Fine Arts Seminar (Houghton College)

thinking critically and building community around art and design

Patterson Sims (Curated for Willie Cole)

Patterson Sims (Curator for Willie Cole)

Patterson Sims is an independent curator and has been for many years. His most recent work has been for the Exhibition of “Complex Conversations” by Willie Cole. When listening to Sims discuss the amazing and powerful work that Willie Cole has accomplished throughout his life, I could see the passion that Sims had for these pieces and the hard work he has put into making everything perfect for the exhibition. When in the lecture room with Sims, he was sitting down and just explaining the work, but when we all went and visited Willie Cole’s work in the art gallery with Sims, I saw a light go on and I could tell that Sims was in a place that he loved and felt comfortable in. Sims showed Willie Cole’s most awe-inspiring work and the influences that played a big part in those pieces.
When looking at Willie Cole’s work online prior to Sims’ presentation, I will admit that I was quite confused when seeing hairdryers and shoes made into “faces” and sculptures and irons for a face on a body. After Sims thoroughly explained Willie Cole’s work and how everything was influenced by four generations of women in life, all of whom were domestic workers and in African slavery, it became very powerful to me because of the meaning behind the pieces.
Irons are a very prominent part in Willie Cole’s piece and he used the irons in many different ways. One way were his scorched paintings, where he burned different parts of canvas with an iron and scorched it in a way that made different colored scorch shades. Sims explained that these different shades represented the tremendous variety of race. This piece was especially powerfully to me after hearing the meaning behind it. Everything Willie Cole has worked with in his pieces has been reused items such as high heels, hair dryers and, in his most recent work, plastic water bottles. Sims stated that Willie Cole “likes to use things he can find and calls each thing a fractal that can make one big thing.” I really related to this statement because I think everything has the capability of being remade into something new.
I could tell how much work Sims did in learning about Willie Cole: where he came from, what his influences were, and what he is working on now. At the art opening Sim’s even asked more questions, which shows that he is still taking the time to learn about Willie Cole. I learned so much about the amazing and inspirational work made by Willie Cole thanks to the dedicated work of Patterson Sims.

-Natalie Benson

Alicia Taylor

Thursday night Alicia Taylor kicked off the artist lecture’s of the semester. She brought us through her work, both finished and in progress. Though I remember pieces of her talk a couple years ago, it’s great to hear her a second time, to be reintroduced to her work and shown where she has moved since then.

One body of work that was reintroduced to those of us that heard Alicia two years ago was Blind Contours. I really loved the work with the plaster mold she made of herself, and still do. From the plaster piece itself, to the video showing the shadows through it, to the drawing of those casted shadows. I find shadows themselves and using them to create a pieces are really interesting. They are/come from the original piece or source, and are still something all their own.

I also really enjoyed Alicia’s books. She does well bringing together her concepts and work to make a book.
The artist books are cohesive, yet each piece [represented] in it is still an individual piece.

Furthermore, I really enjoyed hearing about Alicia’s studio practice. It’s encouraging as an artist to see how important keeping it up and always making work or thinking about new work is. Even during all the moving and through the changes, Alicia continues to make/be thinking about new and fresh work, exploring new ideas and processes. And this really shows how much art is a part of her, always needing to create, and have something going in her studio.

-Grace Baleno

Patterson Sims

Through listening to both Patterson Sims and Willie Cole speak about the same work, I began to gain a different respect and appreciation for the role of the curator within the art world. Though in most cases curators and artists tend to only work with each other once, Patterson and Willie had been working together for I think around ten years. It was clear that Patterson not only was familiar with Willie’s work, but with Willie himself. Having been around through difficult times in Willie’s life, Patterson seemed to have a genuine understanding of the work produced during Willie’s darker times, as well as a passion and interest in his more recent and future projects.

In both seminar, as well as Willie Cole’s talk, I was fascinated to learn about Willie’s creative process and inspiration. The moment I really connected with his work was when he began to break down and explain the extensive layering of ideas within his work. Having multiple layers is something that I like to do in my own work, but Willie beautifully demonstrated how to take it to extremes without stretching it too far.

Willie ended the talk by saying “I hope I gave you something that you can grow with.” This conclusion really got me thinking about the way that we approach what is in front of us. Whether it be a piece of art, literature, music or anything in between, it is not about liking it or disliking it, it’s about learning and growing.

