AEDM Challenge Day 5

©2012 Leah Virsik Summery found paper and acrylic painted rice paper 5 x 8 inches

Notice where your eye goes. What is significant about that area? Your eye will be drawn to the area with the most contrast. In this piece, it’s the light yellow right next to the small area of dark brown at the top. Thanks to Julie Prichard and Chris Cozen in their online Complex Collage class for making that clear.

Heard an interesting talk by Greil Marcus tonight on Jay DeFeo and All that Jazz at Mills College. He shared the stunning film The White Rose by Bruce Conner about the removal of the 2000 pound painting from JayDeFeo’s Fillmore apartment.  I found this SFMOMA film talking of Bruce Conner discussing his film also worthwhile.


AEDM Challenge Day 4

©2012 Leah Virsik 5 a.m. wax paper, acrylic paint and graphite 5 x 7 inches

I was up early this morning… 5 a.m.…way too early for me but I really liked the back of this piece and starting drawing on it. Thanks Anika for your inspiration. I heard there’s a “not to be missed” Barry McGee exhibit at the Berkeley Art Museum. For more info on AEDM (Art Every Day Month) visit Leah Piken Kolidas’ blog Create Every Day.

AEDM Challenge Day 3

Hidden Entry

©2012 Leah Virsik Hidden Entry acrylic painted rice paper 8 x 5 inches

I had a really good day, tiring but good. I did art first thing this morning. Deborah Griffin and I had our opening reception at Sun Gallery. Super fun! Deborah sold three pieces. I’m proud of her! I had great visits with everyone that came. I made some awesome guacamole if I do say so myself. It didn’t turn brown thanks to the addition of lime juice. I had four artists come from my crit group led my Lisa Kokin. One of them, Ruth Tabancay, mentioned how works “talk” to each other when they’re in a show together. They have a larger context. I heard an online interview of Richard Serra who saw a particular connection in his own work that he wasn’t aware of previously. I’m really starting to see the origins of my stacked pieces and how they’re connected to each other. Pretty interesting.

I was introduced to the wonderful mixed-media work of Mirto Golino tonight in Oakland’s CK Gallery.I enjoyed this post from artist Nayland Blake. He’s going to be speaking at California College of the Arts on November 27. More info here.

AEDM Challenge Day 2

Textured Indigo with Circles

©2012 Leah Virsik Gold ‘n Blue Meet Stripes acrylic painted rice paper 8 x 5 inches

I notice I want to document, to record my thoughts, to create a list of what happened. I also notice that even though these collages don’t take an exceptionally long time they have been cutting into my sleep. I’m curious to know how this will change over the next thirty days. I’ve been getting up early twice a week and going to yoga at 6:00 a.m. That’s pretty amazing for me. When I first started teaching there wasn’t any way I could go to yoga classes and now I can teach and go to yoga twice a week. And I’m looking to fit in another day. That feels really good. So I imagine creating art and documenting the process will get easier too.

I went to Oakland’s Art Murmur tonight with my mom. It’s pretty amazing to see so many people coming out for art…although I imagine it could be for other things as well. While I prefer going to the galleries there is an area on Telegraph that is closed off so people can play music and sell their wares. It feels so democratic… that anyone can do this and I really do appreciate that. There was a guy… Paul Nosa… drawing with his sewing machine that was hooked up to solar power. Seeing him was inspiring. He used Kickstarter to fund his tour.

Mercury 20 had a great exhibit featuring Kerry Vander Meer, PK Frizzell and Cartographies: JoAnn Biagini, Margaret Chavigny, Maya Kabat. I especially enjoyed some of Kerry Vander Meer’s thread work.  As we were walking back to the car we stopped by a great little music store featuring accordions and a band was playing The Clash’s Guns Of Brixton. That was really cool. I didn’t know the song but it really touched me. I asked what it was and by the time I got home I forgot. I knew it consisted of three words and the last word had a “br” sound. Tom knew what it was. I knew he would.

Tony Pedemonte‘s red wrapped chair at Creative Growth was stunning.  Oh and I can’t forget the fantastic black bean burger and  homemade ketchup from Doc’s of the Bay. So freeking yummy with Firebrand bread. Erin, I’ll always think of you when I think of Firebrand.

