making, a pioneering organism has entered an untapped environment, where it differentiates rapidly without departing too dramatically from its original form. The sculptures of porcelain, terra cotta, and stoneware are fired over a wide range of temperatures with a variety of glazes. In addition to making art, I work as a dermatologist. I pay attention therefore to skin surface in my art; and I utilize shiny, gnarly, and matte metallic finishes to evolve the skin surfaces.

Christopher Adams was born in Medford, MA in 1972. A ceramist most of his life, he also pursued his passion for science in college, graduating magna cum laude from Harvard University with a B.A. in organismic and evolutionary biology. During his time at Harvard, he was also artist-in-residence at their Ceramics Program. In 2004 he graduated from Columbia University of Physicians & Surgeons. He is a practicing dermatologist as well as an artist. His medical practice strongly influences his work. His solo exhibitions include: Garvey|Simon Art Access, Hosfelt Gallery, Ricco Maresca, Greenwich House (all New York), and Harvard University. He is represented in New York by Garvey|Simon Art Access.

Editors’ Notes (Posit 11)

 

Welcome to September, and to Posit 11!

It is a special thrill to introduce the masterful poetry and prose Bernd and I have gathered for this issue. Not only has another summer come and gone, but we are in the last stages (if not throes) of an American election cycle in which the complacency of most notions of “normalcy” have been shattered, giving rise to an appropriately pervasive anxiety about the depth and scope of the humanly possible. In its own provocative and evocative ways, the work in this issue addresses that anxiety, and even musters some degree of optimism. For tragedy rendered inseparable from the beauty of its vehicle, consider the stark profundity of new work by Michael Palmer and Fady Joudah; the disturbing resonance of two parables by Marvin Shackelford and Eric Wilson; or the tender melancholy of verse by Jeffrey Jullich, Stephen Massimilla, and Simon Perchik. For an inspiring balance of critique and optimism, take a look at Sharon Mesmer’s tragic yet emancipatory tributes to undervalued women poets, Sheila Murphy’s inimitable and ineffable pull-no-punches constructs, Sharon Dolin’s disciplined frolics, ambitiously braiding tribute and lampoon, or Anne Gorrick’s high-octane mash-ups of web-commerce parlance examined and re-examined to reveal rich veins of resonance. And on the brighter side, bask in Felino Soriano’s linguistically untethered odes to transformation.

Whether you are absorbed by the anxiety of our historical moment or weary of its seep, I hope you’ll take some moments to explore:

the tightly packed wit and wisdom of Sharon Dolin’s allusive riffs on Conceptismo, W. C. Williams’ So Much Depends, Niedecker’s ‘condensery,’ and the fraudulence of linguistic obscurantism;

the looping logic of Anne Gorrick’s expansive assemblages, artistic antidotes to our day-to-day “doses of forgetting” the “fine tunings built into” these rocking, rollicking litanies in which “invisible empires of products, fireflies and songs add to the beauty;”

Fady Joudah’s profound and miraculous condensations, with their masterfully chiseled, spare, and haunting visions of oppression and its internalization (“Election Year Dream”) sanctuary in the face of damage (“Monastery”) and the devastation of love (“Coda: A Fragment”);

Jeffrey Jullich’s grimly beautiful constructs, evoking the hazard, sorrow, and insignificance of existence as revealed by the “metamorphosis of seraphim,” “Nostradamus contradictions,” and “a cloud/hung between my life—and life itself” in which “intelligence is only – a fraction – a niche for omniscience;”

the mystery and beauty of Stephen Massimilla’s chiseled lyrics, gesturing towards the elusive and tragic lightness of love, loss, and existence itself, in which “so many little masks (marks, tasks) / make a life” until one is reluctant “to come down from the lightfastness / of this insomnia high;”

Sharon Mesmer’s lyrical tributes to women poets of the Americas which, by “beating all sorrows/into beauty” themselves fulfill the determination to be “no mere witness/to inertia” by evoking, among other notions of liberation, the freedom of radical departure — in what her fans will recognize as a masterful departure from the pyrotechnical virtuosity of her signature Flarfian poetics;

