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.

Fran Shalom

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Artist’s Statement
I am a modernist abstract painter with a pop sensibility.

My work balances the formal with the playful, paring down shapes and ideas into their most basic forms. To counter the chaos of everyday life, I instinctively gravitate towards elemental shapes, with defined edges resulting in an appearance of control and order (however illusionary it may be).

The shapes reference the human body but are open to interpretation. Animated by bright, cartoony colors and figure/ground relationships, I think of the paintings as ambiguous characters who inhabit my studio keeping me company and often engaging in silent conversation.

In writing about my work, art critic John Yau said, “Can we see things for what they are, even if we cannot name them, cannot in in that regard have dominion over them? I love that statement for it speaks to ambiguity and being comfortable with not knowing.

In Zen there is a wonderful saying: Not knowing is most intimate”. It suggests approaching something with open-minded and whole-hearted curiosity. I try to begin my paintings in this way, with a willingness to be present with uncertainty, and with the confidence that the process will result in work that both satisfies and inspires.

Fran Shalom has exhibited widely throughout the United States, including John Davis Gallery in Hudson, NY and the Kathryn Markel Gallery in NYC, the Fogg Art Museum in Cambridge Mass, and the Newark Museum. Her work is included in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the Rose Art Museum, and the Biblioteque Nationale in Paris. She has been the recipient of a Pollack Krasner Artist Grant in 2019, a MacDowell Colony Residency, and an Art Omi Residency. She is represented by the John Davis Gallery in Hudson, New York and the Kathryn Markel Gallery in New York City.

Jaynie Crimmins

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Artist’s Statement

What I do: I fabricate objects with meticulous handmade details that are counterpoints to the banality of their materials. Repurposing marketing tools from consumer culture, I shred and create with solicitations, safety envelopes and catalogs that are difficult to recycle because their inks have high concentrations of heavy metals. Deconstructing these materials reshapes their formulaic messages into narratives of personal interest. As interpretations of natural structures and architectural elements, my forms are indelible impressions from recollections and observations. Rolling, folding, sewing and fabricating the shreds into intimate sculptural reliefs produces works that explore surface and texture, becoming meditations on consumerism and waste.

Why I do it: nothing seemed to make it into the trash in the apartment of my Eastern European grandparents. Discarded clothing became crocheted rugs. Old curtains became aprons. Leftovers became the ingredients for new meals. Nothing was wasted, everything possible was reused. Castoff items became novel and compelling in their metamorphosis. Combining this sensibility with the shredding of junk mail illuminates the physical acts of deconstructing and repurposing. The power of transformation, frugality, ingenuity and handmade quality drive my practice.

Jaynie Gillman Crimmins, a Brooklyn based artist, creates alternative narratives from quotidian materials. Her work has been exhibited at ART on PAPER; SPRING/BREAK Art Show; Governor’s Island Art Fair and the National Museum of Romanian Literature in addition to museums throughout the United States. Crimmins has a long history of community work, currently volunteering in the Guggenheim Museum’s Learning Through Art Program. She holds two degrees in Art Education – a BS from the State University College at Buffalo and MS from the College of New Rochelle, with a minor in Art Therapy. She is represented by K. Imperial Fine Art, San Francisco, CA and shows at Mason Fine Art, Atlanta, GA.

Marie Watt

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Artist’s Statement

My work draws from storytelling, proto-feminism, Indigenous teachings, and biography. It addresses the interaction of the arc of history with intimacy of memory. Blankets, one of my primary materials, are everyday objects that can carry extraordinary histories of use. In my tribe and other Indigenous communities, we give blankets away to honor those who are witness to important life events. In working with blankets, my process is both solitary and collaborative. Small works are personal meditations. Large works are often realized by community sewing circles: participants range from 3 to 93 in age, and no sewing experience is required. The intercultural fellowship around the table is as much a part of the work as the resulting artifact.

Marie Watt is a cross-disciplinary artist who makes Indigenous knowledge visible by drawing from obscured history, biography, Iroquois protofeminism, and Native Futurism. Her practice resides at the intersection of history, community and storytelling. Her site responsive work spurs individuals and communities to engage in dialogue surrounding their own histories and experiences of the world. These multi-generational, intercultural and cross-disciplinary conversations create a lens for understanding connectedness to place, one another, and the universe in its ancient and modern condition.

Kit Warren

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Artist’s Statement

This series plays with the overlap between a range of longstanding influences on my visual vocabulary: Indian miniatures, scientific imagery, musical notation and mapping.

