Steve Seleska: Environmental Artist

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With a rich and beautiful show at Ark Gallery through June 30th, Steve Seleska offers a window into time and space. There is no “final frontier” here, but rather a doorway into multiple frontiers, into worlds within worlds. The self-taught artist’s first solo show, Uncharted Territory,  presents environments and fantasy landscapes, evocative work that is not only visually fascinating, but morally insightful. Seleska is encouraging viewers to look at changes in the world today on what he terms a molecular level; big events that affect human existence taken on an intimate scale.

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This body of work has a political passion, one that speaks to the national climate that has led to March for Science rallies, and nationwide cries for real facts and analysis versus propaganda. The fragility of our world and its eco-systems is the subject of Seleska’s artistic territory here, which presents the wonders of nature, the cosmos, the layering of the scientific with the phantasmagorical, the web of life.

SeleskaSeleska says “My work focuses on environments. My Micro-Environment series focuses on human observation of microscopic environments, perhaps viewed through a microscope,” he explains.

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Landescapism #4 above. “With the Landescapism series, the human becomes microscopic, observing a dystopian environment.” The viewer is deep inside the world here, beneath the shell of life as we know it.

The artist says that Unchartered Territory is representative of his current body of work, both in its intensity and its political bent. “My influences are environmental disasters. Oil spills and forest fires provided many visual references,” he relates.

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His Micro Environment #9 evokes motion, living creatures, caught and suspended, encapsulated. Micro Environment #111 appears like glossy liquid, water, oil, mutable substances.

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Deeply dimensional, like lace spun by spiders or filaments strewn by another species, Seleska’s work at Ark literally and figuratively makes viewers want to dive inside his world. Both graceful and intense, these fantastically textural works appear ready to come alive, swirl a new universe straight off the gallery walls.

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In terms of his thick and dreamy medium, Seleska notes “Layering acrylic and resin allows me to create a three-dimensional effect that invites the viewer into the painting.”

Although Seleska owns Resin Floor Studios, a company that creates art-like unique flooring, Seleska likes to keep his business and his art work separate. “The only real connection is that I use epoxy resin in both.”

The medium is at least in part the message in Seleska’s artwork, as he explores human events and consciousness. “Multiple layers of epoxy resin give rise to an intricate dimensionality. Reactions between oil, acrylic, resin and other chemical compounds hold evidence of interconnectedness and reflect transformation.”

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Seleska says his intention is to have the viewer “consider their relationship to our mysterious, precarious existence. My subject matter combines the representational and abstract. Together these elements create a transcendent aesthetic — an environment that is there and simultaneously not there.”

While it is still “there,” catch the last days of Seleska’s Ark exhibition this week, and see Seleska again with an exhibit at Launch LA in September 2017.

Samuelle Richardson: Of Fine Art and Fabric

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Samuelle Richardson may have entered the world of fine art as a painter, but her work now is in creating astounding fabric sculptures.  These beautiful pieces seem ready to spring to life.

“The figures I make are hand-built armature with fabric stretched and stitched over the form. The character of a shape is my most important concern and I achieve it by building up layers,” Richardson relates. “My art practice is rooted in life drawing and long ago, I saw that a deeper knowledge of anatomy would help me make better decisions in rendering the human form, so I immersed myself in a process called écorché where a scale model of the skeleton is built by hand, in clay.”

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Her pieces feel magical in their completeness, as if motion were simply frozen within their fabric, and should one look away, the pieces would come alive.

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Her Ghost Dogs, which use wood as well as fabric, seem ready to take off and run. They live up to their title, haunting figures, beautiful and frail.

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A different sort of beautiful energy infuses the artist’s earth angels, figures that are flying toward and carrying earth to safety.  These gliding and protective figures are suspended in a ten foot radius, soaring and strong.

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To see such powerful work made from cloth is to wonder both at the strength of the medium and the intensely classical form of the artistry.

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“Fabric has been familiar to me for a long time. My background in the design industry is where important decisions were made based on the characteristics of fabric. Various types of fabric yield different results when applied in the same way.  I love the feel of fabric and I see characteristics in fine material that remind me of the way my favorite painters have mastered color,” she says.

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“In my three-dimensional work, I especially appreciate the crush and pull of fabric as it relates to skin over bone.  I also like matching fabric to the character of the sculpture.”

Richardson explains that she saw a catalog of Louise Bourgeois’ Cell Series and knew she’d have to try her cloth figure technique. “I had made figures in clay before but I had not yet thought of combining my knowledge of fabric and the three dimensional form,” the artist explains.

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The result are sculptures that seem incredibly alive, as if beneath their cloth they breathe.  The softness of the material further enhances the powerful and persuasive illusion that there is a living spirit beneath the cloth.

“Today I am looking closely at images of Manuel Neri’s work from the 50’s. The series was made in the image of his favorite model and there are some interesting figure studies done in fabric strips, wire, wood and other found material.  I am also looking for ways to incorporate found material in my work and I gain a lot through the perspective of my favorite artists.”

