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Tag Archives: Morgantown

This past semester, I participated in a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics ) education project at Morgantown’s North Elementary School. Sponsored by a grant from the West Virginia Division of Culture and History, this project had three primary components, one of which was to create a garden environment for attracting regional birds. My WVU School of Art and Design colleague Joseph Lupo helped the North students use their bird research to create mini comics, while my sculpture students and I focused on designing and building a birdhouse structure.

To begin the birdhouse component of this project, my sculpture students were tasked with creating steel butterflies, flowers, snails, and leaves, which tied into our classroom study of forging, welding, and other metal fabrication techniques. Meanwhile, 4th grade students from North were utilizing their bird research, drawing these creatures onto steel panels with chalk. I took these panels back to our studio and cut them out with a plasma torch, and then these bird panels and my sculpture students’ flora and fauna were cleaned up and painted in multiple bright colors.

I set wooden posts in concrete and built the final birdhouse structure with my friend Aaron Lutz, a WVU forestry program student working at North this year with the AmeriCorps VISTA program. The completed piece contains approximately nine birdhouses, 33 steel bird panels, 33 steel items created by my sculpture students, and a stainless steel nameplate. This project gave my students and I the opportunity to collaborate with students, teachers, and administrators at North in a truly unique manner, and out of the things I did in this amazingly busy school year, this was probably the most enjoyable project to take on.

 

 

After an intense summer filled with numerous teaching obligations & round-the-clock art-making, I am happy to announce the opening of my solo exhibition Match Cut in the West Virginia University Creative Arts Center’s Laura Mesaros Gallery. On view from September 1-October 2, this show explores our collective need for classification and organization, especially as the desires and limitations of our organic bodies conflict with this quest for order. I use various fabrication techniques and meticulous craftsmanship to explore these conceptual interests, manipulating iconic imagery & familiar objects from our educational, governmental, and scientific institutions in order to draw attention to the impermanent & transitory nature of cultural authority.

This exhibition takes its title, Match Cut, from a film editing technique where seamless transitions between scenes help draw together the visual, metaphorical connections between objects and actions. I drew inspiration from this cinematic device, creating a series of cast & forged metal sculptures, mixed media panel works, and manipulated found object pieces that are cozily familiar yet imbued with surreal, dreamlike qualities. I really like the way this new body of work fits together, and I look forward to creating more artwork in the same vein.

This past month has been a period of great activity in the West Virginia cast iron community. Shepherd University hosted their fall iron pour early in November and a week later, the sculpture program at West Virginia University hosted our fall iron pour. I am pleased that Shepherd University sculpture coordinator Christian Benefiel, Fairmont State University sculpture coordinator Jeremy Entwistle, and myself have continued to collaborate and get our student involved to make these events run in a safe and efficient manner. The palpable teamwork and camaraderie exhibited by all participants has affirmed my belief that a vibrant cast iron community is emerging in our state. Here’s some images and videos from our events, big thanks goes out to students Violet Goode and Hannah Hicks for documenting our iron pour at WVU.

I had an amazing time this past month teaching in the Mountaineer Summer Drawing Academy, a three-day art camp for high schoolers held on the campus of West Virginia University. After spending the better part of the past year planning for this event, I was thrilled to see our joint venture between the College of Creative Arts and the WVU Extension Service come together so successfully!

Students received instruction in both observational and mixed media drawing, while also exploring “Exquisite Corpse” drawings, a group collaborative exercise made famous by 20th-century Surrealists. Other camp highlights included button making, a storytelling session with entertainer Adam Booth, and various interaction with State 4-H Days participants. Now that we’ve had a successful maiden voyage for this camp, I am looking forward to planning next year’s session and growing both the number of participants and the scope of this program.

 

 

By far my favorite project from the past year was our Fall 2013 Iron Pour. Held on Friday, November 8, at the West Virginia University Creative Arts Center, this event helped inaugurate “Sputnik”, a portable iron-casting furnace that Fairmont State University sculpture faculty Jeremy Entwistle and I began building over the summer. Our pour crews cast around 3000 pounds of iron over the course of the day, which exceeded expectations for the capacity and durability of this new furnace. We also had excellent media coverage and a healthy turnout from the public, all of which contributed to making this event a resounding success.

Jeremy and I and students from our respective programs were joined by Shepherd University sculpture faculty Christian Benefiel and his students, as well as friends from the Pittsburgh iron casting community. In addition, alumni Emily Walley, Brett Kern, Jennifer Rockage McGhee, and Jamie Lester were invited to be visiting artists for the event, all of who cast iron for the first time.

Local businesses, including Construction Supply Company (CSC), 3 Rivers Iron and Metal, and Jack’s Recycling generously contributed materials and supplies for the iron pour. In addition, local metal fabrication company Wilson Works gave us great technical support by cutting out precision parts for “Sputnik”, and Morgantown restaurant Atomic Grill provided catered food for the event.

Big thanks goes out to Daniela Londoño Bernal for photographing this event, as well as Glynis Board from West Virginia Public Broadcasting for her excellent radio segment, which can be found here. The radio story also included a short video documenting the pour, which is linked below.

Looking back on 2013, I think the most challenging yet enjoyable project I took part in was the Morgantown Tree by artist Carol Hummel.

The School of Art and Design at West Virginia University invited Hummel to be a visiting artist for the 2013-2014 academic year. In addition to having a gallery exhibition, she put forth a proposal to work with students and community members to cover a large tree on our Evansdale Campus with crocheted yarn. Hummel has an impressive record of creating similar crocheted installations in Cleveland Heights, Ohio; Chicago, Illinois; Drangedal, Norway and New Delhi, India, so I thought it would be quite a coup for her to create a project in Morgantown.

Once Hummel’s project was approved, a workforce had to be organized to make all the crocheted elements. I served as Hummel’s de facto project manager, helping her coordinate with the university and community groups involved in the installation. Because this was a once-in-a-lifetime learning opportunity, we decided early on that our sculpture students would assist Hummel. Members of the Morgantown community, including campus knitting groups and residents at The Village at Heritage Point (a senior retirement community), also made invaluable contributions to this project. There was palpable synergy among all participants, and due to excellent teamwork and a stretch of great weather, the installation was finished in only six days.

The Morgantown Tree was created in conjunction with Morgantown’s 2013 celebration of The Year of the Tree (YOTT). By choosing a prominent location for this installation, Hummel’s project enjoyed high visibility for both on-and off-campus populations. She used an open stitch for this installation, which allows the trees to breathe without damaging their growth, and her chosen synthetic yarn will hold its color well for the next several years.