-Kayla Brophy

Patterson Sims

Patterson Sims is the curator of Willie Cole’s current exhibition “Complex Conversations”, this is his third time curating for Willie Cole. Sims is a an independent curator and president of Independent Curators International. He has worked in art since 1969 and has a long list of accomplishments including organizing many solo exhibitions of artists including Ellsworth Kelly, John Storrs, Jan Matulka, Viola Frey, Fred Wilson, Claire Zeisler, Willie Cole, and Hedda Sterne. One thing that was surprising for me about Sims was that he didn’t just arrange the artwork but he knew it thoroughly along with knowing the artist himself very well. Sims was able to go through the different meanings and influences of each piece in relation to the artist’s personal and professional life.

He even went digging through Cole’s studio and picked out a “rare” preparatory sketch (something not normally in Willie’s artistic process) to hang in the show. Not only did he have a keen eye for picking out art he also was skilled at helping the students understand the pieces. He talked about the materials and influences in an easy to understand format.

Perhaps even more admirable than Sim’s skill was his humility. He continuously commented when asked about his career that he was on his way to retirement to give other young people a chance to have jobs. He said that the people in need were much more important than whether or not he curated more.

-Emma Brittain

Alicia Hope Taylor

In May of 2013 Taylor completed “Blind Contours,” an artist’s book featuring photos and drawings. In this book, Taylor captures moments and memory. Choosing not to rely on sight, Taylor captures impressions with her blind contour portrait drawings. In this work she examines our perception of things. I found these recordings especially interesting. Perhaps the most valuable tool to an artist has is her or his sight and the intentional handicap of herself in these drawings was particularly arresting to me. I also was intrigued by the included verses written by Taylor. Her decisions determining what to show and what to say is of particular interest to me, as it’s a balance I struggle with in my own work.
“Buoyed,” completed in May of 2013, a paper sculpture with video projected onto it explores the tenuous relationship between the hazardous unknown and our ability to hope. In it Taylor accompanied her hanging forms of handmade paper with a projected video of a river near her home. The undulations of the water and the wrinkled pulp of the paper struck me as inherently different yet similar to one another. Their combined effect was powerful and mysterious.
Taylor is fascinated by texture, particularly the texture of paper and she uses her often frayed and wrinkled medium to accompany the written word. Within her work was both the past & present weaved from fibers together. Much of Taylor’s work is drawn from her personal experiences and life. As she showed us her work I kept feeling that I was being shown brief glimpses of her life. The more she showed us, the more she exposed herself. She also explores time’s effects in her work. Taylor is interested in time as it continues in constant motion around us. I can certainly relate to her feeling that time in the studio stops. The work is so absorbing that time pauses. Taylor’s work seemed to draw similarities between past & present. “Yet from our vantage point, a surprising number of things had not changed at all.” Witold Rybezynski

Written by Merritt Becknell

Alicia Taylor

I love Alicia’s use of mixed media, and the imaginative way she mixes video, three dimensional and tactile experiences. Her work has such a personal and intimate quality to it, and through viewing it I feel as if I know her so much better. It was a great way to open up the year and get introduced to her and her artistic style.

One of my favorite pieces that she showed us was the installation using paper and plaster covered string with a video of rushing water player over top. I thought the paper and string forms were so interesting with organic shapes and curves. They almost had the feeling of decay and brokenness, which was an interesting opposition to such lively water projected onto them. It was really quite mesmerizing the way the projection interacted with and washed over the uneven and changing surfaces of the hanging paper. It was such an interesting piece, and I wish I could have seen it in real life and not just a video of it.

I also really enjoyed what Alicia said about her use of books to display her pieces, specifically her photographs. She said that she felt like when her art was printed in a book that made it more accessible and tactile. I really like this explanation. It made lot more sense than other reasons I have heard for showing your art through a book. It is so much more personal than only displaying art in a gallery where a limited number of people will see it.

From photographs of her family to plaster sting casts of her face, Alicia’s work all seems to be a true reflection of her personalty and of what she finds important and meaningful. She does not let one media define her, but creatively mixes techniques to create truly personal experience.

By Hannah Banks

Damien Guilly By Leah Mailloux

This artist spoke to me personally because he dealt with mediums with in my major. He started out with Graphic Design, then went on to study video and animation. With these as his foundation, Damien went on to work with architectural designs and illusions. His work was not only exhibited nationally, He has installed his work all over the world!! What I liked post about his presentation is that, while talking about his work, he talks about how each project tells a story. One of is projects refers to the financial collapse in Berlin; he called this “Cashier Fatigue”

His work, whether its his starting projects or the projects he creates later on, are influences by old video games and digital elements; simple illusions and utopic drawings. 

All in all, David Guilly has really inspired me and made me want to create things as brilliant as he did.

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