June 15 2018

In a three-part series, we are introducing you to the three artists featured in “At the Center: Masters of American Craft” installation at the Philadelphia Museum of Art now through July 2018.

The curator of this installation and the author of this piece is Elisabeth Agro, the Nancy M. McNeil Curator of American Modern and Contemporary Craft and Decorative Arts, Philadelphia Museum of Art.

This presentation is the fifth and final installation in the At the Center: Masters of American Craft series. Each exhibit highlights significant people who have shaped and influenced the field of American modern and contemporary craft. This installation concentrates on the contributions of Yvonne Pacanovsky Bobrowicz, Sharon Church, and Jack Larimore. The pairing of their objects not only demonstrates the artists’ ingenuity, virtuosity, and impact on the field, but also challenges the notion of what is considered sculpture.

 “At the center” of this gallery stand Wharton Esherick’s fireplace and doorway. Esherick is renowned for pushing woodwork into the sculptural realm and these massive pieces provide a perfect setting for this display of work by contemporary artists. With a focus on craft, each installation opening has coincided with the annual Contemporary Craft Show, a celebration of craft showcasing the finest makers from around the world. What distinguishes craft within contemporary art is the value of the skill, commitment to material, and deep knowledge of process that the artists bring to their work.

Yvonne Pacanovsky Bobrowicz (born 1928) says her fiber work “comes from the hand,” referring to her childhood and artistic career. Her mother was an avid embroiderer and her father a master carver and instructor of fine woodworking. Bobrowicz studied with two of the most important and forward-thinking artists in her field: Marianne Strengell (1909–1998) at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan, and Anni Albers (1899–1994) at the Philadelphia Museum School of Art.

Nationally recognized for her contributions to the field of fiber art, Bobrowicz has been awarded commissions from Louis Kahn, the iconic architect, for the Kimball Museum in Texas, as well as from big corporate collections such as RCA and DuPont. In 1996 she received the Pew Fellowship in the Arts and in 1997 the Leeway Foundation’s Bessie Berman Award. Bobrowicz has also inspired future generations as professor of textiles and weavings at Philadelphia’s Drexel University from 1966 until she retired in 1997.

Bobrowicz feels “the constant motion, change, and growth in the universe.” She integrates these sensations into her sculptural, fiber-based works. By blending natural materials with synthetic materials, Bobrowicz plays with the idea of opposites such as dark versus light and order versus randomness. She uses clear monofilament because she feels strongly that “It is a fiber of our age, reflecting it in so many ways. It illuminates, vibrates, pulsates, expressing motion, a translucent, celestial energy field.”

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March 27 2018

In a three-part series, we are introducing you to the three artists featured in “At the Center: Masters of American Craft” installation at the Philadelphia Museum of Art now through July 2018.

The curator of this installation and the author of this piece is Elisabeth Agro, the Nancy M. McNeil Curator of American Modern and Contemporary Craft and Decorative Arts, Philadelphia Museum of Art.

This presentation is the fifth and final installation in the At the Center: Masters of American Craft series. Each exhibit highlights significant people who have shaped and influenced the field of American modern and contemporary craft. This installation concentrates on the contributions of Yvonne Pacanovsky Bobrowicz, Sharon Church, and Jack Larimore. The pairing of their objects not only demonstrates the artists’ ingenuity, virtuosity, and impact on the field, but also challenges the notion of what is considered sculpture.

“At the center” of this gallery stand Wharton Esherick’s fireplace and doorway. Esherick is renowned for pushing woodwork into the sculptural realm and these massive pieces provide a perfect setting for this display of work by contemporary artists. With a focus on craft, each installation opening has coincided with the annual Contemporary Craft Show, a celebration of craft showcasing the finest makers from around the world. What distinguishes craft within contemporary art is the value of the skill, commitment to material, and deep knowledge of process that the artists bring to their work.

Jack Larimore

Growing up on a farm in Michigan, Jack Larimore (born 1950) understood at an early age that tools meant you could “do stuff.” He began his career as an environmental planner after studying landscape architecture at Michigan State University. But it was in the early 1970s, after fixing up a house in Philadelphia, that Larimore fell under the spell of the city’s booming furniture scene.

