Who Inspires You?
“Having come from a family of my mother who is a really powerful black female and my grandmother who was an educator, who was really a powerful black female…So I feel like it’s something I am really compelled to carry on.”– Alison Saar
In this lesson students will learn about the artists Alison Saar, Betye Saar, and Maddy Leeser whose works are inspired by the artist Simon Rodia as well as their deep interest in history, identity, and African American culture, whose style encompasses a variety of personal, artistic, and cultural references that reflect their own experiences. Their sculptures, installations, assemblages, and prints incorporate found objects including wood, old tin ceiling panels, nails, shards of pottery, glass, fabric, photographs, and other objects from popular culture. The resulting figures and objects become powerful totems exploring issues of gender, race, heritage, and history.
Grade Level: 7–12
Estimated Time: five or more 45-minute class periods
Craft In America Theme/Episode: INSPIRATION
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Most recognized for her ceramic sculptures, Viola Frey was a multi-disciplinary artist who worked in ceramic, bronze, and glass, as well as working in painting, drawing, and photography. Born in Lodi, CA in 1933, Frey took classes at Stockton College after graduating from high school, and soon after received a scholarship to attend California College of the Arts. She graduated from CCA in 1955 with a BFA in painting, although she was continually drawn to the ceramics department, saying “It seemed more like the real world. It was a community.” She continued her studies at Tulane, but decided to leave early in order to immerse herself in the ceramics community of Port Chester, NY, becoming involved with the Clay Art Center. Frey later relocated to the Bay Area, where over the next many decades she continued to refine her artistic practice. An avid collector of books, art, and other objects, she eventually incorporated bricolage into her creations. She received fellowships from the National Endowment of the Arts and the American Craft Council, and her work has been shown in galleries and museums nationwide, including the Whitney Museum of American Art (NY, NY), the Oakland Museum of California, and Renwick Gallery of the National Collection of Fine Arts, Washington, DC. Frey was also a dedicated arts educator and held a full time teaching position at CCA from 1971 until her retirement in 1999. The school honored her contributions with an honorary doctorate and the title of professor emerita. Frey passed away in her home in Oakland, CA in 2004.
Simon “Sam” Rodia (b. 1879, Italy) was an artist most known for his large-scale installation in Watts, California, entitled Nuestro Pueblo, but more commonly referred to as Watts Towers. Rodia was born in a small town near Naples, Italy and immigrated to the United States with his family in the early 1890s. His early life is sparsely documented, but upon moving to the US, Rodia moved to the West Coast and found work in rock quarries, logging and railroad camps, and construction. He eventually settled in Long Beach around 1911.
Several years later, in 1921, he purchased a lot at 1765 East 107th street in the Watts district of Los Angeles, on which to construct his large-scale masterpiece. Rodia worked on Nuestro Pueblo for over 25 years, in the evenings and on weekends, after his various day jobs, until its completion in 1948. He designed and built the Towers entirely himself, constructing them out of masonry, tile, and various found objects, and decorating the surfaces with singular, hand-placed mosaics. Several structures compose the complete installation, the largest of which stands at 99 1/2 feet tall. Rodia gifted the property to his neighbors before retiring to Martinez, CA, where he died in 1965. The Watts Towers were his last work of art.
Jim Campe lectured in Architecture at UC Berkeley and held an experimental studio course for undergraduate students with his colleague, architect, author, and educator Sim Van der Ryn. The course was entitled “Making a Place in the Country -The Outlaw Builder’s Studio,” and it involved on-site building construction and student collaboration in building their own shelters and communal buildings, using salvaged wood and found materials.
Sim Van der Ryn
Sim Van der Ryn is an architect, author, and educator dedicated to incorporating ecological principles into his work. He was a professor of architecture at UC Berkeley for 40 years and was California’s State Architect for Governor Jerry Brown in the late 1970s. He designed and built the State’s first energy efficient and climate-responsive building. He has long been incorporating sustainable practices into architecture and design and is recognized for his contribution and influence in shaping the Green Architecture and Sustainable Design movement. He is the President of the Ecological Design Collaborative, and the author of several influential books, including Design for an Empathic World: Reconnecting People, Nature, and Self, Sustainable Communities, and Ecological Design. He and his colleague Jim Campe founded the “Outlaw Builders,” an irreverent and visionary group experimenting with new and more sustainable practices.
