The Rensing Center

This past spring I was fortunate enough to meet Ellen Kochansky, the director of the Rensing Center in Pickens, SC. The Rensing Center is a non-profit artist residency that houses creative individuals in a community open to artistic, environmental, and entrepreneurial fields. The center resides on twenty-seven acres in the Appalachian foothills and also offers an outreach program in Northern Italy.

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I was able to take a walking tour on site led by Ellen herself and a current resident, named Matt, who was a poet. The grounds overlook a beautiful open field with cattle and other livestock as well as a hidden trail leading to a waterfall. There are a few housing areas that have a neighboring studio. Each one is full of character, especially a main gathering room with a library of books, a piano, and a house cat named Bob.

Rensing has hosted residents from numerous states and nine different countries. Resident sessions are spring, fall, and winter and last up to three months. In addition to residencies, it also sponsors lectures, exhibitions, school programs, and other opportunities throughout the year.

With a vast alumni base, they recently hosted an exhibition displaying work of past artists. I was most attracted to the works of a textile worker who made pieces out of human hair and a painter who made quick paintings using India ink washes. These works spoke to me in the way they used the body as a found object and capturing every day moments quickly like a camera.

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Conclusion

Directed Studies Conclusion

At the beginning of this course, I was experiencing life hardship and just really needed an outlet from it all. It was very refreshing to truly absorb my surroundings through the walks I took, sketches produced, and museum visits. I usually attempt to do most of these things but life and apathy tend to get in the way. The course sort of worked as a type of therapy that forced me to move my feet and pour out all of that energy into making.

It was also very bittersweet to come to an end to my college career but this course was a great launching pad for a new season. It forced me to stay alert to the environment around me, appreciate little moments, and keep me on my toes. It is one thing to say you are going to do things but another to actually make them happen. This is something that I need to work on and it was great to have a training session.

I was able to keep my hands and mind active, but also broaden my horizons in the art community. I had never visited all of the locations I wrote about and was excited to see new works and make connections as well. Since I will be moving to Charleston soon, it was good to more acquainted with the city and discover new spots that I had not yet found or overlooked. The Gibbes Museum was a great experience and I look forward to finding what else Charleston has to offer. The Rensing Center was a nice connection as well, I was able to follow up with a past acquaintance and get a small taste of what an artist residency looks like. I have been considering looking into them for the future so I was pleased to be to get a first hand look and conversation with one. Finding new communities and places such as these will definitely be something that I continue as I enter the adult world of art.

However, I wish to push some aspects that I set out for myself even more. I think that I could push the walks more into a type of scavenger hunt to find more things like Rosalie Gascoigne. I appreciate the “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” mindset and will set out to see what I can find. She created beautiful works in a minimal way and I believe that will be the ultimate task for me because I tend to get caught up into detail and overworking. In past works I have primarily done this through photography by capturing reference photos or images of things or places that interest me or would inspire me for future projects. Having an artifact for a change would be an excellent new venture and using the incorporating the artifacts into art as well.

One challenge that I found with the course was keeping up with a sketchbook. Sketching has been a weak point for me over the years. It has operated primarily as a quick brainstorming session to just get an idea or vision onto paper but never a daily practice. It has never been my strong suit, which is something else I need to work on more because I do think that sketching is a good routine to keep in order to build up practice and keep your mind fresh. In retrospective, although difficult the daily sketching was a good challenge for me and will be another task that I set out to do more often than less. I produced many valuable sketches in this course that I will hold onto in hopes of extending it into a more completed project or help farther develop a new idea. I hoard my sketches and reference images for long periods of time and so far they do end up resurfacing  into my work.

I have learned vastly about myself through this course and also about the world around me. As a creative individual, I carry a mass of thoughts that soon end up on some sort of surface whether it be paper, canvas, wood, glass, or found objects from the environment around me. This has been a great experience for me at the end of my college career, that I think will help carry me into this new season of life and art making. I have discovered new techniques of making, been exposed to new communities, and learned a little bit more about myself in the process. I plan to expand on this experience and utilize it to my advantage by continuing these practices more frequently in order to continue moving my feet, hands, and mind.

 

Directed Studies Extended Drawings

For my first piece I wanted to extend methods from a series of works I did during senior studio. They were inspired by representational moments of natural light that were depicted in an abstracted way. The way of making was heavily process based and involved multiple methods such as drawing, painting, and carving. I wanted to continue this mindset for a piece in this class but in a different way.

Throughout the course I have been most drawn to nature and its natural phenomenons such as rain. Rain is a common occurrence in the summer, and I would frequently witness steam rising from the ground after a storm. I wanted to capture this fleeting moment in form by putting together a color pallet that represented rain, humidity, and red clay. Then I carved the motion of the heat rising into the wooden panel. The wood was stained with two different colors to increase the tension of this transforming of water from liquid to gas and to enhance the contrast of colors used.

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The next piece was inspired by an artist named Rosalie Gascoigne. She collected scrap that others did not want and transformed it into beautiful works of art. Rosalie sought out objects that had truly been used and had something more to say as opposed to some plain and newly store bought. I really enjoyed this mindset because I too appreciate the “ugly” things so to speak. But instead of making the found objects into art I made art with the objects.

