March 22, 2004
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Issue #2: Figurative Art, Art in Transit, and Life on Three Levels
An e-magazine published by Silicon Valley Open Studios.
Chen, Adam's Ponder in the Word of Figurative Art Drawing nudes in a fantasy background
bathed in vibrant hues of the media: pastel and watercolors are the
passion of artist HungTsu Chen. Her head is crammed with images of
figures in exotic settings, and she feels compelled to put them down on
paper despite what some artists have told her.
Drawing nudes in a fantasy background bathed in vibrant hues of the media: pastel and watercolors are the passion of artist HungTsu Chen. Her head is crammed with images of figures in exotic settings, and she feels compelled to put them down on paper despite what some artists have told her.
Lutzeler, Art in Transit
Therese May, Life on Three Levels with Art Quilts Imagine patches of vibrant red, purple,
yellow, blue, green, and lavender fashioned side by side with earth
tones to create a tapestry of playful images in fabric. Each quilt has
its own story to tell and award winning, Collection 2004 artist
Therese May's home is festooned with these delightful creations.
Imagine patches of vibrant red, purple, yellow, blue, green, and lavender fashioned side by side with earth tones to create a tapestry of playful images in fabric. Each quilt has its own story to tell and award winning, Collection 2004 artist Therese May's home is festooned with these delightful creations.
Issue #2: Figurative Art, Art in Transit, and Life on Three Levels
Drawing nudes in a fantasy background bathed in vibrant hues of the media: pastel and watercolors are the passion of artist HungTsu Chen. Her head is crammed with images of figures in exotic settings, and she feels compelled to put them down on paper despite what some artists have told her. “Many artists have told me no one buys nude art,” Hung-Tsu laments. “I don’t want to believe them because this is what I love, and I think the art buyers just haven't seen exciting nude art. I'm the trend-setter, and once people see my vision, they will become as excited as I am about figurative art.”
Before her art career, Hung-Tsu worked for eight years as a software engineer, embracing hard work and pouring her heart and energy into the task of achieving excellence in the technical field. Good pay, benefits, and the knowledge of a job well done was a natural part of her life; the secure road in the high-tech world lay before her. Despite her success, however, Hung-Tsu never felt at home. Something was missing—her happiness. She didn't find it until she broke away from the traditional job market and plunged into the art world.
It all began when Hung-Tsu decided to take a three-month leave from her computer job to do some soul searching and think things over. She went back to San Jose State – where she had obtained her software degree a decade earlier – and sought a career counselor. A wise woman named Diane Byster asked Hung-Tsu penetrating questions to draw her out of lethargy and dissatisfaction. After a battery of tests and more questions, Diane and Hung-Tsu realized the path to fulfillment and freedom was through art.
Someone suggested Hung-Tsu take life drawing. She thought that meant sketching animals and landscapes; so, when she took her first class, she was shocked to see naked people posing on the platform! But, she got over that and kept coming back. “I took up life drawing in 2001 like fish to water and wondered how I could possibly have missed the creative part of me all these years,” Hung-Tsu explained. “I was walking on clouds the first six months after I discovered art. I had a huge smile on my face and in my heart,“ she added, amazed about her newfound ability to render figures on paper.
Another life drawing course at Mission College in Santa Clara, California changed her life. There, she met Ling Yang, an instructor who tailored her training to each student's needs. At first the instructor had the students draw in pencil and charcoal before encouraging them to use colored media. In the second semester, Hung-Tsu began experimenting with pastel. She fell in love with the vibrant colors and immediacy the medium provided. Hung-Tsu’s fondness for textured paper embellished with leaves and flower petals makes her works unique and compelling. “I also loved the quality of hand-made paper that has an antique look and feel to it,” she said.
Hung-Tsu’s current task is her 15-women marketing research project to determine if she can make a living out of figurative art. Ten women have already volunteered their time to pose in Hung-Tsu’s studio for the project in pastel. The sessions are several hours long. Her method of creating a piece for this project is to first place an ad on the Internet inviting women to visit the studio. Then she has them fill out a questionnaire to get their opinions on the subject of figurative art. Finally, Hung-Tsu spends one to two hours interviewing each woman about the project and their reasons for participating. If the model feels comfortable, Hung-Tsu will draw them on the first visit, but oftentimes the preliminary sketching takes place at another session.
