Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Visiting Artist in the "Flint Plains" at Kansas State University

Only now am I coming down from my experience as a visiting artist at Kansas State University last week! What a wonderful time I had with the students from the art department. During my presentation there were students from the sculpture, painting, ceramic, and also drawings departments.

I detailed the course of my career with slides from the past 40 years of work, highlighting the epiphanies that altered the direction of my work each time, including my encounter with one of Mark di Suvero's sculptures, my apprenticeship with English millwright Jim Davies, and a symposium in the Republic of Georgia. As I listened to myself talk, I was excited to think of the vast opportunities that are available to students today.

My friend, Dan Hunt, the department head in sculpture, took extremely good care of me while at Kansas State. As we walked the campus I couldn't help but be very impressed with the architecture and building materials. It seems as if the entire campus has been constructed of indigenous limestone from the plains. It was wonderful! Dan also told me of some of the history of area. He said that at one time this land supported the largest buffalo herd in the world. It as also home to many Indian tribes, as evidenced from Dan's massive collection of arrowheads and ancient stone tools that he often discovers in his walks in the area. The geography of this region lent itself to flint and dense field stones that were perfect for making both agricultural tools as well as hunting tips for spears and arrows, and thus the name "flint plains".

All in all it was a fantastic week! The students gave as much energy as they took. I feel energized and am very happy to be back home and working again in the studio.

These are some of the buildings on KState's campus, including a new museum!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Talk About Blue!

I've often heard about the term "Winter Blues" but never really understood what it meant. Well finally, with the temperatures hovering around zero for the last few days, on the heels of the largest snowfall in Chicago's history I am TOTALLY aware of what "Winter Blues" are all about.
Rising above the 30+ inches of snow on the ground is my sculpture "Leap of Faith", this year's entry in the Lake Shore Exhibit sponsored by Alderman Vi Daley and Tom Tunney. The sculpture sits across from the Lincoln Park Zoo in a site called Granny's Garden (at Stockton Drive and Webster). I fear that with this cold and the amount of snow on the ground that when we begin to set up this years LSE exhibition there is still going to be some remnant of this snow in MAY!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

About a month ago I was contacted by the Kellogg School of Management about a sculpture I placed at the Allen Center over 25 years ago! The caller said that in mid-Janurary the collection was going to be appraised.
I was asked to come and retrieve my sculpture, "Charting Your Course", from the Northwestern campus, give it a cosmetic touch up and return it prior to the appraisal.
Twenty five years is a long time! I distinctly remember placing the sculpture in the cafeteria with the aid of a gantry and some hefty friends. The sculpture is made of a granite column 8 feet long and a large ring of cedar. I "broke" the column into two pieces and inlaid them both in the wood at an angle. I welded a truncated steel brace that received one end of the granite and stood it up. I remember how excited I was at the time using this kind of weight and having it cantilever out into space. The sculpture stands over 9 feet tall and weighs 1200 pounds.
"No problem" was my reply, I'll be there soon to see exactly what will be involved.  Upon my arrival at the Allen Center I was surprised to find the sculpture had been moved! It now sat on the second floor, all 1200 pounds of it. I inquired how this move was accomplished, and where the nearest elevators were. The response I received was not encouraging. No one remembers just how the sculpture made the journey to the second floor. And what made it worse, the elevators were too small to accommodate the sculpture.
"Charting Your Course" mid-repair at the Studios
After taking a close look at the wooden element I decided that not only did it need to be refinished (as in a new coat of varnish) but that some of the wood had begun to deteriorate. I didn't have the vendors 25 years ago that I do now and apparently I used whatever I could get my hands on. So some of the wood had to be replaced. Getting it out off the second floor presented the biggest challenge. I enlisted my friend Ron Gard to help me with this, and together we dismantled the work and removed it in two sections.

The repairs were simple and very direct, take out the bad and put in the new. I had a wonderful time reacquainting myself with a sculpture that I hadn't seen in a very long time. I first considered making a totally new ring of wood but decided against that approach because I would be taking away the history of the sculpture and opted to relaminate and inlay new wood where needed.

Now the task was to get the rejuvenated sculpture back to the second floor in one piece. My only option was to use the "Egyptian method". That meant gather as many friends and body builders that I could muster. By the end of the week I had eight able-bodied friends that were willing to risk their lives to help me install "Charting Your Course" back on the second floor. Saturday morning 9AM we arrived on campus to do the installation. No one had told me that there was a major seminar going on at the Allen Center that day! We provided the entertainment for the day. The sounds of 8 grown men lifting 1200# up a flight of stairs made for good theater.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Receipant of The Helen and Tim Meier Mid Career Artists Acheivement Award

On Wednesday I was honored to host Helen and Tim Meier along with Michele Smith once again to my studio. This time they came to present me with an award that their foundation started several years ago. It is a  recognition award given to "mid career" artists who have been working for years and have maintained the pursuit of their aesthetic. I am ecstatic about this honor! I feel ten years younger! This is comparable to the booster shot we received as children. I don't know what it did but boy I sure felt it! And this award feels great. It's an affirmation of my dedication to going to the studio to discover the unknown all the while leaving visual markings of that path. I am both humbled and honored.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Week out of the Studio and What a week it was!

All last week I was out of the studio. I was in Millennium Park starting at 8AM dismantling the Chinese Sculpture exhibition that were in the Boeing Galleries both north and South. It wasn't difficult work but it was strenous, as we climbed the sculptures to rig them so that Donny from Chicago Crane could lift the sections of the sculptures off and place them in a secure place to await the shipping containers.
It's always fun working with Donny and Ted Garner. I always seem to learn a little something from each experience working with these guys.
The absolute highlight of the week, however was that Ted and I were recruited by the Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park to re-sling "Yes. For Lady Day" a sculpture by Mark diSuvero. This sculpture is in my opinion the single most improtant sculpture created in the later half of the 20th century. Working on this work is comparable to the Louvre asking a painter to "touch up" the Mona Lisa!! To say the least I was thrilled and honored to work on her. The dramatic wind storms of October coupled with the age of the wire rope were enough to abrade one the slings and comprimised the sculpture. Ted took measurements and had a new sling made and with the help of Chicago Crane we had "Yes, For Lady Day" swaying in the breese in short order.
Just a little note that it was Mark diSuvero who was responsible for me becoming a sculptor in the first place. More on that later!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Solar Kiln Weekend

Boyan and I working on the west wall

WE built a solar kiln to dry wood that we get from our friend Ken Anderson. The storms this summer have provided us with ample material to use in creative ways. This kiln will allow us to dry the freshly cut timber in 8 weeks when normally it would take two years!!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Sad Day at Karpowicz Studios

Yesterday the 3rd of August was my assistant, Sachiyo Yosheda's last day working for me. She will be returning to Japan on the 25th of August (I guess she didn't want me to mess up her nails in the next three weeks). So as a going away treat I took her to the CUBS game last night!! It was her very first professional sporting event. I think she had a wonderful time even though the Cubs lost to Milwaukee 4 to 3.