Largely self-taught, by 1983 Larimore had established himself as a sculptor and furniture maker. Recognized early on as an innovator in the field, his work addressed issues of culture, nature, and humanity. While maintaining a private studio practice Larimore taught at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia from 1993 to 2005. He is a founding member of the Furniture Society and a trustee at the Center for Art in Wood in Philadelphia.

Seeking change in 2009, Larimore came across artwork incorporating tree trunks: it “knocked me on the head, and I realized there is more to wood than sanding it up . . . so it looks like plastic.” Without cutting wood into pieces or using complicated joinery, he began working with salvaged timbers. “In those materials is the history of a living tree,” states Larimore. A naturalist at heart, the artist became “aware of the beauty in the processes of nature.” Maintaining a studio in Bridgeton, New Jersey, Larimore continues to seek renewal in old timbers and trunks, his work provoking contemplation on recycling, reparation, and ecology.

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February 27 2018

Installation and silk graffiti artist Aubrie Costello uses words to create art that moves: both physically and emotionally. Her designs are inspired by the people of Philadelphia and the words they use in their everyday lives. Here is her story.

I attended Moore College of Art & Design where I began completing installation work that correlated with my sketches. I shared a studio in North Philadelphia with Darla Jackson, a fellow Philadelphian artist, and it was incredible, but I eventually got to a point where I realized I didn’t like the studio setting. Instead of working I would just be writing down and listening to the conversations outside my window. This is where it all started.

One night I took strands of silk, a hammer, and some nails and tagged the walls with some words from my notebook in silk right outside my studio. It felt great! It wasn’t heavy.  It was quite literally this light way of talking about the same heavier topics like gender roles and socio-economic injustices. I was just writing on the wall – not a traditional graffiti way of doing the work. 

Philadelphia loves art and its artists, but it can be difficult to be a working artist. Most artists I know wear many hats. I have a day job although I’d rather put my full energy into this. 

Working at The Bus Stop Boutique has been amazing because my boss is also collaborator/ mentor/ friend. She is one of my biggest cheerleaders and she pushes me. I’ve even had the opportunity to collaborate with shoe brands because of her. What’s really invaluable is that there’s this common thread between my work and fashion. When I go to trade shows I’ll see cool color patterns and juxtapositions that inspire my work. 

The words and phrases used in my art are about 75 percent overheard from people on the street. I take their meaning then reinterpret it with silk. Silk has an emotional feel to it – almost a sadness. It’s interesting to play with other people’s words. I love playing with my own words, but sometimes I’m more excited to play with other people’s words.

I’ve always been concerned with reflecting the times. I’m more present and I want to talk about what’s going on right now. If I put a piece up in the neighborhood I want it to resonate and speak to the people who would interact with that specific piece and perhaps pose a thoughtful question to the viewer. 

I have always loved how accessible street art is, but I was a little apprehensive myself to make a piece and put it up. I put so much pressure on myself for me to be good enough. I want mine to be effective and beautiful.

Because of this, people often ask, why silk? I loved the material so much – loved the fabric. One day, I had a fiber/textile teacher at Moore who came into my studio. She said, “You need to let the fabric speak for itself.” My work isn’t canvas or paper, so I need to let it show its weight, let it hang. That tiny conversation with her has stuck with me through this entire process. 

I start my studio days walking around, writing, and observing. I note down what strikes and inspires me. After returning to my studio I figure out color, pairing, and scale.

For the Fringe Arts Festival 2017, I collaborated on a short film, dance performance, and site-specific art piece “Show Me What You Want Me to See.”  It flowed so naturally. We started with one piece and went from there to finish with a total of 14. We pulled out keywords that we felt would be the most interesting. The original purpose of the pieces was for the film to be in the apartment. Then the pieces became the set. I love this especially in my work “The Relic in the Thing.”

The whole film plays with subtitles, and these jarring moments you experience in loss. I wanted some to be fleshy quiet, some to interject that blood red – I wanted to showcase the dynamic emotional rollercoaster of experiencing loss.