These preliminary sketching sessions usually take place in three-hour segments. After three to five sessions with the model, Hung-Tsu works from photos of the subject. She then begins to build the background around the figure with research from resource material such as books, the Internet, or from the real world. With each person, the backdrop is different, depending on personality, energy and body type. Hung-Tsu devotes 80 hours (spread out over 2-10 months) per model to complete a composite drawing, which includes research, thumb-nail sketches, critiques from Ling Yang and her peers, modifications and final touches.
Hung Tsu’s piece Adam's Ponder impressed the jurors of Silicon Valley Open Studio's Collection 2004. Grace Gibson, one such judge, remarked: ”The figure is rendered with excellent chiaroscuro, and relates well to his environment.” This fine work, constructed in the pastel medium is full of brilliant colors--simple yet, provocative. This well designed figure pulls viewers into the complexities of choice Adam faced thousands of years ago.
Saaba MBB Lutzeler is interested in the concept of being between places, and it shows in her pastel paintings: her subjects sit in trains or on buses, riding to unknown destinations. Besides these “in-between” pieces, Saaba’s paintings range in subject from flowers to portraits to stylized figures. Her artwork has traveled nationally and internationally in fourteen fine art exhibitions and gained her multiple awards throughout her career.
Saaba grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, but her family lineage represents two countries on the other side of the Atlantic: Ethiopia and Germany. While growing up, she was surrounded by the creative process. Her father – a mathematician – would make colorful geometric sculptures out of wood or cardboard. And her mother – a culinary entrepreneur – started up a lentil food manufacturing company and an Ethiopian restaurant in St. Louis, the first of its kind in the Midwest.
With creative parents as her example, Saaba embarked on an academic passage from St. Louis to New York City where she trained as an artist's assistant. Her studies took her down under to Tasmania, Australia and then back to the U.S. to finish school in Ohio at Kenyon College. She graduated with honors in 1996, earning a Bachelor's degree in studio art.
Shortly thereafter, Saaba began a community based public art collaboration with a sculptor in St. Louis, making outdoor mosaics. This exhausting work kept the team glued to their enormous task for up to 18 hours a day from 1996 to 1999. During this time, Saaba also learned how to raise money through grants and corporate donations and how to deal with tough social issues. As a result Saaba received wide recognition for her hard work.
At the end of 1999, she went to Ethiopia with her mother and found intense poverty there. Compared to her own comfortable life in the United States, her cousins had few conveniences. They had no indoor running water, and they had to cook their meals over a small coal stove. Because of the dire conditions in Ethiopia, Saaba decided to take a break from art and concentrate her energies into field like engineering or architecture, which would allow her help make improvements in developing countries.
Back in the US, after moving to California with her fiancee in 2001, Saaba went to school and invested two years tackling the prerequisite courses for a master of architecture degree, even while her desire for art remained in the back of her mind. When she finally did apply, the school rejected her, leaving her humbled and disappointed in what seemed to be wasted effort. But the relief she felt when she realized she wouldn't have to spend three years in architecture school told her that the whole venture had been superficial. All along, she had ignored her true passion, and now she could finally get back to the thing she was meant to do: making art. “I realized [making art] was just as important for a society as making buildings,” she explained, concluding: “It’s an invaluable record and reflection of our time.”
To help her save up for her art, Saaba took a contract position at a software company. But only eight months later, her position was phased out, and she had to make a decision: “I took the plunge to go into art full-time . . . I searched for a studio on Craig's List and luckily found one right away at The Alameda Art Works.”
It was in this close knit artistic community that Saaba learned about Silicon Valley Open Studios and the Collection 2004 competition. Thilo, the piece selected in the competition, was only the third work she'd made since re-starting her art career. It is a pastel portrait of her husband that shows him sitting pensively on a tiled verandah.
Collections 2004 juror Janet Rindfleisch, executive director of the Euphrat Museum at De Anza College, wrote of Saaba’s paintings, “These paintings show a good knowledge of the figure and an understanding of the subject's character. Something unusual is going on in each image. The figures are integrated with the environment, usually urban settings, inside a bus, on a roof, or inside a room. [Saaba] employs good compositions, with diagonals and skewed planes that create a liveliness and drama.”
