Friday, December 18, 2015

Aqua Art Miami 2015

Thank you to all of our Pele Prints fans who came out to see us in Miami. For those of you who couldn't make it, here are some highlights. Enjoy!

Laura Berman and Amanda Verbeck

Sarah Hinckley, Ben Guffee, Laura Berman, and Ben Pierce

Ken Wood

Ben Guffee and Brandon Anschultz

Mary O'Malley

Aqua courtyard

Our most unusual visitor

Monday, November 16, 2015


"To laugh is to risk being a fool.
To weep is to risk appearing sentimental.
To reach out to another is to risk involvement.
To express feelings is to risk exposing your true self.
To place your ideas, your dreams, before the crowd
Is to risk their loss. To love is to risk not being loved in return.
To live is to risk dying.
To hope is to risk despair.
To try is to risk failure.
The person who risks nothing,
Does nothing,
Has nothing and is nothing.
They may avoid suffering and sorrow,
But they simply cannot learn, feel, change, grow, love or live.
Risks must be taken because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.
Only a person who risks is free."
– Leo Buscaglia

I remember reading these words in a magazine for the first time when I was in college. They rang true to me then, and they still ring true to me now. They're even on my fridge at home. Whenever I feel overwhelmed, lost, doubtful, scared, or self-conscious, these words help ground me.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Hear Me Roar

I am a feminist. I believe that women and men are equal and should be treated as such. Period. 

So many of the negative connotations associated with the word "feminism" have developed out of fear. In reality, these fears are unfounded and only serve to hold all of us—men and women alike—back. While we have come a long way in the United States towards this equality, we haven't come far enough. It takes consistent and persistent effort to overcome the status quo.

With as forward-thinking and progressive as many artists are, it seems like we shouldn't need to discuss the inequality of the sexes in the art world. Unfortunately, this is far from the truth. Consider these numbers:

  • Women run 25% of art museums with budgets over $15 million
  • These female museum directors make $.71 for every $1 their male counterparts make
  •  30% of artists shown in NY and LA galleries are women

Maura Reilly's Art News article "Taking the Measure of Sexism: Facts, Figures, and Fixes" takes a closer look at the current state of women in the art world. The Guerrilla Girls, who started their crusade in 1985, are still opening eyes to this inequality. More recently, sites like Gallery Tally are holding galleries accountable for these numbers with an ongoing tally of female representation in the art world. And the New York Times took on the topic with a great article, "The 'F-Word' in the Art World," by Siri Hustvedt.

All of this said, the real problem is not just with the art world. It's a larger, systemic cultural problem. I believe the only way we can address this issue is head more excuses. Society needs to put more women in positions of power (politicians, CEOs, museum directors, etc.) to help make change possible. Parents need to raise their daughters to be unapologetic about insisting on equality and raise their sons to support and respect women as equals. And above all, women need to stand together.

Monday, October 12, 2015

So You Want To Be an Artist...

"There’s no diploma in the world that declares you as an artist—it’s not like becoming a doctor. You can declare yourself an artist and then figure out how to be an artist." – Kara Walker, from Art21 interview

Ad in Popular Mechanics, January 1950

There are some professions that you just have to love to is one of them. It's a tough road filled with hard work, self doubt, criticism, and, of course, little money. Many artists will tell you that they always knew that's what they wanted to be; others find their way to art along the way. Either way, I believe it's truly a labor of love.

As Kara Walker points out in the quote above, going to college for art is not requirement. In fact, there is growing public opinion that incurring large amounts of student loan debt might not be worth it for many students. But, in the end, is a personal decision that each individual must make for themselves. For the artists who do decide to get their degree, I encourage them to remember that they are getting a degree in visual problem solving, not just art. They are learning to see the world differently. This is the inherent value of an artist. Once they develop this skill, they can apply it to ANY job, career, or profession.

The odds of "making it" as a rock star artist are slim. So, the creativity of an artist has to extend beyond the studio. To sustain an art career, an artist has to be creative in how they approach their time and work...thinking outside the box and being willing to do peripheral work. For me this has meant being a good "juggler." Essentially, I juggle multiple facets of the art world: publishing prints, consulting, working as a visiting artist, teaching workshops, packing and shipping art, assisting other artists...the list goes on. The end goal is to keep my business up and running.

Each artist finds their own way. Whether they build a successful career as a studio artist or choose to work in an entirely different field outside of the arts, there is no right or wrong answer.

Monday, September 28, 2015

In the Studio

"Keep your shop and your shop will keep you." – Benjamin Franklin

Studios can be amazing and mysterious places. As an artist, sometimes it's hard to step back and see this creative space with fresh, non-artist eyes. There are two great opportunities in St. Louis right now to get a glimpse into the workings of an artist's studio. The Saint Louis Art Museum has a wonderful exhibition titled The Artist and the Modern Studio that highlights "works that reflect the remarkably diverse approaches to representing the studio environment and the activities that take place there." The exhibit is up until January 3, 2016. And coming up the first weekend in October, the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis is holding their tenth annual Open Studios event. Over 170 local artists will open their studios to visitors, giving the public a unique opportunity to meet artists and see where they work.