Sheila E. Murphy’s confidently quiet, powerfully enigmatic new works evoking the intimacies of existence anchored by “the palpable act of witness, witnessing” in which “pounce marks levitate a posse / of connect points” in our appreciation of her bracing linguistic montage;

the incomparable music of Michael Palmer’s austere and profound masterpieces of compression, sternly confronting us with the tragedy and horror of a world — our world — in which a child is “set afire / before blindered eyes / a world’s eyes” and authors “lost at sea / in a storm of words” stand idly by as their “books consume . . . the fire”;

Simon Perchik’s moving lyrics of love, loss, and memory, gently guiding us to “listen / the way all marble is crushed” and witness how “inside each embrace // the first thunderclap and shrug / no longer dries”;

Marvin Shackelford’s haunting parable of shipwreck, survival, and friendship, with its “reversed exploration” of the great parable, Before the Law, replacing Kafka’s eternally-withheld judgment with rescue, but, gratifyingly, perhaps not redemption;

Felino Soriano’s “relocated” lyrics, as musical as they are disjunctive, enacting the generative power of the transformations of which they sing; “alters” “of improvised becoming” in which the day is “a dangle of marbled light, an / algebra of sun” for the reader to gratefully absorb;

and the disturbingly resonant infinite regress powering Eric G. Wilson’s “Bowl,” ruled by the labyrinthine, archetypal, Escher-esque logic of nightmares.

Thank you, as always, for reading!

Susan Lewis

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Welcome to the visual art of Posit 11!

Christopher Adams’ background in biology and science informs these environmental installations of ceramic sculpture. He creates small universes of hundreds of individual elements reminiscent of creatures from the biological world, as filtered through Adams’ imagination. Installed on walls painted in brilliant, deeply saturated colors, they seem to vibrate with energy, transporting us into another dimension.

Yura Adams works in a diverse vocabulary of forms united by her nuanced and thoughtful vision of the world. Based on both scientific and intuitive observation of the natural world, this work encompasses a lovely tension between loose drawing and complex patterning. Her use of rich and beautiful color reinforces this dynamic.

Kate Brown’s solidly painted compositions address one of the basic constructs of painting – the push and pull between positive and negative space. Using a carefully controlled palette of color, she has created an exploration of figure and ground that transcends the academic idea and emerges as glorious paintings. Big gestures are offset by architectural spaces. These works are luscious and bursting with energy.

In John Hundt’s hilarious and odd collage pieces, we see a world of biology and evolution gone strangely awry. Unlikely combinations of creatures are meticulously constructed from Hundt’s trove of imagery. Building upon the grand tradition of Surrealist collage, he has created a world of creatures found (hopefully) only in dreams.

With intricate and delicate etched lines, Renee Robbins explores the biology of the ocean. Her etchings, all based on actual creatures, evoke the undersea world caught in mid-motion. Her images are simultaneously scientific and dreamily ethereal. Rendered in softly psychedelic tones, they are like specimens on view through Robbins’ artistic microscope.

I hope you enjoy!

Melissa Stern

Matt Nolen

Artist’s Statement

As a painter, architect and storyteller, clay provides the means by which I can marry my loves: the painted surface, three dimensional form and narrative content. Ceramics gives me the language to communicate my stories to a world audience. The themes of my early work have included a broad range of social, political and psychological subjects.

Most recently I have turned to the figure as form departing from the lavishly painted vessels and tiled environments of previous works. In doing so the stories I am telling have become more personal and often are informed by the inner landscape of self: notions of shelter that explore what we protect and keep private vs. that which we choose to reveal, escape through dreams, and contemporary takes on ancient Greek and Roman portrait busts and the load bearing caryatid and atlas. I have also expanded my use of sculptural materials to include found objects, metal, wood and stone.

My figures tell the stories of those who are challenged by conflicts and are in the midst of emotional or psychological transitions. It is life lived within the complexity of these “margins” that interests me the most.

