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feathered seed jar pottery dennis zupan artist teacher

Teacher, Potter, Advocate — Dennis Zupan Uses His (Right) Brain

feathered seed jar pottery dennis zupan artist teacher

Feathered Seed Jar, Carbon Imprint by lifetime pottery teacher and artist, Dennis Zupan

Dennis Zupan was on the exam table for an endoscopy, when the doctor glanced at the chart.

“He was pulling on his gloves before my lights went out when I heard, ‘Ah . . . Mr. Zupan. I have been waiting for this.'”

pottery pot abstract glaze teacher dennis zupan artist

Abstract, pottery by lifetime artist and teacher Dennis Zupan

It wasn’t the first time that the retired teacher of pottery and jewelry ran into a former student. Another time Zupan was pulled over by security in the parking lot at the community college where he was teaching.

“With red lights flashing and a uniformed officer at my window, I heard, ‘Hi, Mr. Zupan. It’s me, Jonathan. I thought that was you. I just wanted to say hi.'”

Saying Hi to the Teacher

That’s what students wanted to do: just say hi and thank you to a man who not only taught them about an ancient and enduring art form, but who also believed that students have a right to learn in an environment best suited to their way of thinking. For Zupan, this comes down to right brain (creative) versus left brain (analytical) thinking. The latter, he feels, has overwhelmed the school system. It’s to the point that there is no refuge for those who are interested, and excel, in the arts.

“According to all the left-brained people in charge of our education needs, right brained thinking is wrong,” Zupan, who taught arts for 30 years Provo High school, says.

green raku pottery fired dennis zupan artist teacher

Green Raku, Fired, by lifetime pottery teacher and artist Dennis Zupan

“All the process and results that make a right brained person function needed to be sanitized into a left-brain format so it could be understood and validated in their left-brain world.”

Instead of actually learning to draw or make a pot, Zupan continues, students are channeled into classes on art theory, history, appreciation, aesthetics, critique, and analysis — all elements that come naturally to a right-brained artist over time as they strive to perfect their art. The result, Zupan mourns, is that “the refuge class for right brained students is gone, replaced by another list of left-brain tasks.”

Right-brain Teacher

Promoting art is a lifestyle for Zupan, who now lives and creates both pottery and jewelry in Richland. While in Utah he taught art at community education classes in the evenings, during summer school, at workshops with Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and 4-H. He conducted university and college classes. And he participated in some unique opportunities to work with ancient pottery techniques.

pit fired pottery feathers dennis zupan teacher artist

Pit Fired Pot with Feathers by retired teacher and lifetime artist Dennis Zupan

One of these opportunities was through the Colorado Archeologist Group, National Geographic Magazine, and Mesa Verde National Park. They joined together to replicate Anasazi (Southwest Pueblo people) pottery making and kiln firing. Zupan was one of 20 potters asked to replicate pieces, with each step documented as if were being done 1300 years ago.

Another time he partnered with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in creating a series of Bible-based films on the New Testament era.

“At that time in history, a potter’s work was essential and found in every aspect of everyday living,” Zupan says. “Cooking, serving, lamps, and storage containers all came from the potter’s shed.” With three other potters, Zupan created hundreds of pieces for the films.

A recipient of numerous state and national teaching awards, Zupan says he approached teaching art as an artist and not an educator.

Teaching Future Artists

“I was sharing art methods and marketing to potential future artists,” he explains.

Because, when it comes to art, it’s not the theory, it’s not the analysis, it’s not the endless talking about it that matters: it’s the finished work of art. And achieving a beautiful finished work of art takes the hands, the soul, and the skill of an artist.

“I enjoy the challenges of working with a piece of clay because there are no limits to the possibilities,” Zupan says. “I often push clay to its edge of failure.

“There is always an air of excitement opening a kiln — the patterns on the pottery are created in the kilns. Raku glazes always have a bit of chance happenings to them; the same is true in a pit fire.

“They cannot be totally controlled or replicated. They can be truly exhilarating.”

Exhilarating. That’s a worthwhile goal to aspire to, and it is one Zupan has spent his life teaching students to reach for, and to find.

Which is probably why they go out of their way — wherever they are — to say, “Mr. Zupan, hi. Do you remember me?”

Wenaha GalleryDennis Zupan is the Featured Art Event from Monday, May 20 through Saturday, June 15 at Wenaha Gallery.

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment.

 

Green Head on Rock, sculpture by Penny Michel, guest artist at Wenaha Gallery

Ancient Art of Modern Day — The Clay Sculpture of Penny Michel

Green Head on Rock, sculpture by Penny Michel, guest artist at Wenaha Gallery. Photo credit Leaman Studios.

Green Head on Rock, sculpture by Penny Michel, guest artist at Wenaha Gallery. Photo credit Leaman Studios.

Childhood memories are powerful ones. Where we lived, whom we knew, the games we played — these shape our lives as adults in unique and characteristic ways.

For ceramic artist Penny Michel, the summers spent at the grandparents left a mark that touches the work she creates today.  Born in Tunisia, a former French protectorate located in North Africa, Michel  moved with her family to the United States when she was four years old, but visited extended family every year in an ancient land, with a history rich in venerable cultures.

Sitting Lady, Clay sculpture by Penny Michel

Sitting Lady, Clay sculpture by Penny Michel

“In Tunisia, we lived near Carthage on the beach, and we were surrounded by ancient ruins and different cultures,” Michel remembers.

“Often when houses were built or renovated, ancient artifacts were found. Archaeologists were always working in the area.

“Consequently, since a young age, I have been drawn to ancient art such as the art of Mesopotamia, Greece, Oceania, and the Ottoman Empire.”

With a B.A. in art from Western Illinois University, Michel focuses on clay in various sizes and formats, from wheel-thrown bowls to hand-crafted vessels, from small sculptures for the home to large scale, site-specific commissioned pieces, but before she really got into doing her art, she got out of it first.

“After getting my degree, I didn’t work in art for about ten years,” Michel says. “I didn’t think I was ‘talented enough,’ so I took a detour into banking for awhile.”

But the detour led back to the main road, and for the last 30 years, Michel has been fashioning sculpture that is redolent of those summer days of childhood. An homage to the past, offering hints and traces from another era, Michel’s work looks like something an archaeologist would excitedly find and remove — with great care and precision — from the dig. Surface design, multiple glazing, and texturized elements combine into exotic, willowy statuettes;  layered masks; primeval fish; and human faces — set upon armatures created by local Walla Walla artist Doug  Geise — that look like mummies.

They’re haunting, mystical, fascinating, and teasingly enigmatic.

Small Green Fish, Clay sculpture by Penny Michel

Small Green Fish, Clay sculpture by Penny Michel. Photo credit Jenna Gard.

“My art work definitely has another-world quality,” Michel says. “Like it was just dug out of the ground or found in the ocean and from another world or culture.”

Michel has shown and sold her work worldwide, including to collectors in Ios, Greece, and Brussels, Belgium, and in 2012 completed the Artist in Residency Program at the International Ceramic Studio in Kecskemet, Hungary, which houses one of her pieces in its permanent collection. Gallery representation has ranged from Chicago to San Francisco and embraces her present home, Walla Walla, where she is a resident artist at Studio TwoZeroTwo in downtown Main Street.

Ice Woman III and Ice Woman IV by Penny Michel

Ice Woman III and Ice Woman IV by Penny Michel. Photo credit, Wardell Photography.

One of her larger pieces, for several years exhibited outside the Sonoma Museum of Visual Art in California, is now part of the permanent collection of the Corliss Estates on Second Street in Walla Walla. A similar piece is in the permanent collection of the di Rosa Preserve in Napa, California, considered the most significant holding of Bay Area art in the world. Set in a 200-acre park-like setting, the collection houses more than 2,000 works of art by 800 artists.

“The di Rosa preserve is one of the most beautiful art venues I know,” Michel says. “I encourage art lovers to visit it.”

In addition to creating, showing, and selling her work, Michel offers regular ceramic sculptures classes in her studio, working closely with three or four students at a time. Many have been with her for awhile, finding in their own histories a connection to the past that ties in with the present.

Art, whenever and wherever it is, never goes out of style.

“My work is heavily influenced by ancient cultures and civilizations,” Michel says. “And while texture and surface are very important to me, I do not try and make a specific statement with my art.

“I want the viewer to get what they need out of it.”

Wenaha GalleryPenny Michel is the featured Pacific Northwest Art Event artist from Monday, July 18 through Saturday, August 13.

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

Wenaha Gallery is your destination location for Greenwich Workshop Fine Art Prints, professional customized framing, and original fine art paintings and sculpture by notable Pacific Northwest artists.   Books, gifts, note cards, jigsaw puzzles, and more are also available. Visit at 219 East Main, Dayton, WA.

This article was written by Carolyn Henderson.

 

Cathedral in the Forest, fine art photography by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Patricia Fleming

“This Is What We Do” — The Photography, Painting, and Pottery of Pat and Patricia Fleming

Cathedral in the Forest, fine art photography by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Patricia Fleming

Cathedral in the Forest, fine art photography by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Patricia Fleming

At social events, we all field the question,

“So, what is it that you do?” with an expected answer of, “I am a ____,” and subsequent filling in of the blank.

