Exhibit Information and Select Images:
Animals–mostly birds but other critters too–have taken up residence in my art for many years. I didn’t exactly invite them. Like squirrels drawn to my bird feeder, I don’t recall intending to focus on critters but they have been drawn into my art. And yet I did put up the feeder, and I did create these images, and so of course I invited them. Birds, frogs, cats, cicadas, squirrels and other critters are with us in life and so too in my art. In Steamed (2011), a squirrel chatters noisily like so many colicky babies (or whistling teakettles), clamoring for attention. In Stir (2010), birds with human legs spring forth to dance or fly. And in Composition With Goose (2009), a calm cat and a very wound-up goose hold forth and argue.
But more recently, in the past half-year or so, I’ve changed a little. I am thinking more intentionally about critters, my relationship to them, and the impact of human activity and climate change on them. I think of my pictures as a stage and the animals and people in them as characters playing a part. But instead of using birds or squirrels to tell stories that are really about people, the critters I’m drawing now are playing the part of themselves and are part of the story. In Frog, My Friend, for example, a frog, a casualty of the South Lawrence Trafficway, is carried off by “Death.” Or maybe the frog is our pet frog that died because we just couldn’t take care of him right. Either way, the frog in this story is a frog. In Run!, a Prairie Chicken plays its own part, too, on the run from Death due to habitat destruction and Kansas politics. In Passenger Pigeon: Abstract Memory, a cloud of extinct Passenger Pigeons becomes abstract and fades from memory. In Robin, Been and Gone, a robin is depicted along with several robin-silhouettes, symbolizing presence and absence, a reminder of what pesticides can do to birds. These are of course my images for my very human purposes, too. But I hope that by thinking more about the role of animals in my work, I can remind viewers that we have a relationship with animals, and that this relationship is fragile.
Making work about the negative impact of humans on critters is a new direction in my art, the beginning of a
larger body of work. I was moved to think more about animals in the broadest sense of the word after reading Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction. Her book includes story after story of scientists worldwide documenting the process of animals becoming extinct because of human-caused global warming. Animals are leaving us now, and they are never coming back.
In my new work I am guided too by collaborating with my composer-friend Lynn Gumert, of Hightstown, NJ. Lynn and I have talked on the phone and we have exchanged emails, images, and sound. We are working together on loosely-related themes in our work, themes that include the impact of climate change on weather, animals, and us. Lynn is working on a series of related short saxophone quartet pieces, and eventually our work will be presented together. Her first notes to me depicted a river. Building on her compositions I am also playing with images of saxophones and literally drawing their “sound,” as in River Song. In this piece, a Mourning Dove plays a saxophone-river. This, too, is another experiment in visual storytelling.
Better Angels, Deer, and a Boat
These images pay homage to this beautiful and troubled world through dreamlike scenes and personal symbols that include children and deer, a wind chime microburst, tough-looking “better angels,” screaming babies and tranquil paper boats. In this exhibit of mixed-media collages, mosaics, and scratchboard drawings, I express my affection for everyday life while at the same time depict a bit of turbulance too, because the storms they are a-comin — if they aren’t already here.
2012 “Better Angels, Deer, and a Boat,” Do’s Deluxe, Lawrence, KS
Linked in Spirit
Linked in Spirit is a visual commentary on multilayered experiences, from the surprise of cracking open a two-yolked egg (industry destroys two-yolkers), to the trouble of trudging into a strong headwind (or maybe a strong-headed political wind), to the emotional flood of laughing to the point of crying (or maybe it’s the other way around). Please see my artist statement for additional information about this exhibit which included scratchboard drawings, mixed-media collages, and mosaics.
2011 “Lora Jost at Wheatfields,” Wheatfields Bakery, Lawrence, Kansas
2010 “Linked in Spirit: An Exhibition of Mixed-media Collage, Claybaord Drawing, and Mosaic,” Yost Art Gallery, Highland, Kansas
2010 “Linked in Spirit: An Exhibition of Mixed-media Collage, Claybaord Drawing, and Mosaic,” Percolator Gallery, Lawrence, Kansas
2010 “Linked in Spirit: An Exhibition of Mixed-media Collage, Claybaord Drawing, and Mosaic,” Fine Arts Center Gallery, Bethel College, North Newton, Kansas
Two Mothers, Two Sons
Two Mothers, Two Sons, at the Lawrence Public Library (April 2007) included the work of two artists, Lora Jost and Sara Stalling, and their sons Nicholai (then 5) and Maya (then 6). (See Lawrence Journal World article)
Lora Jost writes: “I enjoy making art about experiences that move me, be they mundane, whimsical, or socially urgent. How can one not be moved by the everyday, sometimes dull but never predictable world of parenting? The work I show here is based, in part, on life with my family, from the odd experience of standing together at night in the light of a search helicopter, to watching my husband and son tend a burn pile, to the process of sketching my son while he plays and draws.