Matt Nolen is a studio artist living and working in New York City. Trained as a painter and architect, Nolen’s work includes sculptural objects and architectural installations using clay and mixed media. His work has been exhibited internationally and is in numerous private and public collections including the Cooper-Hewitt Museum, NYC, The Museum of Arts and Design, NYC, The Newark Museum, NJ, The Houston Museum of Fine Art, TX, The de Young Museum, San Francisco, CA, and The Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, NY.

Nolen’s work has been written about and reviewed in many periodicals and books including The New York Times, American Ceramics, Ceramics Art and Perception, Masters of Craft, Confrontational Clay, Postmodern Ceramics and Painted Clay. He has been awarded a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship, Mid Atlantic Foundation (regional NEA) Fellowship and international residencies in Israel and China. His residency at the Kohler Co.’s Art/Industry Program resulted in a handmade public washroom that has been named “Best Restroom in America” by the Cintas Corp. and among “The 10 Best Bathrooms in the World” by the Travel Channel. He has recently served as President of the Board of Trustees for Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts in Newcastle Maine and is Adjunct Professor of Art at New York University and Ceramics Area Coordinator at Pratt Institute. His work is represented by Stephen Romano Gallery, NY. www.nolenstudios.com

Matt Mitros

Artist’s Statement

My work focuses on the creation of illusory acts of tension within a forced fusion between what is seemingly organic in form/behavior and what is clearly machined. The Organic, epitomized by my use of rough surfaces and plant-like shapes, is determined by Nature –in various states of decay. The Machined, as suggested by the clean lines of the slip-cast objects and the architectural resin panels, is fabricated by the rules of Man -products of our intent. Both, however, can be equally represented as natural. The machined object is the result of our ability to operate within the parameters of natural systems. The organic object is an agent that symbolizes a moment within these cyclical systems. The difference between these two lies within their inherent goals: the organic is predicated by a struggle for survival, whereas the machined is predicated for efficiency.

Matt Mitros was born in Philadelphia, PA. Upon completing his BFA in Ceramics at Penn State University, he was an Artist-In-Residence at Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts as well as the Archie Bray Foundation. Mitros completed a post-baccalaureate from the University of Illinois and holds an MFA from the University of Washington. He has taught ceramics and sculpture at the University of Washington, South Seattle Community College, Lakeside Upper School, Kennesaw State University, and is currently a tenure-track Assistant Professor of Art at the University of Alabama. In 2008, Mitros was an Artist Trust GAP (Grant for Artist Projects) recipient funded by the City of Seattle. His work has been featured in Art in America, Art LTD, Clay Times, Ceramics Monthly, and City Arts Magazine, as well as the book 500 Figures in. Mitros has exhibited work throughout North America and Europe, and recently finished a residency position at Red Lodge Clay Center. Mitros currently lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Kevin Snipes

Artist’s Statement

Primarily I think of myself as a storyteller, submerged in the vivid passionate ardent fervent articulation of the ordinary.

Kevin Snipes was born in Philadelphia, but grew up mostly in Cleveland, Ohio. He is a full time wanderer, maker of exquisite objects. He gets his smarts from the streets but also managed to learn a thing or two at a couple of fine educational institutions. He holds a BFA from the Cleveland Institute of Art (1994) and did graduate work at the University of Florida, in Gainesville, Florida (2003). From there he participated in several short-term artist residency programs, including the Clay Studio, in Philadelphia and Watershed Center for Ceramic Arts, in New Castle, Maine. He was also a visiting artist at Louisiana State University, in Baton Rouge and did a two year residency at the Archie Bray Foundation in 2008 through 2010, in Helena, Montana. His most recent residencies (2013) took him to Vallauris, France and to C.R.E.T.A. in Rome, Italy. Kevin currently maintains a studio in Cleveland, OH. Exhibiting both nationally and internationally, Kevin has exhibited as far away as Jingdezhen, China.

 

Editors’ Notes (Posit 4)

 

Welcome to Posit 4!