In the spirit of opening up the studio, I wanted to share a few images of artists working at Pele Prints:

Benjamin Guffee

Ken Wood

Mary O'Malley

Benjamin Pierce

Jessie Van der Laan

If you're interested in seeing more studios, here are a few links to explore:

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Lambert Art of Travel Print Anniversary

A year ago at Pele Prints, we were busy putting the final touches on our prints for the Lambert International Airport Art of Travel event. If you didn't hear about this great project at the time, let's fill you in!

As part of the airport renovation, old copper roof tiles were given to three local printshops (including Pele Prints) for inspiration to create an edition of prints. Sales of the prints helped support the Art & Culture program at Lambert. We made a series of whimsical folded paper airplanes, printed with flight paths and airport codes. The process of making the prints was documented with photos and descriptions on the flySTLprints blog, so be sure to check out the details there.

More details about the project can also be found here:
- STL Magazine, "Local Printmakers Create Work Using Old Copper Roof Tiles"
- Stuck at the Airport, "Art Made from the Roof of Lambert"
- Fox 2, "Lambert Airport's old copper roof salvaged, turned into art prints"

This year's Art of Travel event features jewelry artists who have also used the copper roof tiles for their creations. The annual party is coming up on October 1 from 6-9p, and you can purchase tickets here.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

What Is Art?

What is art? I’ve made art for as long as I can remember. I’ve been a professional artist for over 15 years. I’ve worked at several studios in the St. Louis area, and I now run my own collaborative art studio, Pele Prints. As an artist, the question “What is art?” is one that I deal with both directly and indirectly every day.

Recently, a friend of mine (who I respect and admire) posted a photo from her visit to the new wing of the Saint Louis Art Museum on Facebook. The photo was of Dan Flavin’s Untitled piece from the 1960s, consisting of three fluorescent light bulbs projecting blue, pink, and yellow light onto the surrounding walls. Her comment was “This is art??? Seriously???”.

Dan Flavin, Untitled, Saint Louis Art Museum

This is not an unusual reaction to contemporary art. Along with this sentiment, another common statement is some variation of “My kid could make that” or “I could have done that”…to which my response is usually, “But you didn’t.” While I understand the confusion that a viewer may experience when looking at contemporary art, it IS still art. This leads us back to the original question, what is art?

Wikipedia defines art as “a diverse range of human activities and the products of those activities, usually involving imaginative or technical skill”. Fundamentally, I would say art is a form of communication between the artist and the viewer. To understand more about what art is, it’s helpful to look at what it is not.

Art is not just that which we like, define as “good”, or find beautiful. Art is not strictly a creation displaying technical proficiency or realism. In The Republic, the Greek philosopher Plato wrote about a conversation between his brother and Socrates concerning art:
[Socrates:] Which is the art of painting designed to be—an imitation of things as they are, or as they appear—of appearance or of reality?
[Glaucon:] Of appearance.
[Socrates:] Then the imitator…is a long way off the truth…
Socrates is saying that the fundamental nature—or reality—of something is not always obvious in its physical appearance. A perfect, detailed painting of a flower does not necessarily capture the true essence of that flower. When Socrates asks whether a painting should be a representation of how something appears in person or if it should express something as it truly is, he understands that these are not one and the same. However, many people believe art should be a representation of something they recognize from the world around them. Along with this is the implication that an artist is simply a technician who has the hand-eye coordination to replicate an image. This is one of the roadblocks to contemporary art being more widely accepted. When someone sees an abstract or minimalist piece of art, it’s easy to pass judgment and think that it’s not art or that it required no skill on the part of the artist. This is far from true. The value of a contemporary artist is that they see the world differently than most people. Many contemporary artists explore an idea or concept that is precisely Socrates’ version of “truth”.

Taking this a step further, art does not even have to be something made by the artist’s own hand. A great example of this comes from Marcel Duchamp. In 1917, using the pseudonym R. Mutt, he submitted a store-bought urinal titled Fountain to an art exhibition. In response to people’s opinion of the validity of this as art, Duchamp said:
“Whether Mr. Mutt with his own hands made the fountain or not has no importance. He chose it. He took an ordinary article of life, placed it so that its useful significance disappeared under a new title and point of view (and) created a new thought for the object.”
In this case, art is about helping us to see the world through new eyes. The whole point of the piece is to make us think, not to celebrate the technical prowess of the artist.

R. Mutt, Fountain, 1917

This brings us back to the Facebook post from my friend. My reply to her is that the role of an artist is not to make art that we like, and the mission of an art museum is not to make us comfortable. As a society, we do ourselves a disservice if we are dismissive of art we do not like or do not understand. Our experience, judgment, and opinion of art are completely separate from the question of “Is this art?”. In the end, art is what the artist presents as art.