2017 ArtWalk Artist - Denise LeClaire
Denise R LeClaire Denise is our 2017 ArtWalk artist. She is a West Michigan artist and high school counselor. Denise creates collages using found paper objects such as antique sheet music, atlases, and books. Often, she applies a photo transparency over the collage and then, paints over those layers allowing you to see or hide different components of the canvas. This artist focuses on an idea such as belonging, forgiveness, mortality, or love. Her goal is to create a connection between people and her art with shared experiences. All of Denise's work is personal, a combination of the ordinary and the profound. Like a soft kiss on the forehead for no reason. In Honour of the Fact that Life is Short ArtWalk Voting Code: Artist number - MM14. Category - Mixed Media Denise answers our "Ten Questions to the Artist" so that we can get to know her, just a little. 1. What turns you on creatively, spiritually, or emotionally? I heard a quote once, I think it was Marianne Williamson who said that the spiritual path is just the journey of living our lives and we are all on a spiritual path, sometimes we just don’t know it. I love this philosophy and feel like it falls together with my own belief in the importance of small moments, the little things that end up being the most memorable. So, it’s just everyday life that does it for me. We get to decide in the first world, what to do with our days, how we respond to life, and how we are creative; it’s a huge gift that not everyone has, that’s a pretty big turn on. 2. Do you have an influence or theme that guides your work? I think the theme is connection through common ground. I think there is a spiritual and emotional element to my work with the combination of ideas, words and photographs and I see and feel this when I talk to people about what’s drawn them to a particular piece. 3. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Travel photographer/writer 4. What profession would you not like to do? Police officer 5. Who are your favorite artists? VanGogh, O’Keefe, Gustav Klimt, Mark Rothko, Jim Dine 6. What is your favorite tool used to create your work? A “mop” brush. 7. What is your favorite word? Serendipitous 8. What is your least favorite word? Can’t think of one. 9. Who is your favorite musician? Impossible to choose. I love all kinds of music. 10. How much formal education have you received? My B.A. is in Sociology and Fine Art. I’ve taken art classes on and off my entire life including in photography, pottery, painting, drawing & collage. What I’m currently doing with regard to the combination of collage, photography, photo transfer and painting is self taught, trial and error. Thank you, Denise, for answering our questions. Stop in to the gallery to see her exhibit. She and I will be hosting an Artist Talk beginning at 7:30 pm. Denise will be in the gallery, Friday night, October 6, 6-9pm.
My friend Robin Hopper recently wrote about learning to throw on the potter's wheel. I thought I would share his thoughts since I am asked often about this skill. Robin has written several books about ceramics. I own all of them and consider them to be some of the most informative ceramic books that I own. Excerpt from Robin's post: "AS I'VE SAID MANY TIMES BEFORE, LEARNING TO THROW ON THE POTTERS' WHEEL IS LIKELY THE MOST COMPLEX AND FRUSTRATING ACTIVITY THAT MANKIND EVER DEVISED. THAT BEING SAID, THROWING HAS PRODUCED OBJECTS OF MAGNIFICENCE OVER MOST OF THE WORLD FOR SEVERAL THOUSANDS OF YEARS. WHEN I WAS RESEARCHING THEE PROCESS I CAME TO THE CONCLUSION THAT TO BECOME A REALLY GOOD THROWER ONE NEEDS TO TRAIN ONE'S BODY INTO IT AS A CHILD, BORN INTO A FAMILY TRADITION AND THOROUGHLY ATTUNED TO REPETITIVE MOVEMENT. CONTINUAL EXERCISES CERTAINLY HELP, BUT IT IS A VERY SLOW DEVELOPMENT PROCESS. I RECOMMEND REPETITIVE EXERCISES IN SIZES AND WEIGHT VARIATION TO LEARN CONTROL. WHEN DEVELOPING VIDEOS FOR BEGINNER AND ADVANCED THROWING MUCH ATTENTION WAS GIVEN TO THE VARIATIONS IN THE HUMAN FRAME AND ITS EXTREMITIES THAT TOUCH THE CLAY. COMPLEX ISSUES OF TOUCH AND PRESSURE ARE ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE TO ACCURATELY DESCRIBE USING SPOKEN LANGUAGE. "TRY IT AND SEE" HAS ALWAYS BEEN MY CREDO. Robin Hopper attaching handles THEN DO IT AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN UNTIL EITHER THE CLAY OR THE MUDPUSHER GIVES IN. IF YOU DO THIS FOR LONG ENOUGH, THEN SOMETIMES THE CLAY WILL GIVE IN AND YOU CAN MOVE FORWARD A NOTCH. THEN YOU DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN! WHEN YOU HAVE LEARNED THE PROCESS OF THROWING, THE NEXT STAGE IS TO KNOW WHAT YOU WANT TO MAKE, HOW TO DO IT, AND WHAT ARE THE PROPORTIONS AND DETAILS THAT MAKE IT A PLEASURE, OR OTHERWISE, TO LIVE WITH." I replied to his posting saying "Thanks Robin for the conversation about throwing. I get asked often about throwing and long it took me to be able to throw well." Robin asked me, "What do you say?" I responded: I say that it took me a long time to get comfortable with throwing. Instructors would tell me that I needed to feel my hands aligned with one another. Early on, I thought they were crazy. I just couldn't feel it. But, with years of practice. I had an "ah ha moment" and finally got it. A very good friend said that she watched me struggle for years and told herself that I would never learn how to throw. I was very glad that she never said this to me when I was wrestling with the clay. Now, I say that throwing on the potter's wheel is like practicing a musical instrument. You have to put the hours in so that your body builds muscle memory as to where your hands are supposed to be. Then, you can begin to make your own pots. Robin replied to my comment: "GOOD RESPONSE, CYNDI. THE ANALOGY BETWEEN WORKING ON A WHEEL AND PLAYING A MUSICAL INSTRUMENT IS RIGHT ON. PERHAPS THAT IS WHY POTTERS ARE SO OFTEN GOOD MUSICIANS. BERNARD LEACH USED TO SAY THAT WORKING WITH CLAY IS LIKE MAKING FROZEN MUSIC." My comment: Love that imagery. "Making Frozen Music." Thank you, Robin.