I love to watch him draw, and making art together, an ever-evolving process, is a great joy. Nicholai likes to try out the tools that I work with; he experiments with new ways of shaping and placing expressive marks. Often when we make art together, we each do our own thing yet share the quiet moment. Nicholai also enjoys drawing with his dad, and their drawings show an interplay of ideas and imagery shared from their playing together.”
Sara Stalling writes: “I am an art teacher, a student of art therapy, a mother of one, and an artist at heart. I believe that the making of art has a profound way of describing through image what most of us feel but cannot quite explain. My art is about emotion, that invisible but palpable force in our lives that asks us to look deeper into ourselves in order to see what we need and want from our living. Maya Spitzer, my son, is six years old and loves art. It is and has been a blessing to watch him make his art. He has reminded me that for a tender time in our lives we are able to create without the restraints of self criticism, a fleeting time where we are free to let the line be a line and a space be the whole, without the fear of failing or the thought of a “product,” a time where we are free to simply enjoy our ability to create.”
2007 “Two Mothers, Two Sons,” Gallery, Lawrence Public Library, Lawrence, Kansas (this project includes art by Lora Jost and Sara Stalling and their sons Nicholai Jost-Epp (then age 5) and Maya Spitzer (then age 6))
The Experience of Farmers
The “Experience of Farmers” was an art project that used pictures and words to explore the experiences of farmers at a difficult time – from 1999 to 2000. The project developed out of concerns about the farm crisis at that time, and how the crisis was affecting farm families, rural communities, and the broader society. Low commodity prices were squeezing many independent farmers out of farming, and this project explored the joys and struggles of farmers, and what society loses when independent farmers lose their livelihood.
From July of 1999 and into 2000, I interviewed and tape-recorded the voices of forty-two farmers, farm family members, and farmer advocates for this project. Quotes transcribed from the interviews were included directly in the artwork, or on text panels beside the artwork. Themes in the project included experiences of the countryside, the joys of farming, the farm family, the experience of drought, the beauty of rural Kansas, the perseverance of farmers, discrimination against black farmers, the erasure of independent business and agriculture, and the effects of corporate mergers and multinational corporations on rural communities.
In my artwork I enjoyed creating rich surface textures, careful compositions, and fanciful images to capture moments in the stories — from mundane to whimsical to socially urgent. To make the black and white drawings I used an art material called clayboard (or scratchboard). This material includes a thin layer of white clay covered with black ink, affixed to a Masonite surface. I scratched off the ink with a sharp tool to create white lines, cross-hatching, and textures. The collages I made included a combination of materials such as photos, magazine pictures, embroidery thread, cloth, and paint.
Collaboration with farmers and organizations was a fundamental part of “The Experience of Farmers.” I collaborated with eight Lutheran churches from Kansas – from Belleville, Beloit, Concordia, Courtland, Glasco, Mankato, Norway, and Scandia. The churches, through the City of Glasco (coordinated by Joan Nothern), provided matching funds for a Grassroots Grant from the Kansas Arts Commission to fund interviews with farmers from each church. The churches were interested in this project as an outreach project offering farmers a chance to talk about their concerns in a way that would reach an audience beyond their local communities. I was also granted a month-long residency at the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center in Minnesota to interview area farmers and work on the project. Jerry Jost of the Kansas Rural Center, and friends and family, assisted in locating farmers for interviews north of Lawrence and in the Newton, Kansas, and in Nebraska.
“The Experience of Farmers” has been exhibited in libraries, coffee shops, peace centers, galleries, conferences, the state capitol, and other spaces in Topeka, Lawrence, Newton, Concordia, and Kansas City, Kansas, and in Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Winnipeg, Manitoba.