Wine Glasses, original acrylic painting by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Pat Fleming

Wine Glasses, original acrylic painting by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Pat Fleming

When that query is posed to Pat and  Patricia Fleming, a husband-wife artistic team from Kennewick, WA, the answer — even a vastly simplified one — requires more than one to five words.  And even afterwards, one gets the feeling that all the blanks haven’t been filled in.

“We live in a clay house that I built from 2002 to 2005,” Pat Fleming says. That’s a good start, because the potter, who is also a painter, who is also a retired art instructor regularly returning to the classroom to part-time teach, is known for digging his own clay from a spot in Othello, WA.

The corresponding pottery he creates from this activity is truly unique, if for no other reason than that many pottery artists, as well as pottery purchasers, rarely consider the possibility of such a DIY attitude. But, as Pat points out, digging one’s own clay is not a new concept:

“My pottery statement is,  ‘See what our ancestors did for over 12,000 years, and we can still do it.’ It is cost efficient, it is possible, it is the ultimate craft.

Tulips, fine art photography by Patricia Fleming

Tulips, fine art photography by Patricia Fleming

“Also, ‘See what this stuff that I dug out of the ground can do with the guidance of a knowledgeable practitioner.'”

One thing this particular knowledgeable practitioner — whose expertise extends beyond creation of individualized pieces to the production of nationally distributed wholesale restaurant dinnerware — has done is share the wisdom base of a very ancient craft. During a 33-year teaching career at Kennewick schools, Pat led groups of students on weekend field trips to collect material.

At one point, “we had so much local clay accumulated that we never had to buy any for 12 years.”

One of Pat’s favorite phrases, and indeed the one upon which he grounds his professional career, and life, is,

“This is what I do.”

Created using hand-dug clay from Southeastern Washington, customized pottery pieces by Pat Fleming are like no other. They are literally unique.

Created using hand-dug clay from Southeastern Washington, customized pottery pieces by Pat Fleming are like no other. They are literally unique.

Pottery is one element, teaching another (“I have been called out of retirement for a fourth time”); even bricklaying, originating from work as a hod carrier when he was 14, forms a part of What Pat Does. He also paints, but in archetypal Fleming fashion, in his own way.

“I mix powdered tempera with masonry acrylic additive which I buy at Lowe’s by the gallon . . . My paintings are about everything from, ‘Look at what the light did to that wine bottle,’ to ‘Ode to Retired Bankers Everywhere.'”

Well, that’s Pat, simplified. What about Patricia?

A photographer who greets each day for its potential of perspective, chroma, and form, Patricia teases out the unique attributes of landscapes and still life, transforming everyday views into, “Stop. Look at me now,” visual monographs.

“I love the light and became interested in reflections, shapes, and shadows,” Patricia says. “Everyday items take on a whole new perspective when the sun and shadows hit them — that’s when I feel a great urgency to record the scene I am seeing.”

Yaquina Bay Bridge, fine art photography by Patricia Fleming

Yaquina Bay Bridge, fine art photography by Patricia Fleming

No Photoshopping, other than cropping, she adds. The artist’s eye directs the final view. It is a view that insists upon being seen:

“While I have sold many photographs, the one that means the most to me was a patient at a hospital who said she strolled by my photograph called Bella Beach many times, and felt a real sense of peace when she looked at it.

“She later purchased it, and I love  the thought of her looking at it in her own home. I think of her and hope she is now healthy and happy.”

When they’re not creating their own art, the Flemings focus on the work of others, cofounding Cyber Art 509 (www.CyberArt509.com), an online group of 57 artists in the 509 phone area code. Members show their work at local restaurants, shops, wineries and offices in the form of rotating exhibits.

It’s all part of what they, the Flemings, do — potter, photographer, painter, teacher, writer, marketer, artist. As Pat says,

“I don’t golf, I don’t bowl, I don’t own a boat. I paint and make pots.”

Patricia photographs and conquers the computer and the website.

It satisfies them to say, “This is what we do.”

Wenaha GalleryPat and Patricia Fleming are the featured Pacific Northwest Art Event artists from Monday, May 9 through Saturday, June 4. Pat will be showing his pottery and paintings, and Patricia will be showing her photography.

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

Wenaha Gallery is your destination location for Greenwich Workshop Fine Art Prints, professional customized framing, and original fine art paintings and sculpture by notable Pacific Northwest artists.   Books, gifts, note cards, jigsaw puzzles, and more are also available. Visit at 219 East Main, Dayton, WA.