Portfolio | Innovators

By Gussie Fauntleroy and Norman Kolpas

Jennifer Falck Linssen
Beauty in the deep
Beauty in the deep

Paper Like You’ve Never Seen It

Beginning in ancient Japan and blossoming during the Edo and Meiji periods (early 17th to early 20th centuries), master craftsmen hand-dyed silk kimonos with exquisitely delicate designs using hand-carved paper stencils. Carved in fine handmade mulberry paper, these katagami stencils were placed in an envelope after the dyeing process and stored on a shelf. “What a shame,” thought artist Jennifer Falck Linssen when she began learning to carve and use traditional katagami stencils as part of a natural dyeing class. “The stencils are so graphically interesting, and after all that work, no one gets to see them.”

Inspired by a basket-maker friend, Linssen began thinking about ways to recontextualize the stencils and incorporate them into three-dimensional art. The result combines katagami, metalwork, and basketry techniques in a strikingly elegant art form that has quickly attracted collector and museum attention. A solo exhibition of Linssen’s work opens February 10 and runs through April at the Craft and Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles.

Classically trained in fine art, Linssen turned to textile design at the University of Wisconsin and then worked for several years as a jacquard textile designer for woven residential fabrics. Today, at 36 and living near Boulder, CO, she focuses her creative energy on sculptural vessels. Her “Shoji” series features translucent layers and incorporates natural materials such as bamboo and reed, while the “Katagami” series utilizes open, flowing designs. The katagami-style vessels are reinforced with hand-cut or hand-woven metals, and both series also include low-relief wall pieces.

Powerful, often beautiful forces of nature provide inspiration for much of Linssen’s work. Within her fluid forms, as in nature itself, is reflected the dynamic balance between fragility and endurance. The ocean’s timelessness and constant change, for example, is symbolic of survival and the human condition, the artist points out. “We go through difficult times, yet here we are today,” she says. Linssen’s art may be seen at Del Mano Gallery, Los Angeles, CA; Cervini Haas Gallery, Scottsdale, AZ; Mobilia Gallery, Cambridge, MA; and www.jenniferfalcklinssen.com.

Randy O’Brien
6 Squares
6 Squares

One-of-a-Kind Texture

Resembling the living earth with its layers of mineral and vegetative activity, Randy O’Brien’s ceramic art conveys both a sense of aliveness and a feeling of time long past. With vessels and, most recently, wall pieces, O’Brien creates thick, highly textured surfaces rich with color, fissures, irregularities, and layers, bringing to mind ancient stone or a dry lake bed, as well as lichen or moss. He uses the surface almost as a canvas, but with hues derived from pure, undiluted ceramic colorants, rather than paint.

This unusual approach to working with clay had its genesis in the summer of 1989, when O’Brien—after attending the University of California at Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz and studying with ceramic artist Al Johnsen—set up a pottery studio in Homer, AK. He took a course in using locally available minerals and clays and developed an ongoing passion for experimentation. A few years later he earned a bachelor’s degree in fine art from the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University. There he focused on low-fire, highly textural, special-effect glazes. Still, it took several more years of independent exploration and hundreds of trials to finally produce the look and feeling he had in mind.

“I really like the complexity of the surface and the way it mimics natural materials. It has a very life-like presence,” the 46-year-old artist observes, speaking from his home in Tucson, AZ. His one-of-a-kind works are produced through a labor-intensive process involving layers of glazes that are dipped, poured, or sprayed onto the piece, which is fired as many as a dozen times at low temperatures. “I couldn’t reproduce one to be just like another, even if I wanted to,” he notes.

With a rapidly growing collector base, O’Brien has participated in national and international juried and invitational shows. His art is included in the book 500 Tiles: An Inspiring Collection of International Work, to be released in January by Lark Books. He is represented by Obsidian Gallery, Tucson, AZ; Pinnacle Gallery, Scottsdale, AZ; Proctor Fine Art, Sedona, AZ; Vail Village Arts, Vail, CO; and Blue Dome Gallery, Silver City, NM, among others (see www.dakotacom.net/~rdobrien/index.html for a complete gallery list).

Therman Statom
Ancient Views of the River
Ancient Views of the River

New Visions in Glass

In a professional career spanning almost three decades, painter/sculptor Therman Statom has earned a singular reputation for his visionary creations. Often working with big sheets of glass, which he combines with found objects and both abstract and realistic painted imagery, the Omaha-based artist is best known for site-specific installations that have elicited rapturous responses worldwide, from the Denver Art Museum and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to Stockholm’s Kulturhuset and the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. “I’m interested in illusion and memory,” Statom says, distilling his diverse themes to their essence. “And glass has a tendency to lend itself to those kind of ethereal qualities.” He describes the process of assembling his sculptures and installations as “demanding, especially in museum installations where I’m working at times with two, three, or maybe four tons of glass. It looks like I’m having fun, but the works tend to have a very linear, fabricated, precise objective, with layers of intuition thrown on them almost like dreams.”

For the past 15 years or so, Statom also has frequently shifted back and forth between his large pieces and sculptures of a more intimate scale: what he calls his “house paintings,” which are offered for sale in the several galleries that represent him. Generally no larger than three feet tall, these exquisite works begin with a series of house-shaped clear-glass “modules” he assembles in advance, much as a painter might stretch and prime a group of canvases. Then Statom begins his creative process: sandblasting sections of the glass surfaces inside and out; drawing and painting on them with colored pencils, acrylics, and oil; and adding three-dimensional objects to the interior, including blown glass, sheet glass, shards of glass and metal, and found objects. The results enthrall as powerfully as Statom’s installations, inviting deep contemplation and lingering in the mind even when they’re no longer in view. “The memory of the work,” says the 54-year-old Statom with a hint of bemusement, “is very close to the experience of actually seeing it.” View Statom’s creations at Imago Galleries, Palm Desert, CA; Maurine Littleton Gallery, Washington, DC; William Traver Gallery, Seattle, WA; Habatat Galleries, Royal Oak, MI, and Boca Raton, FL; Sardella Fine Art, Aspen, CO; and www.thermanstatom.com.

Featured in December 2007

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