2003 “The Experience of Farmers,” Heritage Museum, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada(this project includes artwork based on interviews with farmers about their experiences)
2002 “The Experience of Farmers,” Gallery of Rural Art, The National Agriculture Center and Hall of Fame, Bonner Springs, Kansas
2002 “The Experience of Farmers,” Babcock Hall, Lawrence, Kansas
2002 “The Experience of Farmers,” Mattie Rhodes Art Gallery, Kansas City, Missouri
2001 “The Experience of Farmers,” Z’s Divine Expresso on 23rd, Lawrence, Kansas
2001 “The Experience of Farmers,” Lawrence Public Library, auditorium, Lawrence, Kansas
2001 “The Experience of Farmers,” Peace Connections, Newton, Kansas
2001 “The Experience of Farmers,” Frank Carlson Library, Concordia, Kansas
2001 “The Experience of Farmers,” Lutheran Synod Meeting, Marriott Hotel, Kansas City, Missouri (day-long exhibit)
2001 “The Experience of Farmers,” auditorium, Cloud County Community College, Concordia, Kansas (day-long exhibit)
2001 “The Experience of Farmers,” “Downtown Development Day,” State Capital, Topeka, Kansas (day-long exhibit)
2000 “The Experience of Farmers: A Work in Progress,” Sycamore House Gallery, Harrisonburg, Virginia
Weathering the Storm: Stories of Perseverance
Weathering the Storm, exhibited at the Lawrence Arts Center, is based on stories about perseverance in the face of obstacles among a group of my friends and relatives. The works, which utilize painting, scratchboard, and collage, evoke specific moments from stories told to me as well as my own experiences — sometimes ordinary, sometimes comic, sometimes horrific.
My theme evolved after I asked friends to talk with me about what “perseverance” means to them, and to think of a perseverance-related story that they would be willing to share with me. I was intrigued to hear stories ranging from serious illness to physical endurance to boring jobs. Through this process, I began to understand perseverance as a process of carrying on, including through experiences such as pain, embarrassment, danger, and the passage of time.
Several friends with serious illnesses were the first to respond to my query. One friend sent me poems that she had written after surviving ten years with brain cancer and receiving radiation treatments which left her weakened and ill. Friends suffering from Endometriosis and Multiple Sclerosis described the importance of reaching out to others in need as their way of dealing with repeat episodes of pain or the loss of muscle functioning. From these stories I created visual interpretations which reflect the difficulties and the satisfactions of the struggle for survival.
In some cases the stories are light, such as experiences persevering through unpleasant or boring jobs, including mine as a “dog bather”, or my brother’s job one hot summer in Newton, Kansas. This tidbit, included as text, relates part of his experience: “He worked at a miniature golf course during an extremely not summer. No one ever came to play. It was the summer of the movie Urban Cowboy, and the sound system played songs from the movie over and over again…”
Another piece features the figure of a woman who wears a coal minor’s hat with a candle flame for illuminating the darkness. I have used similar figures in other drawings as a metaphor for one who leads or shows the way. In my drawing Wage Rage, I call this figure “Labor Girl.” She represents the spirit of a labor organizer who rallies women who are temporary workers to persevere against exploitation.
Other works in this exhibit evoke interconnectedness between people, showing the passage through “stormy weather” as a process in which friends, family, and sometimes an entire community can be involved. In an effort to make this metaphor concrete, I asked that individuals who visit the exhibit bring an object or article of clothing that might help someone weather a literal storm (hats, coats, socks, boots, umbrellas). I incorporated these objects into the art installation and then donated them for use in the Lawrence community.
1999 “Weathering the Storm: Stories of Perseverance,” Hartzler Library Gallery, Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg, Virginia (this project includes stories about perseverance gathered from friends and family, and the collection and display of coats or other goods from people in need)
1998 “Weathering the Storm: Stories of Perseverance,” Historical Building, Glasco, Kansas
1998 “Weathering the Storm: Stories of Perseverance,” Raymond Eastwood Gallery, Lawrence Art Center, Lawrence, Kansas
Meetings and Other Mysteries
Many of the pieces in this show are in one way or another about meetings. The collages represent entertaining and emotionally charged moments, both real and imagined, that might occur during conversations, gatherings, meetings, and other kinds of human encounters. I hope that these collages as a group, reveal the difficulty and delight of human interaction and communication, and celebrate the mundane, whimsical, and urgent meetings of everyday life.
In the exhibit viewers eavesdrop with their eyes on a variety of stories and situations, among them a funeral, several conversations with Amtrak passengers, friends looking for geodes, board meetings, a hypnotist’s show, a phone conversation about police brutality, and more. I enjoyed looking at these collages as I made them and discovering the thematic relationships between them. I chose to arrange some of the collages in small groupings in the exhibit to reveal their interrelated stories and visual connections.
In addition my work on meetings, some of the pieces exhibited are simply experiments that lie beyond this theme. Because the art in this show is both unified and disparate, I have provided some additional text beside some of the work that provides context and insights. I hope you will enjoy the descriptions as well as the art.
1997 “Meetings and Other Mysteries: Selections,” Wheatfields Bakery and Cafe, Lawrence, Kansas
1997 “Meetings and Other Mysteries,” Fine Arts Center Gallery, Bethel College, North Newton, Kansas
1996 “Meetings,” Home Office, Inc., Bloomington, Indiana
1996 “Meetings,” Rosemary Miller Gallery, John Waldron Art Center, Bloomington, Indiana
From exhibits prior to 1996: