Artist of the Week – Stephanie Rayner

June 1, 2012 § 4 Comments

Watercolour Print Artist, Stephanie Rayner

Dan Brown has it. Nelson Mandela has it. And this week’s Artist of the Week, Stephanie Rayner, has it.

“It” is the ability to inspire people to question their beliefs. Perhaps not change anyone’s mind, but to start an internal dialogue. To encourage someone to realize that the status quo can evolve, that the necessary evolution of ideas will lead to a greater depth of understanding. Rayner engages the viewer not by forcing them to question whether what she creates is art, but instead, whether or not they are ready to ascend to a new level of perception.

She blends religion, mythology, science, art, music, media, and ideas into thought-provoking works. Every piece is not just beautiful, but opens the doors to new dimensions waiting to be discovered. Her print works are layers upon layers of watercolour and subtleties of colour and texture; her gallery creations are typically large, often installation-style pieces blending research, innuendo, metaphor, and allegory.

Although her epic creations take hundreds of hours to create and years of planning and research, her beginnings were humble enough. In this day and age, many children and youth are raised to be empowered – they believe they can do anything, be anything. Despite coming from a long line of artists, Rayner’s father discouraged her, claiming that “There’s no place for women in art”, nor would there be.

Stephanie took the advice to heart. Rather than pursuing her lifelong dream, she decided that if she couldn’t be an artist she would choose a field so closely related to it that it would amount to almost the same thing: interior design. But, either through a cruel twist of fate or part of a larger, grander design, Rayner soon realized that while her part-time jobs could collectively pay for tuition, her pockets weren’t deep enough to pay for the supplies and materials required. (Sadly, her “burlap and found-object chairs” simply didn’t impress the instructors – after all, there are only so many things you can make out of burlap before it loses its novelty…) She abandoned her studies to see the world…

In this day and age, it is hard to find places as yet undiscovered, or at the very least, off the “beaten-track”. But fortunately for Stephanie (who’d always wanted a TIME MACHINE!), there were still places in the 70s that just hadn’t quite made it into the 20th century. And the call to adventure began… Afghanistan, Iran, Central & South America, Hindu Kush…

In Africa, she lived in a tree house à la Swiss Family Robinson, during one of her trips to North Africa she was caught by slave-traders. In Central America, she rode out a hurricane with her partner in a tiny mail boat out of Belize, only to be marooned afterwards by the sailors when provisions ran low. As though torn from the pages of R. L. Stevenson’s Treasure Island itself, they met their own Ben Gunn: a man stuck on the island who’d built a raft. With three people to man it, they landed on the shores of Guatemala at 2am. At gun-point.

They were stood against a wall, a firing squad in front of them.

Rayner recollects that she walked right towards the man in charge, his machine gun raised and trained on her, fearlessly whistling. It wasn’t until she had to sleep in a cabin with thousands of rats that her mettle deserted her. “They were like maggots, if you’ve ever seen a lot of them: they were sliding back and forth over each other, and wriggling and writhing. I didn’t scream when I thought I was going to be shot. I screamed when I saw the rats.”

Detail of “Spirit”

These experiences perhaps ingrained what Stephanie now understands to be a universal truth : “[The human] ability to deal with the world has always involved art and expression, it is a window for the soul,” she explains, “From the beginning, cavemen used art to deal with things beyond their understanding.” That might begin to explain why she whistled a tune in the face of almost certain death…

Nor was the episode in Guatemala the last of her adventures. In 1999, Rayner was asked to speak in Malta at joint INSAPP II, a Vatican Symposium on religion and science. Then, Stanford University’s Centre for Advanced Learning hosted her in 2002, to lecture a group of international scholars on “Art and the Evolution of Human Consciousness” in Palo Alto, California. A couple years later, the Zygon Centre in Chicago invited her to speak at their “Epic of Creation Lecture Series”. While the next few years calmed down ever-so-slightly, the momentum picked up once more when she was invited to China in 2009 to teach her own unique printing process at Lu Xun Academy of Fine Arts, in Shen Yang, and to lecture on her art at various other universities and institutes throughout China.

She spoke of meaning and soulfulness in art; and how, possessed of the best technique in the world, an artist (or a work of art) can still lack soul and vitality. It was, for her, an incredible experience. Teaching energizes her; she sees the potential in each and every student and she loves to see the students blossom in their creativity.