Central forms suggest landmass, non-specific geographic shapes containing hundreds of brushed dots of gold acrylic and powdered pigment, the ground multiple layers of deep velvety color. While painting these dots, over time shapes form, figures emerge. I add more marks, figures disappear into their neighbors, and a larger shape appears. Depending on the angle of the lighting and the position of the viewer, the metallic paint shimmers like a scrim floating on the surface, concealing the underlying forms, or recedes into the surface color, revealing the marks more clearly.

The larger works function as externalized thinking–visual stories emerge and current events impinge on the painting, leaving indefinable traces. The smaller works are in some ways the children of the larger ones, products of their conceptual labor.

Kit Warren is a visual artist working in Brooklyn, NY. She graduated with a BFA from University of Pennsylvania, an MFA from School of Visual Arts, and a certificate in multi-media from NYU. Kit’s work has been exhibited internationally, and has recently been included in exhibits at PS 122, Park Place Gallery, The Cluster Gallery, LaBodega Gallery, SCOPE NY and The Painting Center. She has been awarded fellowships at Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Saltonstall Foundation, and was a 2018 Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation Creative Fellow. This summer she will be a Conception Arts Fellow at the Chateau Orquevaux Residency.

Maritta Tapanainen

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Artist’s Statement

The collages are intuitive accretions, built-up layers of intricately contoured cut paper fragments—fragments found sifting through outmoded textbooks, encyclopedias, technical manuals and the like. Lyric improvisations recontextualize the natural, biological world with scientific, mechanical elements evoking recognition while simultaneously remaining enigmatic. I began acquiring old, discarded volumes long before their possibilities unfolded attracted by the visual beauty and richness, the soft warmth of the patina, the fragility inherent of this arcane printed matter—its evocative obsolescence, qualities redolent of another age—an authenticity that I desire to preserve and channel. Selections are made with a practiced eye—informed by snatches of memory and meditations on the micro- macro cosmos—finding inspiration in antiquated print aberrations, engraved optical eccentricities, and odd, inartful renderings. All coalesce to imbue the work with a sense of immediacy, and detached timelessness.

Maritta Tapanainen was born in Finland, raised in Canada, has since lived in Europe, Central America, and in the harsh expansive beauty of the Mojave desert. She currently lives and works in Los Angeles, California. Her work can be found in the collections of The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston (mfa), The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), The International Collage Center (ICC), and many other venues, and has been presented at The ADAA Art Show, Palm Springs Fine, Art Fair, Houston Fine Art Fair, CA Boom–Dwell on Design, Pulse Art Fair, LA Art Show, and Works on Paper (Park Avenue Armory). She has twice received a Pollock-Krasner Foundation grant, been highlighted in The Paris Review, and had solo shows reviewed by Artforum, The Los Angeles Times, and more.

Helen O’Leary

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Artist’s Statement

Growing up in rural Ireland in the 1960s through 1980s, I often heard my mother talking of the “big house” and the class system that was clearly in place, ending each story with “Their ways weren’t our ways”; later, when my family ran a boarding house, she would dismiss the tourists who stayed with us with the same comment. My childhood was defined by the “if you can’t make it, you can’t have it” Ireland, a place where making things—food, shelter, ornament—and making do were central to both the physical and emotional survival of the family. That reality and the resulting radical attitude to tradition, high-class impurity, and rascality inherent in the Irish culture of that time expressed itself not only in my mother’s words but in the language, literature, people, and music that surrounded me as an adolescent. As a young painter this sensibility naturally carried over into how I looked at the modern masters, and to the questions asked of their conventions and their “ways.” I’ve always been most interested in the modest lyricism of the purely mundane, never feeling abstraction to be the sole province of the heroic and the cerebral. Throughout my career, I have been constructing a very personal and idiomatic formal language based in simple materials and unglamorous gestures, a framework which functions as a kind of syntactical grid of shifting equivalences. The “paintings” that emerge from this process know their family history, a narrative of greatness fallen on hard times. Yet, for all that, they remain remarkably un-defensive, wobbly, presuming no need to disavow the past or defy the present. I work from memoir, stories of growing up on the farm in Wexford and my life now in the States, short stories that I then fashion from the archaeology of my studio. I work the studio as my father worked the farm, with invention out of need, using my own displacement as fodder for meaning. I take things apart, forgetting conventions and reapply my own story to the form. I revel in the history of painting, its rules, its beauty, its techniques, but fold them back into the agricultural language I grew up with. I’m interested in the personal, my own story, and the history of storytelling. My new work delves into my own history as a painter, rooting in the ruins and failures of my own studio for both subject matter and raw material. I have disassembled the wooden structures of previous paintings—the stretchers, panels, and frames—and have cut them back to rudimentary hand-built slabs of wood, glued and patched together, their history of being stapled, splashed with bits of paint, and stapled again to linen clearly evident. The residual marks on the frames, coupled with their internal organization, begin to form a constellation of densities, implying an idiomatic syntax of organic fluctuation where compact spaces coexist with the appearance of gaping holes where the rickety bridges have given way. Formal and structural concerns become inseparable, the slippery organization of their fluctuating grids showing a transparency both literal and historical. With both serenity and abandon, these structures imagine the possibility that painting might take root and find a place to press forward into fertile new terrain. Humorous, enigmatic, these fragments bare their histories as well-worn objects, and in that maintain a certain irrefutable integrity, speaking to both the strengths and frailties ingrained by hard use and the passage of time. What long remained hidden as merely the bones behind the image plane have been exhumed and remade into the tendons and sinews of the image itself. Through the process of deconstruction and reassembly, the pieces invert the conventional anatomical hierarchies of painting in an attempt to find what is fresh and vital among the entrails of the image. The paintings affirm over and over again in elegant fashion the pleasures of a demanding and nonjudgmental yet always self-conscious practice of painting that gives joy to the eye and substance to the spirit. I am interested in painting that would stand up without the usual structures of support. I am looking at my own life, the history of Sean-nós singing in Irish music, Beckett’s pared-down language, and the currency of need found in most houses when I was growing up.