Artist Talk: Location Services
The artists Motoko Furuhashi, Kerianne Quick, and Demitra Thomloudis discuss how they explore “place” within the historical and contemporary contexts of craft and the inseparable bond “place” has to individuality, society, and culture. This talk was live streamed on August 12, 2022.
This talk is presented in conjunction with the Craft in America Center exhibition, Location Services: Jewelry Perspectives on Time & Place, on view from June 25, 2022–September 10, 2022.
Location Services: Jewelry Perspectives on Time & Place
Location Services presents perspectives on place through the lens of contemporary jewelry and objects. Furuhashi, Quick, and Thomloudis share a common interest in site, place, and origin. Coming to these shared subjects from three distinct perspectives, the artists construct a holistic view through crafted responses which are unequivocally individual. The exhibition demonstrates an explicit view where the artists observe place/site within historical and contemporary contexts of craft and the inseparable bond place has to individuality, society, and culture. The crafting of jewelry and objects is a means to profoundly support and express our identity. It exists to contain our innermost thoughts, engaging intimately with the body, while communicating with and deepening our understanding of the world that surrounds us.
Motoko Furuhashi uses direct experiences to capture the physical and non-physical memories of selected locations. By collecting material directly from the site and creating through performative actions, Furuhashi claims the site as an extension of her studio. Furuhashi’s collection of surfaces are applied to jewelry, bringing the site directly to the wearer’s body. Kerianne Quick focuses on material origins, histories, and supply chain information to bring the wearer/viewer an expanded perspective. Connecting to the history of jewelry as objects of remembrance – the work reminds us that history is present, even when it is unseen. Demitra Thomloudis pushes and plays with scale, placement, materials, and form to capture facets of the places we reside, visit, and explore. Her work reveals the consideration of site within the construct of jewelry and creates the opportunity to examine aspects of place, identity, value, and material sign systems.
Click and drag, or use your arrow keys, to see a 360º view of the virtual space, including tags with object information and images.
View the objects in the exhibition below and click on each image for additional information.
About the artists:
Motoko Furuhashi was born in Tokyo, Japan. Her works has been inspired by her experiences traveling around the world, and road that takes her to go one place to another. She received MFA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Currently, she teaches at New Mexico State University. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally including at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, the Oakland Museum of California, Alliages Contemporary Art Jewellery in Lille, France and Nobana Art Works in Ginza in Tokyo, Japan.
Kerianne Quick is a Southern Californian, craftsperson, and Associate Professor of Jewelry and Metalwork at San Diego State University. Quick received the degrees of Bachelor of Arts in Applied Design from SDSU, Master of Fine Arts in Metal from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and worked as a research assistant for Dutch designer Gijs Bakker in the Amsterdam. Highlights from their exhibition record include the Museum of Art and Design (NYC), Museo Franz Mayer (CDMX), the National Museum for Women in the Arts (D.C.), Salon del Mobile (Milan), and Design Week Amsterdam. Quick’s work is included in the collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts Houston, and the Netherlands Design Museum (Stedelijk). Quick’s research is rooted in exploring craft as cultural phenomena, with an emphasis on jewelry and personal adornment. They have received numerous grants including a Kinley Fellowship and several University Project Grants. Quick co-founded and edits the zine/journal CRAFT DESERT with professor Adam John Manley (SDSU), does curatorial projects as Secret Identity Projects with professor Jess Tolbert (UTEP), and is the co-author of the (Affective) Craft Manifesto.