The two courses she’s offering this summer in watercolour printmaking will no doubt be fantastic; the first, Watercolour Monotypes, will be running from July 30th – Aug 3rd and encourages students to loosen up in their creative process, while still achieving outstanding and breathtaking results; the second, Impasto Waterbase Printmaking, will be running the following week from Aug 6th – 10th and teaches the intense layering of pigmentation that reveals itself as the prints are pulled. Students have virtually filled the halls with drying prints – all exceptionally beautiful and totally unique to the artists.

“The medium is forgiving, it’s experimental but you can have control, too,” she says about her watercolour printmaking techniques. “If you dance with it, it dances back. And there has to be teamwork in the process as well: students assist each other at the press and everyone is excited when a new print is pulled. You can hear us cheering in the halls!”

Her current work in progress will be the culmination of many years of work and research: a twenty-nine foot boat titled Eternal Return, it reveals the shared mythology of the many cultures that make use of a boat to journey to the Otherworld. It is an epic mixed-media work involving moose ribs, wood, glass, DNA-sequencing, Mozart’s Requiem, dice, and countless hours of research and construction. We can’t wait to see it!

To register for either of Stephanie’s workshops, or for more information, please call 1-866-353-6464 x3 or visit us online at www.hsta.ca

To get in touch with Stephanie, please visit her website at www.stephanierayner.com

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Advanced Individual Studies class displays their work

May 18, 2012 § Leave a comment

Steve Rose’s group of artists displayed their incredible pieces in the Great Hall yesterday afternoon. We were able to snap a couple of quick pics to share online…

Expressive Arts students explore trust and learn to dance

May 17, 2012 § 1 Comment

Life is a dance.

Not ballet, not jazz, not anything choreographed.

It is movement and expression; occasionally, it is stillness.

Today, the Expressive Arts students learned to dance with new partners.

Their journey began, blindfolded, following their peers down an unseen path, with nothing but a branch of wood between them, connecting them. It was an exercise in trust: trusting each other, trusting their senses, trusting in their movements and the motions that connected them together.

Once in the woods, they were asked to breathe in the air, hear, feel, and sense their surroundings. Only after they shared this moment of sightlessness were they allowed to remove their blindfolds.

The next step of their task was to find a new dancing partner: find a tree that they could connect with, understand the movements of, and share a dance with. Not a waltz, nor a foxtrot. But, create a journey with, understand what it was to be that tree…

For many of the students, it was a journey with great rewards; for others, it brought them to a new awareness of self, and of surroundings.

For more information on the Expressive Arts Program at HSTA, please go to our website www.hsta.ca

I Made It! Student Show ‘n Sale

April 24, 2012 § 2 Comments

Did you miss out on this semester’s show?

Catch up on what you didn’t see by checking out these amazing pics!

Artist(s) of the Week – VCAD Students and Their Show: PROCESS 29

March 22, 2012 § Leave a comment

PROCESS 29: Meet the Artists! Reception from 7-9pm, Thurs March 22 at the Rail’s End Gallery, Haliburton ON. The show is ongoing to March 31, 2012.

“Chaotic” was the one word student Don Fitzgerald used to describe it. An assault on the senses, an explosion of art: it is the exhibition of our Visual and Creative Arts students’ Conceptual Development project.

Aptly named, Process 29 is about the process, from start to finish, of creating a body of work fit for a gallery. Students experiment with mediums, with techniques, forms, ideas; they’re told to let go and work their concepts rather than simply creating one masterwork of art: exploration and discovery are the name of the game. What matters is not the art at the end, but how the students arrived at it. In many cases, their works are in progress, ideas they are fleshing out and trying on like new sets of clothes: right colour/wrong size, right size/wrong shape, right shape/wrong material…. Let’s face it, just because we’ve tried it on, doesn’t mean we walk away from the store with it and that is exactly what Process 29 is about. Can the students develop an idea, play around with it, try new things and explore? When something doesn’t feel right do they keep at it, hoping it will grow on them in time? Or throw the idea back on the rack with the discards? It’s all part of the process…

Elinor Whidden, the instructor and herself a sculptor/performance artist, stresses that there is no handholding through this entire course:  these students have brought the entire show together. Various committees of students have taken responsibility for several different aspects of the show; from marketing and promotion, to reception planning, installing, de-installing… This group of wildly creative individuals has come together as a team to ensure that despite their differences in personality, taste, technique and style, their art is represented cohesively as one unit.

“It’s very exciting,” Whidden explains, “since for most of these students it’s the first time they’ve ever displayed work in a gallery. But it makes them vulnerable as well; displaying work leaves them open to criticism.” She stresses though, how important feedback can be to an artist. “They need to know if their visuals translate to the viewer with the intentioned message.”

