Maryellen Hains Artist - Glass Fiber


Inspired by Tools of the Trade

Inspired by Tools of the Trade Postcard
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Carnegie Art Center, Three Rivers, MI
June – August 2010

Artists take their inspiration from a host of sources internal and external, personal and universal, sacred and profane. . . but one of the many things we have in common is a “connectedness” with the tools that we use to explore ideas and create our work.

For this exhibition, I asked a group of local artists to consider their tools in a more conscious way, to allow their imagination to dwell on the things they use on a daily basis to create their work, to look at the tools they may take for granted in a new way. . .

When we met as a group to discuss this theme and to refine the scope of the show, it became clear that there was not going to be a consensus on how to approach the project. Several strong lines of thinking and reacting to the notion what are tools, how they are important, what they mean and how they lead to and enhance creative thinking emerged.

Several artists focused on the aesthetics of their tools – how they are made, how they feel in the hand, what they look like. Nancy Stroupe's paintings and Jeannette Maxey's necklace depict the tools they use on a daily basis in their studios – now immortalized in their respective media. Judy Finnegan's OLD SINGER asks us to look more closely at the beauty of industrial design – and not take the obvious for granted. In another engagement with aesthetics, Paul Mergen fabricates a contemporary and functional mallet with great respect for the raw materials he has selected.

A number of artists have included a sense of process in their exhibition pieces. Vince Faust's PAGE TO STAGE takes an idea from conception through research to finished product. Nancy Payne introduces us to the actual tools she loves to use in her work and takes us through the creation of a finally glazed piece. Lestra Hazel incorporates her warping board and reeds as presentation devices for her weavings, helping the viewer understand the very nature of the process.

Other artists focused on ways the tools and the materials have pushed them to explore more options and create in a new way. Jim Riegel, long engaged with film and cameras and digital options to generate images, has set aside all of these earlier tools and created two visual works that use the computer scanner to capture the images. Betty Boyle, known for her large ceramic sculptures, has been seduced by the new Precious Metal Clays that are molded and fired as stoneware, but allow her to combine gold and faceted gemstones into jewelry scale collaged wearable sculpture.

Tools have POWER. Several artists have included working tools in their sculptures. Nancy Stroupe's TOOL BOX is again a study of process. Here we have a carved linoleum block on the surface and the inked print with paper overlays that she created from it inside the lid. The box format suggests the preciousness her tools, stored away in closed container, decorated with geometric designs and images – until one looks closer at the elements that make up those designs. Here the single edged razor blades and exacto-knife blades are both decorative and also suggestive of perhaps another set of feelings and priorities. As a mixed-media sculptor, Sheila Genteman has an intimate knowledge of a wide variety of tools from paintbrushes to hammers and nails, to glue guns and the sewing machine. In the pieces she has created for this exhibit, she creates two scenarios in which the tools are taking over the artist's intentions, and she is struggling for control. The tools become both subject and metaphor.

Maryellen Hains, Curator