Thanks to Conrad Benner, founder of Streets Dept, people connected the dots with the work and the artist who made it. I have a lot to thank him for. But Instagram has also been instrumental in this as well. I have been given a lot of opportunities for collaboration and to have a creative outlet. I can also use it to make merchandise or partner with other artists and businesses. 

I have also recently exhibited at Main Line Arts Center.  Happily Ever After was a selection of works by female artists. The exhibition is from post-feminist perspective in what it means to be a woman in modern times. We are questioning womanhood and gender.

The exhibit opened on October 13, 2017.  I was really excited about this collaboration because it allows me to add more depth to my art in a way. I want to do more of this, although street art will always be my first love. 

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April 13 2016
Michel Radyk, is an artist and designer whose sculptures, work and textiles have been exhibited both nationally and internationally. He’s exhibited at the PMA Craft Show several times in addition to participating with his students from the Kutztown University program.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m originally from Western, Pennsylvania, but moved to Philadelphia to attend University of the Arts and then Temple University’s Tyler School of Art. I graduated with a bachelor of Fine Arts focusing in on textiles, fiber arts, and art history. I lived and worked in Philadelphia for about twenty-five years before leaving for grad school. In addition to my own work with textiles and sculptures, I am a textiles professor at Kutztown University in Berks County, Pennsylvania.

What made you want to pursue art as a career?

Growing up, I developed an appreciation for the arts early on. My grandma was a weaver and I was close with a few of my older cousins who were graphic designers. Seeing my family members practicing their craft really influenced and inspired me to be more involved in the arts. My family did a lot of “home crafts” so when I went off to college and realized I could major in a related field; it was a revelation. 

How did you originally hear about the PMA Craft Show?

Living and working in the area, it was hard to miss! I would see the banners go up every year around the city, although most of my fellow art students weren’t people who were necessarily interested in being commercial craftspeople. As I started to develop my art and refine my interests I became much more aware of craft shows, especially the PMA Craft Show. 

You use the themes of dualities and overlapping in your work. When did you start incorporating these patterns and qualities into your work? Did it happen in a moment of inspiration or did it evolve over time and experience?

05 series michael radyk

What really started my exploration into this theme was the “05 series,” which consisted of large woven quilted pieces with embroidery layered on top. I originally set out to do a series of ten, each connected to an overarching theme, but this idea of dualities is something that stuck with me. I think part of the reason dichotomies appear frequently in my work is because of a hand injury I suffered early on in my career. I worked through it with art therapists using various references and resources as part of my recovery. The healing process helped me realize the importance of these motifs in my work.

You took something that could have been a huge setback, an injury, and turned it into a positive.

Exactly. The injury was both a blessing and a curse. I wasn’t really able to do much for a year and a half; I had to get the use of my hand and arm back to normal. It ended up helping me refine my work and find a more personalized focus. In a way this was the catalyst for me going to grad school.

In grad school at Rhode Island School of Design I was able to put these themes to work in my thesis, which focused on coloring, layering, and overlapping.

When did you first appear in the Show? How has your style of art changed since your initial appearance in the Show?

I first exhibited in the Show as an artist about twenty years ago with my clothing; before grad school I was more focused on wearable garments such as embroidered jackets and scarves. In 2010, I was selected again, but this time with my fine art pieces in both the fiber wearable and fiber decorative categories. I presented a variety of pieces that year: wall hangings, scarves, shawls, and other textiles.

You’ve exhibited in many craft shows across the nation, what makes the PMA Show so special?

I think one of the great things about the Philadelphia show is the commitment the Women’s Committee (of the Philadelphia Museum of Art) has to run it. There is a real personal connection which can be hard to find; when you see them it’s like seeing old friends. I also love that the profits allow the Museum to purchase crafts and put on special exhibits and events.

As an educator, do you come into the Show with a different perspective?