AEDM Challenge Day 1

©2012 Leah Virsik Gold ‘n Blue Meet Stripes acrylic painted rice paper 8 x 5 inches

I’m participating in Leah Piken Kolidas’ Art Every Day Month Challenge. I do have to say it’s quite the challenge and I’m only just starting. I’m excited though and motivated. My plan is to do 30- 8×5 inch (or 5×8 inch) collages and also discuss how they work using the design elements and principles. That part will come later. I took a wonderful class from Donna Watson at Art and Soul Portland and this is paper I painted from that class. She has a wonderful blog and a great Deconstructing Books post featuring the artist Jordi Alacarz. He has a couple of catalogs available from Galerie Stefan Ropke.

Now I remember how incredibly time-consuming this is. It ends up being not so much that I just want to do art and post it but I want to share so much of what’s in my head… the stuff that I’m excited about and it seems I’m excited about oh, so much. Not a bad thing. Lately, I’ve been listening to Nigel Poor’s audio experiment: a collection of unedited, uncensored reactions to everyday life. She’s so interesting. I love listening to her thoughts about teaching especially. It makes me want to record my thoughts. We’ll see… one thing at a time. Until tomorrow…

Happy Halloween!

Tom created a cute ghost for Halloween. Adorable if I do say so myself. It’s all created from reused materials: an old bed sheet, an old shirt of his for eyes and a mouth, two pairs of children’s skiis for arms, attached with wood screws to two green metal fence stakes that stick into the ground and a bucket for a head.

Convergence & Divergence: Leah Virsik & Deborah Griffin Look at Memories: Sun Gallery, Hayward, CA

Artwork: (L) Manhattan (detail) mixed-media ©2012 Leah Virsik  (R) The White Oak Schoolhouse mixed-media ©2012 Deborah Griffin

For Immediate Release:
Convergence & Divergence: Two Artists Look at Memories featuring the work of Leah Virsik and Deborah Griffin | October 10, 2012–November 10, 2012
Opening Reception November 3, 2012 | Hours: 1–3 p.m. in conjunction with the Día de los Muertos Exhibit
Sun Gallery (in the The Ken Cook Gallery) 1015 E Street, Hayward, CA 94541
Gallery hours: Wed.–Sat. 11 a.m.–5 p.m.
Contact: Deborah Griffin at 510-435-3806 or Leah Virsik at 510-418-9383

In this exhibit, Convergence & Divergence, Leah and Deborah bring together their distinct and individual imagery and in the juxtaposition discover areas that overlap in textures, shapes, colors and the medium of collage. The works diverge in elements of realism and abstraction and medium. Leah uses three dimensional sculpture and the book arts, and Deborah composes digital imagery and archetypal characters in surrealistic environments. You will observe found materials and deliberately upcycled items in Leah’s work, yet both use vintage materials, personal mementos and ephemera to create their vision. The exhibit has an overall continuity and invites the viewer’s participation in seeking the likenesses and differences as the artists examine memory and its underlying influence on their artistic creations.

I consider myself an artist and a storyteller, and attempt to combine the two into a visual narrative. I incorporate one of the oldest artist’s materials (encaustic) with some of the most recent (digital collage). The evocative surface texture combined with the vintage ephemera and my own photography of farm life and country landscape creates an image-story that hopefully resonates with those places of soul and history in everyone.
In addition, I use ephemera from the past and photographic elements both vintage and specifically taken for a project. With those elements I repurpose and reposition the people, places and things to tell a new story, to fashion a new narrative that explores archetypal characters and ideas utilizing a digital workflow as part of the process. The end result, whether an original digital print or an image manipulated then printed for inclusion in a collage or encaustic work, originates from my photography and becomes the form most appropriate for expressing my ideas. ~Deborah Griffin

As I create a work, I’m attempting to uncover a stifled sound, to visually express what I can not articulate. I collage using found and painted papers and they either come together as a finished work or they diverge into something new and unexpected like my paper stacks. These works include my own torn journal entries that I use as a way of making more meaningful and personal work. The act of tearing my written words and giving them new life reduces their preciousness and infuses my memories into what I create. My life and art converge as the paper stacks mirror the piles of paper in my office.  Yet these pieces show commitment and a focused effort of connecting seemingly disparate fragments to create pieces larger than myself. Through this work, I gain a greater understanding of myself. ~Leah Virsik

In addition, Leah Virsik will be teaching a Paper and Stitch Collage Class October 21, 2012 | 10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m. at the Sun Gallery, 1015 E Street, Hayward, CA 94541. For additional details visit: Total $100.00 per student includes some materials**. To sign up for the class contact Jacqueline Cooper, Director, Autobody Fine Art at 510.881.6974, or e-mail

In this class, you’ll combine paper, thread and your own meaningful imagery to create a series of small collages. The morning will be spent painting a variety of some of my favorite transparent papers. Afterward, you’ll reconstruct these to make a series of four by six-inch collage compositions. Techniques to help unify your works will be discussed. Hand-stitching and embroidery will be demonstrated and you’ll leave with several wood-mounted collages to display.