Asked who those favorites would be, Richardson cites “Calder for his humor, Diebenkorn for his elegant command of color and design, and James Havard for his rare quality of naïve imagery based on a classical knowledge of the figure.”

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Richardson credits her transition from canvas to fabric to the vicissitudes of violent weather. “I might still be a painter today had my studio not been destroyed in a record-breaking storm in 2009. It took a year to repair the damage, so I moved my work into the house and began experimenting with hand-built armature and fabric. I liked my new medium so much that I never looked back.

Richardson will be part of a July 2017 group show curated by Betty Ann Brown at Groundspace Project, It’s a Wonderful World. Looking forward ahead, she’s scheduled for two group shows at MOAH in Lancaster, Calif., in 2019.

“My new work is underway and it will be about human figures.  I plan to make a group that interacts similarly to the figures in Ghost Dogs.”

  • Genie Davis; photos: Genie Davis; and courtesy of the artist

 

Ramona Otto Goes “Inside the Jewel Box”

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Above, detail from the work of Ramona Otto.

Artist Ramona Otto’s solo exhibition at the Fine Arts Building in downtown Los Angeles is a glittering look at found art.

The cathedral-like interior of the 1917-era Fine Arts Building is a spot-on perfect venue for Otto’s 17 jeweled sculptures which evoke Faberge eggs and intricate mosaics. The show, curated by Nancy Larrew, runs through July 8th.

The lush, sparkling, and layered works began, Otto says, with her search for vintage treasures at flea markets, yard sales, and antique shops, found pieces for her dynamic artistic puzzles.

Otto intends her art work to complement the architecture of her exhibition space, and she does, with both location and art quite literally dazzling. The Santa Monica-based artist has been crafting her found-art works for over twenty years, as well as working as an elementary school teacher for gifted children.

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There are some swirling, rich works here that Otto says represents the body of her work. “I have always used vintage pieces in my art. I like the history and the stories associated with the pieces that I find.  The sculptures in this body of work are assemblages made from vintage jewelry. However, I continue to make other art that is made from a wide range of vintage and antique materials. I made most of the furniture in our house, and in the exhibit, you’ll see a cabinet from my studio that is made from vintage signs, yardsticks, hardware from an antique printer’s type case, and a hand carved folk art carving of an angel that my husband gave me.” As well as her jeweled “Dog is My Co-Pilot,” below.

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Otto says her work is all about her love for a “treasure hunt” and the “preparation, organization, and research involved in finding something illusive, the excitement of searching for hidden gems, the thrill of finding the unexpected, and the payoff of completing a time-consuming endeavor.” 

She says that collecting the materials for each themed piece can take many years. “It provides me with many ‘thrill-of-the-hunt’ moments. Each time I find a piece that will work perfectly, my heart skips a beat. My studio contains several ‘cabinets of wonder’ to keep everything organized.”

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Above, a look at Otto’s studio.

If finding the pieces to complete her art is a long experience, so is crafting each work.

The actual making of the piece is very labor intensive, taking many months to over a year. When I work on a piece, I surround myself with piles of jewelry with a combination of infinite possibilities. Searching for pieces with the right shape to convey the right idea is very much like completing a puzzle without a picture to guide me.”

The exhibit itself takes its title and approach from the exhibit space, in a tribute that is as involved as Otto’s art-making process.

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Above, interior of the exhibition space.

“When I visited The Fine Arts Building for the first time, memories from my childhood came rushing back to me. Growing up in Grinnell, Iowa, we had a great deal of civic pride over an architectural gem that we felt lucky to have in our small hometown. It was common knowledge that a famous architect, Louis Sullivan, had designed the Jewel Box Bank.” She notes that in that moment she had her first artistic experience with architecture.

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Above, interior of the Grinnell bank. Courtesy of BarBBlog

“I loved the intricate terra-cotta carvings on the façade, the griffins that stood guard over the entrance, the soaring ceilings, the gleaming brass cages where we cashed checks, and the stained glass windows that filled the space with a rainbow of colors. When I saw The LA Fine Arts Building for the first time, I was immediately struck by how many of the architectural components were reminiscent of the ones in the building that I loved as a child.”

Otto says she was thrilled to have found the perfect venue for her sculptures, including it’s child-friendly attributes. “As a former teacher of gifted students, it was always very important to me to inspire creativity in my students. I love that the venue of the Fine Arts Building is child friendly. Everything is behind glass so parents don’t have to worry about small hands reaching out to touch the art.”

 

Otto also loves inspiring viewer curiosity, including many hidden “Easter eggs” in her work.  In short, along with the beauty of her works, the intricacy of their creation is carried through to the intricacy of the finished design, challenging and meaningful, playful yet thoughtful.

Ramona More 2 Pearl Before Swine by Ramona OttoHer “Pearls Before Swine” features a vintage art deco mannequin followed by fiberglass and wooden pigs, riffing on everything from “lipstick on a pig” to “silk purse out of a sow’s ear,” and of course, “when pigs fly.”

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Meanwhile her “Easter Bunny Delivers a Faberge Egg” takes on Easter themes with a wooden rabbit and an egg mounted on an art deco light fixture. Note the “easter eggs” within this spring-themed confection, below.