Since most of my walls were in pasture or through the woods, sticks were a very common occurrence. I had made some sketches with them dipped into ink and other materials and enjoyed the outcome. The sticks produced exciting marks and really created an extended barrier between myself and the picture plane. With many different sizes and lengths of sticks I created a piece that shows the anxiety of coming into close contact with one’s true self; which I believe these meditative walks and sketches introduce.

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Directed Studies – week six

In my sixth, and final week, of my directed studies I have pushed back to more innate mark making that is made in a child-like manner. I have continued my walks, subject matter, and primary goals in mind but wanted to take it a step farther.

With this child method I have begun drawing on things that you are told not to such as old buildings, trash, and words so that they are not as legible anymore. I have also used informal tools such as sticks from the ground dipped in ink. In doing so, I have developed new and exciting ways to broaden my horizons and step away from the picture plane so to speak.

The Gibbes Museum of Art

While visiting Charleston, South Carolina I was fortunate to be able to visit the Gibbes Museum of Art. After recently undergoing renovations, it had recently been reopened to the public and still had the “new car” smell. The museum features two floors of galleries containing classical works such as portraits, landscapes, and antique furniture to contemporary works. Much of the gallery pertains to the South and history of Charleston.

One piece that particularly stood out to me was a large water color in the modern and contemporary section entitled, “Acorn” 2014, by Mary Whyte. Whyte is a local artist from charleston who is able to capture incredible detail in water color to create photo realistic images.

Another artist that I enjoyed were Damian Stamer’s oil paintings in “The Things We Carry: Contemporary Art in the South” gallery of the museum. This show was organized in response to the tragic shooting at Emanuel African Episcopal Church in Charleston. These works address the troubled history of the American South and how contemporary artists represent that history.

Although a small show, Damien’s works made the biggest impression for me. The way he manipulated material and focused on the process of making is something that I strive for in my own work.

Greenville County Museum of Art

The Greenville County Museum of Art is a small gem near downtown Greenville. Although small, it had southern charm with its wide collection of Andrew Wyeth water colors, the flags of Jasper Johns, and much more.

Alongside the Wyeth paintings, were a number of landscape paintings that emphasized the feeling of sublime. Although more traditional, there was one oil painting that I was particularly drawn to. Rudolph Ingerle’s “Evening Sky” 1925, played up the motion of a cloudscape and how the sky can hold just as much tension and vastness as the land. Much of my work is inspired by nature so I have a soft spot for some landscapes.

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Another work I enjoyed was a mixed media piece in “Persons of Interest” section of the museum. Jamie Wyeth’s “Consommé” 2013, is a portrait of a woman on top of archival cardboard. I appreciated the use of different media and its application onto an uncommon artist’s surface.

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Lastly, I found interest in one of Jasper John’s works. Surprisingly not one of his better known flags or targets, but a patterned print. I had not seen much of this type of his work before. Lately, many of my sketches had involved patterning so I was pleased to find some in the museum.

Directed Studies – week five

As I approach the final week of class, I have been more engrossed with pattern and abstracted form. I have continued looking at reality in a non representational way such as breaking down the form of a horse into simple shapes and lines.

I have also continued doing blind contour exercises in order to keep my hand and mind loose because I tend to get tight with my line work and too caught up in detail. Going into my final week I plan to complete two projects inspired by my daily sketches.

Directed Studies – week 4

This week’s sketches hone in on the relationship between representation and abstraction. I have begun looking at objects or kthings with a different mindset by breaking it down into simple lines or shapes.

By looking into reality “unrealistically” I have begun to open up new binaries of tension and delicacy. I have primarily experimented with organic and geometric marks in order to exemplify this mindset.

 

Directed Studies – week three

In the midst of the busy, constantly moving world we live in, it can be difficult to truly understand our surroundings. With this said, I have continued to try and immerse myself with the mundane by sketching the things I see on a weekly basis, through representation and abstraction. I have also paid attention to composition, line variation, and different ways of representing one moment or object.

As I go into my first expansive drawing, I hope to embody this idea through the process of making in order to embellish what was being felt and seen in the moment. Along side my work I plan to visit a museum or two this week to refresh my mind and observe the work of others.

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Directed Studies – week two

This week has been all about routine and the same mundane things that cross my path on a daily basis. In the midst of sameness, I am learning to saturate myself in stillness and discover the beauty in the environment around me whether it be indoors or the simple act of nature such as rain.

Much of this week’s sketches include just that: mundane objects, the dogs I am watching over, the horses I care for daily, and the little things that my little world has to offer. From this, I have gathered information for my first project. This will be a continuation from my senior studio work that involved depicting representational moments in an abstracted fashion. I will continue the use of a 12’x 12′ wooden panel and experimenting with the surface through the addition of materials and subtraction of the wood. The “moment” I will replicate will be heat rising from the ground after a summer storm. There is beauty in my little world of repetition and I hope to capture their delicacies through mark making. This moment comes from my backyard, a place that most of us take for granted.

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