After all, typically with visual art, there aren’t any written words to explain what’s going on; the largest part of the communication relies on the artist’s ability to convey meaning with an image or sculpture. “That the show is about process and not about the art is really interesting,” says VCAD student, Emily Gur. “It reveals more about everyone themselves and their interests…”

Students are asked to go on a voyage of discovery with their art. They all take different paths on this journey, but the end result is what is crucial: there is no official “end”. The works that are on display are not necessarily even completed.  Ideally, the “VCADers” are simply investigating (and enjoying) the search for a “happy accident”.

“It’s really helped me. I never would’ve thought of using any of these materials before,” shares Justine Beauregard. “From the beginning of the year, you can actually see how much everyone has grown in their own artwork.”

And so – without calling in the art critics – that the students themselves can acknowledge how far they’ve come in such a short period of time, tells us their first show? It’s already a success.±

This show is a collection of work from Lauren Ogilvie, Luke Smit, Matthew W. Pearce, Mitchell Doris, Emma May Ross, Andy Anderson, Caitlyn Bloch, Aaron Jones, Megan Marie Morritt, Jessica Brabant, Magic Karpet, Rob Stock, Giuseppi Zuliani, Andrew Hamlen, Michelle Tarkington, Tsiokeriio Brant, Emily Gurr, Meghan Gale, Justine Beauregard, Colin M. Smyth, Cree Tylee, Mandy Ryan, Meghan Didier, Donald S. Fitzgerald, Trent Denne, Elise Elena Verikaitis, Jessica Beaulieu, Nicole Bruce and Jamie Smerdon

For more information about any of the programs at HSTA, please call us at 1-866-353-6464 x3 or visit us online at www.hsta.ca

Jewellery Essentials at HSTA

December 9, 2011 § Leave a comment

A piece of jewellery is evidence of the creative process. It embodies the technology, the medium, and the artist’s message in a work that can be pinpointed in time and place. As for the craft, one simply has to visit  shows such as the One of a Kind, or check out a local studio tour to recognize that artisanal jewellery is one of the most successful and growing areas in craft today!

HSTA offers the Jewellery Essentials Certificate in the winter semester, where students are encouraged to explore personal style in conjunction with developing the skills and techniques to design, fabricate, and finish basic jewellery forms. The 15-week program is delivered in an intensive format, and is the equivalent to two semesters of full-time studies. Studies in design, drawing, and history for jewellers provide a strong foundation for exploring fabrication, chain making, surface decoration, casting, forming and stone setting. In this certificate, students will be exposed to, and analyze jewellery from different eras and cultures, and encouraged allow these influences to integrate into their own original studio work. Design principles will be integrated into course activity in order to help students explore the challenges of form and function.

Students will learn to use hand tools competently in order to design and construct basic jewellery forms. Through technical and exploratory exercises and practice students will develop skills in the use of the polishing machine, flex shaft, drill press and oxygen / propane torch system with which they will anneal, solder, decorate and finish their forms. There will be a special emphasis on the appropriate use of shop equipment and the health and safety procedures essential to work practices in the jewellery studio. Special attention will be paid to the appropriate use, handling, storage and disposal of chemicals.

This course will further develop and strengthen techniques used in Jewellery Fabrication I & II as well as introduce advanced techniques requiring greater skill and accuracy. Specifically, these include the use and function of hinges and skill in making tubing from sheet metal. Students will develop further understanding of metal and its working properties to apply to assignments and or projects.

Students in the Jewellery Essentials Certificate will work with sterling silver, copper and brass. The chemistry of metals will be addressed while learning about various methods and techniques. Development of technique, personal style and expression will be facilitated by individual and group critiques and keeping a studio journal.

For more information on the Glassblowing certificate and how you can apply for 2012, contact program coordinator Jennifer Bain , jbain@flemingc.on.ca or by calling 705-457-1680 or visiting here (hsta.ca – jewellery essentials) for more information.

In process…a plastic world!

September 12, 2011 § Leave a comment

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VCAD student Kelsey, with her volunteer cast and fellow VCAD Megan, gets to work on her large sculptural installation pieces for the Visual and Creative Arts program. Her process involves wrapping people and objects in a layer of seran wrap and then packing tape overtop and then cutting off the pieces, creating large-3-d shells…slightly reminiscent of  shed snake skin. Amazing to watch her process from production to installation!

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