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Otto also cites her piece “Elephant in the Room;” created of white rhinestones, the piece includes letters that spell out ‘ignore me,’ with its circus headgear referencing  the mistreatment of elephants when they worked in the circus, as well as hidden references to the parable of “The Elephant and the Blind Man,” Dr. Seuss’ “Horton” character, and Jean de Brunhoff’s “Babar” among others.

While these incredibly clever references and word play are terrific, more to the point is the deeply involved visual layers that Otto uses. The richness of her color palette, the tactile texture of her work, and the rather astonishing combinations of items that she fits together are enormously compelling. To look at a piece is to dive beneath its jeweled surface and into a hidden depth of shimmering light. 

Saturday, July 1st, the gallery will host a reception from 3- 6 p.m., with an artist’s talk at 3. There will also be a second closing reception on Sunday July 2nd, from 2-4 p.m.  The Fine Art Building gallery is open regularly 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week. It’s located at 811 W. 7th Street in DTLA.

  • Genie Davis; Photos: courtesy of the artist and by Leonard Monje; Grinnell Merchant Bank courtesy of BarBBlog.

 

Artist Karrie Ross Takes Art to the Limit

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“I am my art,” Karrie Ross says.

“The work constantly changes as I explore different styles and processes, each asking it’s own questions depending on where I am in life that needs solutions. I’ll pick up a style and see what I can do with it and what, if any, problems are created. I’ll add it to existing work and experiment with it on it’s own. I need to find its strengths and weaknesses and how or if I want to incorporate them in my art. Each piece becomes ‘more’ when there is something that needs to be fixed…just like in life ‘things’ happen and you make it work,” Ross attests.

She notes that she knows when a piece is finished when it stops asking questions of her, and terms her personal motto “Be IT Now!”

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Over the years Ross has created a great many different works of art, her formal pursuit of which began in junior high school. “I was introduced to art making, process, construction etc. and continued over into high school where I became fascinated with advertising design. Hand lettering and logos filled my days. I was on the yearbook staff for a few semesters, and that only got me more interested in what advertising, catalogs and book making were about.”

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Ross considers herself to be a “self-taught explorer. I’ve had a very, at least in my eyes, exciting career. I’ve worked for some of the biggest advertising and design firms in Los Angeles, mostly on a per-job or freelance basis. I created anything from yellow pages to movie posters and annual reports.”

She says she never really cared about fine art per se, although she doodled in sketch books for years.

“I taught myself watercolor on construction paper, my sister still has my first one that was done in 1972 while I was living in Vail, Colo.,” she attests. “The thing is, I didn’t know how to ‘draw realistic’ and there wasn’t much of a living to be made unless you did—so I kept to my design work and played with fine art as a hobby.”

However, in the mid-80s she sent in an application to the newly begun Beverly Hills Affaire in the Garden, and she was accepted.

“That changed my life. I still remember the first person and sale from that show. I was a purist, was afraid of color, and mixed my ink work with collage that was sewn with cotton thread, not glued. My booth was pegboard with sheets for the top, it was awful—but it didn’t matter, I was there,” she explains. “The more I kept doing the shows, the more I sold, the better my display.”

From art shows to joining a Los Angeles artist group, she was “madly creating art. I used to say that you could decorate your whole house with my work and no one would know the difference, it was so diverse, I never looked the same. I’ve since taken to working out a series for about 2-5 years before I go on to the next project. Thing is, I have to have two going at the same time, one loose and one tight, or one on paper, the other on canvas  – and they alternate and overlap.”

Art has always been in Ross’ DNA, but her real art career focusing on the gallery scene began in 2009.

“I guess you can say that my first project was the first art-project-book in the Our Ever Changing World Series, titled “What are you saving from extinction?”  The yearly project is now up to year 9 for Ross. 

6karrie-ross-Balance-of-Flow–Evolved-36x115And Ross’ current work? “I just finished, for now, my Metaphorical pen and ink work, and will make pieces as the need comes to me. Late September 2016 I started The Nature of Flow. The work is abstract, using iridescent acrylic paint concentrating on the process of the work, the letting-the-paint-dry part, and the how to when the Oops! happens. This work extends from my love of the tonalities of white and the addition of gold leaf with various colors. The flow aspect is from the pouring of paint, there are no brushes used when it’s pour, only when a solid color or accent is added. This work is primarily process, air, moisture, chemistry, canvas/paper/panel, time, space, location are very important in the outcome. The work takes on an organic look and connection with natures energy.”

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Ross’ work will be featured in The Nature of Things — at the Mike Kelly Gallery in Venice starting this coming weekend. She’s one of three solo artists exhibiting. In July, she’ll be a part of Fresh at the SoLA South Bay Contemporary.

Asked what drives her as an artist, Ross reports “Community, being a mirror, sharing, engaging people, making a difference, exampling my beliefs, causing choices in my life.”

Let Ross engage you at the Mike Kelly Gallery this weekend, where she will be joined by artists Tracey Weiss and Lillian Abel. The show will be reviewed post-opening June 10th.

  • Genie Davis; photos provided by artist