Helen O’ Leary was born in Wexford, Ireland. She attended NCAD and earned a BFA and MFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, IL. She has been honored with the Rome Prize American Academy in Rome, Hennessy Purchase Award, IMMA, Dublin, John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship; two Pollock-Krasner awards; the Joan Mitchell Award for painting and sculpture; and several grants from the Arts Council. She has attended many residencies, including the Culturel Irlandaise, France; the Sam and Adele Golden Residency, NY; Mac Dowell, NY; Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, ME; and Yaddo, NY. Exhibitions include the American Academy of Arts and Letters, NY; The MAC Belfast, Ireland; National Gallery of Art, Ireland; the Glasgow Museum of Art, Scotland; Lesley Heller Gallery, NY; Galerie le Petit Port, Ireland; the Contemporary Arts Centre, Australia; Zolla/Lieberman Gallery, IL; Kerlin Gallery, Ireland; and Fenderesky Gallery, Ireland. She currently lives in Jersey City NJ and Leitrim, Ireland. A new film about her work can be viewed here.

Azadeh Ardalan

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Artist’s Statement

My recent paintings are in large part a reflection of contemporary individuals who are showing different states of mind. These figures are mostly a record of some images in my mind which I make visual. In the recent years I have developed a new view in painting, focusing mostly on figures who are sitting, standing or doing things as if in a theatre set.

Azadeh Ardalan is an internationally exhibiting artist. She has participated in numerous solo and group exhibitions in museums and galleries in Italy, France and elsewhere. She studied languages and literature at Bologna university in Italy and continues to work on developing her proficiency in different languages.

Hirosuke Yabe

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Artist’s Statement

I make wooden sculptures that look like animal anthropomorphic creatures, sometimes monsters too. Actually I think that these are all humans. (A metaphor of the human condition.) “What is it to be human?” “What is the human being?” I am interested in these questions. I am also interested in the question of what is it to be Japanese. Sometimes humans are animals and monsters. Human beings have various aspects.

I sometimes imagine that my work looks silly, funny and the characters are foolish but also cute, lovely and sweet. Also sometimes they are expressionless and we can’t tell from their expression what they are thinking. In a sense possibly they are like the Japanese character… perhaps.

I have been making a series of works called Faithful Dog Man. Actually, when I make this work I imagine a “faithful person character” in my mind. Who is the Faithful Dog Man faithful to? What is the Faithful Dog Man faithful to? What country is the Faithful Dog Man faithful to? I sometimes put messages and humor in my work, like this. However I am not interested in directly telling people only an ironic message. Because I would like my work “people and creatures” to be loved by other people and me. I would like my characters to be loved by people, and my characters to feel close to people and me. Because they are always looking for a new owner.

Hirosuke Yabe was born 1972 in Kanagawa, Japan and received his B.F.A. in Sculpture from Zoukei University of Art in Tokyo in 2002. His work has been exhibited in group and solo shows at Cindy Rucker Gallery in New York (2018) and t-gallery in Tokyo (2016).

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.