Ten area artists participated in the 2010 Artists' Open Studio Tour, sponsored by the Indiana Arts Council. Eight artists participated in the free, public event Saturday, Sept. 25, and Sunday, Sept. 26, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Indiana. Two artists from Clymer and one from Dayton also participated.
Have you ever looked at a painting so abstract it boggled your mind or gazed at wildly formed sculpture and thought, "I wonder how they came up with that?"
I have. I am a fairly creative person who dabbles in drawing and painting, and I enjoy art museums more than the average person, but sometimes I just don't get it. Maybe I'm just too much of a realist, or maybe I just don't give art enough of a chance. So, I traveled to the second floor of the Indiana Theater building at 637 Philadelphia St. September 25 in Indiana, camera and curiosity in tow, to find out how they really did come up with that.
The event: The Indiana Arts Council's 2010 Artist Open Studio Tour held Sept. 25 and 26 from 10 a.m.-4p.m. The council held the free, public exhibition of ten artists' studios to promote its artists and give people and idea of what goes on in the creative mind and the creative space.
And I wasn't the only curious IUP student in attendance. Liz Judge, a junior economics and finance major, was helping artist Ned Wert in his studio. Judge was volunteering for "Into the Streets", a student service event held by the Office of Service Learning, and had never been up close and personal with the artist's abstract paintings.
"I think they're amazing," she said. "Every time I turn around, I see something new in them."
Abstract Artist Chuck Olson in his studio at 637 Philadelphia St.
My first stop was at Charles "Chuck" Olson's studio. He is an abstract painter and the chairman of the fine arts department at Saint Francis University in Loretto, Pa. I couldn't help but notice several massive canvases piled near the entrance. They were covered with segments of maps and painted over, with some of the segments peaking through -- definitely worth asking about. And I never have, now that I think of it, even though I grew up with his son and have hung out in his house, which is, of course, decorated with Olson originals my mind could not comprehend.
The huge paintings had recently arrived via tractor-trailer from the Amarillo Museum of Art in Amarillo, Texas. Olson showed 80 such map "hybrids" as he calls them, in a four-month-long exhibition in 2009 titled "Chuck Olson: Visual Histories."
"They're sort of a trinity of how I find a lot of form and fresh ideas out of history," he said.
Some 16th- and 17th- century maps of the Holy Land Olson found in a monastary in Parma, Italy helped inspire him, he said. He has also had a lifelong fascination with history and maps.
Additionally, he is intrigued by the advent of map technology like GPS and the fact that people are only concerned with arriving at their destination when they look at maps now, he said. Contrast this with the way medeival maps were represententations of the 17th century concept of reality, he said.
"Maps are hugely abstract," he said.
Maps are based on humans' perception of what's important, he said, and can shape how people perceive other cultures. Olson recalled a particular medeival map he saw that had Jerusalem as its center, and everything else radiated from it.
His paintings combine artifacts taken from such places as flea markets and junkyards, according to his artist's statement from "Visual Histories."
"Everybody has a map," he said. And the project continues to evolve.
A look inside fiber artist Sandra Trimble's studio at 637 Philadelphia St. in Indiana.
My other main stop was Sandy Trimble's studio. I have known her practically my whole life, but, again, have never really conversed with her about what she does.
Trimble is a fiber artist. She can take pieces of wool and put them together to create nearly life-size sculptures. This is a process called felting which involves attaching pieces of wool by poking them repeatedly with a needle until they take shape. I tried it once and hated it. Her work (and patience) amazes me.
Trimble has been felting puppets recently, and she displayed a few atop a glass case outside her studio. My favorite was her rendition of Dracula, complete with a widow's peak, mean canines and a black collared cape. Trimble sometimes makes pieces with certain clients in mind, she said, and that one was ready to be shown off to a prospective buyer.
She also showed me a fish and a mermaid she has been working on.
Trimble propped a flap of purple felt on a still-eyeless fish form to signify his fin. She then produced a few small seashells from a box that will become the mermaid's necklace. She found the shells on the beach during her recent trip to the Outer Banks in North Carolina, she said.
"She still needs hair," she said, holding up the mermaid to get a better look.
I was glad to have talked with old friends and found out new things during the tour: both about them and the way art is created. And all the artists' works-in-progress are sure to dazzle other onlookers the way they did Judge and me.
Trimble at work in her studio Saturday, Sept. 25, at 637 Philadelphia St.
UPDATE: Some of my readers provided their generous comments to help me out with my blog.