Demitra Thomloudis is a studio jeweler and an associate professor at the Lamar Dodd School of Art at the University of Georgia. Her investigation of the human body and its relationship to jewelry have manifested in works of art that challenge our assumptions about jewelry and its meaning, power and value. Her research, which explores jewelry’s capacity to express the interrelationship of person and place, has earned her an international reputation in the field, as well as numerous accolades and invitations to participate in exhibitions and residencies. These include: The Museum of Arts and Design in New York; The Benaki Museum in Athens, Greece; The Museum for Modern Art in Arnhem, Netherlands; The Hellenic Museum in Melbourne, Australia and the Franz Mayer Museum in Mexico City, Mexico. Her work can be found in numerous private collections and permanently at the Museum Espace Solidor in Cagnes-sur-Mer, France, the Ilias Lalaounis Jewelry Museum in Athens Greece and the Georgia Museum of Art. Her work is represented by Charon Kransen Arts-USA and the Penland Gallery located at the Penland School of Crafts.
The Craft in America Center is supported, in part, by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture. www.lacountyarts.org.
Joy Fire is a blacksmith and multi media artist participating in the long history of creativity in the community of Santa Ana, California. While blacksmithing is her foundation, she also produces objects in metal, photographs, installations, videos, and anything else that draws her interest.
She is a certified instructor with the California Blacksmith Association, a certified welder with the American Welding Society, a community education instructor in blacksmithing and bronze casting, and a welding instructor at Orange Coast College. She is also on the governance committee for the nonprofit Society of Inclusive Blacksmiths which provides opportunities, visibility, and economic support for marginalized communities in the field of blacksmithing.
Society of Inclusive Blacksmiths
The Society of Inclusive Blacksmiths is an organization working to change the image of blacksmiths in the 21st century by supporting, promoting, and highlighting historically underrepresented populations and forward-thinking work. Through listening to the experiences of others and working to understand their perspective, SIB builds a community that truly supports, encourages, and educates people regardless of constructs of race, gender, sexuality, gender orientation, or physical limitations.
The organization began in 2018 when smiths gathered in August 2018 at the Cascadia Center for Arts and Crafts (CCAC) in Oregon. The goals were a collaborative project for the on-site sculpture garden and conversation around issues of inclusivity in blacksmithing. The event brought women from across the country, ranging in age, experience, and metalworking interests. At the conclusion of their time at the CCAC, the team agreed to continue the project as the Society of Inclusive Blacksmiths (SIB).
Craft in America: L.A. Made & L.A. Scenes
These two exhibitions are installed at Los Angeles International Airport Terminal 1.5 (Southwest) and are co-produced by Los Angeles World Airports and City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs
Los Angeles has been an epicenter for the handmade in contemporary art since the mid 20th century. This grouping of sculptural objects is filled with revelations about the evolving nature of contemporary craft in the region. Today, the boundaries between media, the utilitarian, and the conceptual, as well as around design, art, and craft have eroded and become an open field for artists. These selected objects are indicative of the breadth and range of materials that artists draw upon to create art in the 21st century including ceramic, glass, fiber, metal, and wood.
These exemplary five L.A. artists contribute to the broadening of the conversation of what art can be. They each manipulate materials to new ends. Some innovate through selection of material, while others expand the lexicon of techniques used to produce work. They employ abstraction to very different ends: figuration, reflections of nature, depictions of L.A. life, studies of form, and politically charged messages. All of these artists explore the metaphorical potential of their materials and draw upon historical precedent to imbue their work with meaning and beauty. Beyond the realm of design, these sculptural works help redefine how craft is viewed on the world stage.
A destination for dreams, Los Angeles’ sprawling neighborhoods and iconic sites have served as inspiration for generations of artists. From the mountains to the beaches to the stars that adorn Hollywood Boulevard, these places live immortalized in multitudes of media. Los Angeles is as diverse as its geography. It is always at the forefront of culture, art, design, and technological innovation. As the backdrop and birthplace for films watched and beloved around the world, Los Angeles is both familiar and also too vast to know completely.
Artists in the region have a long history of turning to a wide range of techniques and materials in their work. Through craft, artists are able to connect with material on a personal level. Artists find infinite inspiration in the cultures and communities that come together to define this region. These selected handmade artworks are a taste of the different perspectives that come together to define scenic Los Angeles.
This project is supported by a grant from the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs: https://culturela.org/