**Materials include use of glue brush, paper, PVA, matte medium, collage materials and use of needles, embroidery thread and T-pins, several pieces of wood, wire and eyehooks. Please bring: a small amount of collage materials if desired (some will be provided), scissors, craft knife (i.e.: X-Acto knife with no. 11 blades or comparable), triangle or L-square and ruler or quilt square or rectangle, self-healing cutting mat, squeegee for burnishing paper, bookbinding awl (or T-pins will be provided).

Portland: Days 3 and 4

I woke up early Wednesday night and didn’t sleep especially well. One of the things that Donna Watson talked about as a way of developing content was to brainstorm on a particular word that is of interest to you. The beginning words will be obvious but as you get to fifty, those words will have more depth. At five o’clock in the morning it was hard to come up with fifty but afterward I came up with even more and it’s something I’m still thinking about. If you want to do this exercise and don’t know where to start, starting with yourself would be a great place. You could start with your name and brainstorm fifty words describing yourself. I started with the word “scrap” and my beginning words were discard, waste, fragment, unwanted and I ended up with the thought that societies have used scraps out of necessity (I’m thinking of textiles specifically) and how that process is viewed in initially negative and sometimes ultimately positive ways. This feels like an interesting research project.

The second day of Donna Watson’s class was on composition. She has a great way of explaining composition basics using the design elements and principles. What I especially liked is that she has you start with the focal point of your piece and make everything you add support it. It’s not a way I’m used to working so it was especially helpful. She generally teaches much longer classes and I think it would be great to be in a five day class with her. I highly recommend her. She has a definitive quality to her and she’s great at composition.

On the light rail to downtown I took a photo of the water and I thought it was interesting that my previous photo of paper had similar colors: After class, I met Tom at the Crystal Ballroom to see Glen Hansard. He puts on a fantastic show. This one I thought was very good but since this is the fifth time we’ve seen him we started comparing his performances where we felt he put on stronger shows. The venue was a little odd. It was split down the center for the drinkers vs. non-drinkers. It didn’t make for very good feng shui. Glen Hansard is great about saying what he thinks and mentioned how white Portland is and that it could use some more black people. It was something I had said earlier so it was nice to hear.

One of my highlights today was visiting 23 Sandy Gallery. Laura Russell has a great letterpress show and I loved seeing the work of Mar Goman, Heidi Kirkpatrick, Mare Blocker and especially Linda Welch (her work took my breath away). Laura Russell along with Eddie Frager from Bridgetown Aikido convinced us to go to eat dinner at Bamboo Sushi. Really yummy, especially the “House on Fire” baked and smoked melt n’ your mouth mackerel.

Earlier we saw the work of Naomi Shigeta at Augen Gallery. I really enjoyed her meticulous grid work. Especially the teeny tiny labor-intensive grid work with dots of paint that the gallerist said she wouldn’t attempt again because it was way too dense and hard on her eyes.

Portland: Day 2

I love to take a class to learn about an alternative approach, to gain a new perspective. Donna Watson’s class today was great for that. I’ve painted tissue paper with a brush before but I haven’t painted rice paper with a brayer. I bought a brayer awhile back and this is the first time I’ve used it with paint. It seems like some things are subtle but they really open up a whole new world of ideas.

I love hearing artists stories. It was great to hear how Donna made the move from painting landscapes to creating abstract/non-objective paintings and incorporating meaning into her work at the same time. So often I enjoy a class for the stories and for the connections with people.

This is the texture that was on my table that distracted me for a while:

Materials lists are interesting. It’s hard as a teacher I think to develop a materials list and to say what to bring especially when art is so personal. Maybe the list says one thing and it really doesn’t have to be that thing, it could be something slightly different. I’m such a literal person and so often I’ve felt like I needed to get the specific thing on the list. Now, I think because I’ve taken a fair amount of classes, I’ve developed a better feel for it. I’m getting better every time. The first time couple of times I took way too much to a class. This time was much better. I also decided to bring a couple of extra things I really like… a bonefolder, some needles and thread… just in case. It’s helpful to have less stuff… it’s more freeing and it’s comforting to have the tools that bring me joy.

These are some papers I painted today. Lots of blue and orangy-browns… what I was wearing. I haven’t used this much blue so we’ll see what I come up with collage-wise tomorrow.