You could say I look at the Show with multiple eyes. I see it first and foremost as a teacher. I’m introducing students and alumni to diverse audiences, new techniques, and different ways to present their pieces. In this sense, I think about the Show as a way of professional development and personal transformation, which is something that excites me. Being an educator, I am constantly looking at the Show as an outlet for artists to develop their soft and hard skills as well as seeing what other artists are doing.  

It’s also been wonderful to introduce my students to this community of invaluable supporters. It’s great to see the community support and form relationships with my students; we’ve had instances where customers ask me where a certain students’ work is, only to find out they’ve graduated!  

Of course, I come as a shopper and a friend. I’m always looking at what’s new in my field, and there is always so much talent at the Show.

What do you tell your students in preparation for the Show?

Kutztown University Students pma craft show

The main thing I stress to them is scheduling, especially a production schedule. They have to seriously think about things like price point, color theme, and the pieces’ overall impact as a whole. This should all tie in with their more business-y aspects, branding, business cards, booth layout, etc.

Then, I have them look back at their work and instead of discarding what they’re unhappy with, we encourage them to transform or redo pieces for the Show. When doing this, they aren’t working out as many of the technical issues, but instead focusing on creating work that’s at the next level. This is something we work on a lot in the classes I teach, continuing to refine and re-examine work.  In fact, my upper level production students have a project where they create something, then redo it five times. This helps them prepare for a career in this field; if they want to be at the next level, they need to be able to recreate their work.  

Has the Show inspired your teaching at all?

Yes! In fact, this year I am planning the first ever “Craft in Hand.” which is inspired by our college’s participation in the Show. The Kutztown University Foundation's Director, Tracey Thompson, our new president, Dr. Kenneth Hawkinson, and his wife, Ann Marie Hawkinson-Hayes, attended the Show last fall and were highly impressed. We put our planning hats on to come up with an event that would highlight our students and alumni here on campus and take the program out of the classroom. We’re really excited for its opening on September 24th!

You’ve talked about the importance of the emerging artist category in the Show. Which artists or fields are exciting you currently?

Emerging artist Heather Stief, is a graduate of Kutztown before my time. Her work really struck me; it’s graphic, with a clean and neat presentation. I met her at the Show and we’ve since formed a great connection. Just a few weeks ago, she spoke to one of my classes on how to be a craftsperson and how to have a productive home studio. Younger artists like Heather are not only great ambassadors for the field, but have been instrumental in assisting the next generation.

What artists currently serve as inspirations to you?

I’m a textile person at heart, so I’m always looking toward that field for inspiration. I like to travel to see various exhibits and shows; places like the Museum of Modern Art and Design in New York, Washington DC’s Textile Museum and of course the Philadelphia Museum of Art. There’s a show right now at the de Young Fine Arts Museum in San Francisco that features the work of Kay Sekimachi, a Japanese American textile artist that I’m really excited about.

Your work Swan Point #2 was recently acquired by the Cleveland Museum of Art. What was that experience like?

swan point #2 michael radyk

It was a two-year process that started with an exhibition called Focus: Fiber in 2014, which was sponsored by the Textile Art Alliance. Similar to the Women’s Committee, this group consists of collectors, artists, and enthusiasts who raise funds to purchase pieces for the Cleveland Museum of Art. I was fortunate enough to not only win the President’s Prize at their show, but have my work considered for the Museum.

It was a wonderful journey that included trips to the Museum, meeting the curator, lecturing on my pieces, and of course many, many emails. I was so grateful for this experience and the support I received from the Textile Art Alliance, the Museum, and Lousie Mackey, the curator of textiles and Islamic art at the museum.

To learn more about Kutztown University’s history with the PMA Craft Show please visit http://bit.ly/1SF94SZ
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May 15 2013

Alison Cannon is the owner of Woolymamma fiber arts. She makes beautiful felted wool decor. But let Alison speak for herself. “I make felted wool pieces using a combination of shibori, applique and reverse applique. Shapes and textures from nature inspire my designs, but so too do the funky pop-art shapes of the ’70s design I grew up with! My art is meant to be an interactive experience. Each work starts as a knitted fabric that is then fulled and manipulated in various ways. There is an element of surprise in the process." Surprise yourself at Woolymamma here.

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