Archive for October, 2009

rice paper paintings in the window

After the tar paper mural, Tres and Helene came to our studio/gallery on 4th Street to continue exhibit preparations.  We joined the ends of our work tables together, spread out the newspaper, and rolled out long lengths of rice paper.  The StudioWorks artists using food color and Japanese brushes made abstract, calligraphic marks on the absorbent paper.  The studio quickly became a flurry of activity.

rice paper painting

Several long lengths of paper were quickly covered.  There was a fun feeling of teamwork as our artists got into the collaborative spirit.  For some of our artists, this was a novel approach to making art that required a bit of ego checking, but everyone made the adjustment.

Dorcas, Vickey, and Nancy

Tres holding rice paper

As the rice paper paintings were completed, they were taped to the plate-glass window to dry.  Visitors walking past our store front were treated to the sight of these colorful artworks.  Within StudioWorks, the back lighting coming from the street made the rice paper paintings glow with jewel-like intensity.  This became an irresistible subject for photography and many images were snapped.

rice paper paintings drying

rice paper paintings drying

Tres and Helene had one more surprise in store for our artists.  The pair produced Japanese rice paper lanterns from a box.  These were also decorated in the same way using the food color pigments.  During the installation of the exhibit at the Weber Gallery, low-wattage electric lights were placed within the lanterns.  The sight of these illuminated lanterns made the opening especially memorable.  The long rice paper lengths were carefully cut apart and individually matted.  A special light box made with a bamboo frame became a dramatic centerpiece in the gallery and displayed the now smaller paintings.  The opening was enjoyable and many of our artists were able to attend and see the work in a new context.  The exhibit opened on October 1 and ran until the 31st.

Hold the Light, Weber Gallery

Hold the Light exhibit, Weber Gallery

Many thanks to the Council on Mental Retardation and their wonderful Weber Gallery.  The Council was instrumental in bringing Tres and Helene to Louisville to collaborate with StudioWorks.  To April, Madonna, Carol and the Council staff, we sincerely appreciate your hard work on behalf of our program.Hold the Light artists

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Hold the Light muralBecause this exhibit is currently up (if only for a few more days), StudioWorks thought this would be a good project for our first post.  In many ways, this is the prototype for the type of partnership and collaborative project we enjoy doing.  We were invited by our good friends at Louisville’s Weber Gallery to do a mural and joint exhibition with Tres (put an accent mark over the “e”) Taylor and his wife, Helene who live in Birmingham, Alabama.  In addition to working with the Weber Gallery, Taylor was a participating artist at this year’s  St. James Art Fair.

tar paper mural

Tres Taylor is essentially a self-taught artist who acknowledged his own creativity after first working in other professions.  His preferred materials are acrylic house paints, wood filler, and varnish over tarred roofing paper.  These materials would also be used by the StudioWorks artists to create our mural.  Taylor’s work is figurative and has a spiritual bent to it.  Before we met, a theme and title “Hold the Light” was chosen.  Taylor also found a quote by Aaron Rose that served as an inspiration for the project and it goes like this:  “In the right light, at the right time, everything is extraordinary.”  As it turned out, this would be an extraordinary experience.

Hold the Light

The StudioWorks artists chose to interpret the theme in a couple of ways.  The first was by creating tye-dyed shirts for the occasion.  Since light itself is made up from many wave lengths of different colors (think prism or rainbow), we chose to embody light in this way.  As far as imagery for the mural went, our artists decided to create fanciful self-portraits and did preliminary drawings for them.  Although most of the artists did not stick with their original ideas, it did get people thinking and in the mood to do the work.


Eight of the fourteen StudioWorks artists were available to work on the chosen day.  The painting was done off-site at the Weber Gallery.  Long tables were set up, drop cloths were placed down, and the tar paper was rolled out.  The composition took the form of eight niches.  Bright colors, like stained-glass windows, were applied first.  After drying a bit, the various self-portraits began to take form within the niches.  Staff, volunteers, and Tres and Helene assisted the artists when needed.  Wood filler was later added to the mural to give the painting a richer and thicker surface.  The tactile quality of this material was not to the liking of many of our artists.  But after a period of adjustment, they were willing to try something unfamiliar to them.  Introducing new materials to our artists is always a good goal.  You never know who might like a particular medium until they are given an opportunity to try it.

Hold the Light

When the painting was completed, we celebrated by taking the piece outside and snapping several photographs to document the event.  Later the individual portraits would be cut and presented separately in the show.  Our workshop experience didn’t end here.  On the very next day, Tres and Helene came to our space and we did more painting.  This time we worked on rice paper and decorated Japanese lanterns.  Images from that experience will form the second part of our “Hold the Light” post.

Vickey and David, Hold the Light

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