And what of her expectations of Silicon Valley Open Studios? “If people see my work, that'll be enough. I want people to see my work, take my business card, and go to my website.” She said, adding: “Of course, I wouldn't complain if someone bought something!”
Imagine patches of vibrant red, purple, yellow, blue, green, and lavender fashioned side by side with earth tones to create a tapestry of playful images in fabric. Each quilt has its own story to tell and award winning, Collection 2004 artist Therese May's home is festooned with these delightful creations—even her painted furniture beckons the child-at-heart in us, which is something many of us bury while growing up in today's stressful society.
Therese painted her furniture in the same whimsical style reminiscent of her fascinating fabric art . . . how many office chairs have you sat on with lavender arms and stand with soft pink spots? Her entire home rivals many galleries in character. It's as if you're standing inside one of her multicolored creations.
Born in Madison, Wisconsin in 1943 to the McMahan household, Therese and her six siblings were surrounded by music as both parents sang. Her dad, a soloist Irish tenor, would perform at churches, wedding, and radio. As expected in a musical family, everyone sings or plays an instrument but Therese found her personal expression through art. The muse never left her heart but grew and followed her to adulthood and into higher education.
Back in her day the University of Wisconsin taught on Abstract Expressionism, which she delved into wholeheartedly. Whenever she walked into the school's art studio, she loved being greeted by the smell of Turpentine and oil paints found in the room. By 1965 she discovered the art of quilting before finishing school. She earned her Bachelor's degree in art and several years later received her Masters at San Jose State.
In 1969, somebody convinced Therese to enter her 72” x 90” Therese Quilt into a highly competitive show in Walnut Creek, California in which she won a $100.00 award. This unexpected outcome ignited something inside her to switch careers as Bets Ramsey’s book, Art and Quilts: 1950-1970 stated, “ . . . The prize caused an awakening. She realized that it was possible to have an art career with needle, fabric, and thread, not canvas and paint.” The Therese Quilt earned a prestigious honor in 1999 as one of 20th Century's 100 best American quilts. She traveled to Japan, England and Ireland to teach or show her works and many stories from the U.S. and Japan have been written about her. These quilts traveled across this nation and in other countries in exhibitions and are still making an impact. Her impressive record of awards and outstanding achievements some folks could become self-centered and arrogant but that is not the case with Therese May. This charming, petite blond is humble and gentle in heart and isn't afraid to express what's deep inside her. She doesn't view herself above others and loves to share what she knows.
Teaching adults and children in her studio fills her with joy, she especially loves her one-on-one with the kids who have been coming to her studio on a long-term basis. “They can do anything. I see them blossom and I do too.” She instructs them in quilts, polymer clay work, painting, and drawing. The adults mainly focus on quilting.
Before sticking a needle into cloth, Therese excavates an idea from the gold mine within and puts it down on her sketchbook. This is the pattern she uses for the quilt top (quilts come in 3 layers); once this is done then she cuts each section and appliqués these unto muslin then sews these pieces together. Sometimes she will paint on the quilt top and build the rest of the quilt. However, to reduce the workload that her business demands, she often sends the finished top to another quilter who will combine the face, batting, and backing. Therese May's artwork leaves an indelible impression and two prominent jurors from the SVOS Stars juried program agreed. Says Janet Rindfleisch an Diana Argabrite, curators at DeAnza Euphrat Museum, “This artist excels at creating a lively composition with all-over design and patterns and original use of materials. This is well executed personal expression with warmth and touch of humor. We see a unique identifiable style but each piece has its own character and appeal.”
Therese May is one of the original artists who launched Silicon Valley Open Studios (it was San Jose Open Studios back in 1986) in the heart of downtown San Jose. She is impressed on how much the little venue has grown in professionalism over the years and likes the addition of programs that SVOS implemented to help artists get establish in their careers.
This gifted quilter looks forward to hosting people in her studio for the upcoming May open studios in and hopes to delight, and inspire people. She views SVOS as spending a couple of days with company. Her variety of art quilts will be on hand for sale but her enthusiasm and warm heart is free for all to partake.