We are delighted to bring you the poetry in this new issue, which assembles a range of poetic approaches to the deployment of razor-sharp vision reflecting our selves and our world(s) with unnerving power and ineffable magic. As always, the work in this issue comes from poets at all stages of their careers and a variety of aesthetic and geographical milieus. We hope you enjoy:

Kristin Abraham’s elliptical yet potent lyric investigations into the violently carved ‘wife-shaped face’ of American femininity as well as the asymmetrical “hog-thick tension” and “derivative violence” of our diode-logical relationships;

Simeon Berry’s wryly wrought encounters of Nix, a “biped without a face,” with the “negative/cathedral[s]” of our final inevitable “unreal estate,” nimbly transmogrifying sound puns to meaning puns with wit and grace;

Dana Curtis’s hallucinogenic psycho-documentaries with their “known lights . . . spiraling out . . . into [a] fog shrouded museum;”

Raymond Farr’s wonderfully threatening contemporary mythology, replete with Delphic Oracle;

Derek Graf’s ‘forest’ of prose blocs in which the silent and the voiced intertwine to re-imagine tropes as rich and strange as “the cold equations of hills and the cloven vandal of the moon;”

Carolyn Guinzio’s unsettling gaze reflecting our world in the hypnotic spin of a snake’s eye and complicating meaning via a counterpoint of interwoven narratives emitting implications of incantatory resonance;

Tim Kahl’s blunt and surprising vision, inviting us in from the numb comfort of our societal “avoid room” and guiding us “into position to receive the new settings from the old intelligence;”

Drew Kalbach’s “polycarbonate enhanced/enriched plastic” urban techno narratives, gleaming like “pure chemical reactions where no chemicals are found and nobody takes a picture to prove it;”

Jared Schickling’s mad constructions, “an epicurean trip thru quantum entanglement” conjuring up verbal parallels to the work of Jackson Pollock;

Marius Surleac’s collisions of punk rock with bucolic pastoralism, making us “lose our minds smoking pot made of sharp corn blades;”

Lewis Warsh’s deceptively relaxed and conversational lines snaking from the daily to the universal, the evident to the profound, with lingering resonance and masterful grace;

and Karen Zhou’s deft and haunting constructions, weaving us into her magical world of “nebular wild white,” “tattooed tulips” and “the impossibility of brûléed snow.”

As ever, thank you for reading!

Susan Lewis and Bernd Sauermann

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And welcome to the visual art in Posit 4!

ShinYeon Moon’s work explores the masks that people wear and the people beneath those masks — who we appear to be, and who we fear we are. Deeply psychological, Moon draws the inspiration for these haunting works from poetry, mythology, and her own life.

Gina Pearlin’s paintings are like bits of half-remembered dreams of a bygone era in an unnamed country. Despite their dreamlike quality, there’s a solidity about these pieces that plants them firmly in time and space. At once surreal and concrete, her vision reveals a world that is grim yet strangely beautiful, asking questions only the viewer can answer.

James Rauchman’s paintings draw us into a world of organic shape and form. Densely packed, the canvases often seem poised to burst open. They pulse with a life of their own, like biological specimens under a magnifying glass. At the same time, Rauchman is addressing formal ideas of figure and ground. The paintings dance back and forth between foreground and background, creating a lyrical tension which addresses central questions in contemporary painting.

With a wry sense of humor, Kevin Snipe’s work documents urban life and relationships between men and women. He uses the physicality of ceramics to work around, in, under, and through the visual narratives. These sculptures operate on both two and three dimensions, the visual narrative of the drawings reinforced by the sculpted forms. Snippets of dialogue float through these pieces, like conversations overheard on a subway.

And Laura Sharp Wilson’s work assembles forms that hark from many realms: under the sea, under a microscope, and in the sky. They appear as both decorative and highly structured scientific portraits of an alternative universe. Using vivid and beautiful color palettes combined with precise drawing, these paintings suggest multiple possibilities stemming from the natural and scientific worlds.

Enjoy!

Melissa Stern