Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Grace Knowlton: The Space Within

If you are a Hudson River Valley painter or have been a Hudson River Valley painter, then you probably know Grace Knowlton.  Grace is a veteran artist who has taught at the Artist Student League in Sparkill New York.  She is probably best known for her sphere sculptures.  This past week I emailed Grace and she invited me over for a studio visit.  What is so stunning and shocking about her studio is its location and integration with nature and local history.  She did not tell me when, but years ago she had purchased farmland in Palisades, New York. On this farm was a large farmhouse which she had sold and there were several small buildings that housed servants for the main house. Grace had turn these small houses into artist studios, and one by one she used them for her own studio, but then decided to rent them out to other artists. When I arrived at her house/studio there were three other people coming in and out when I arrived.  I was told that these other people are also artist and it is not clear to me, but I believe that they either live or work at the studios that Grace is renting out. The whole atmosphere have a feeling to it as though it was a retreat or an artist residency.  No doubt, at 80 years of age, Grace is living the life that I hope to be living someday.

Grace is an artist's artist.  She explores and examines whatever may be inspiring her or attracting her curiosity at that time.  She does not create art that is formulaic, that is repetitive, or that she has done previously.  As I browsed through the work at her studio (a minute percentage of her complete body of work), which ranged from decades of material, I began to see some familiar themes in her work that continues to interest her. The theme of the sphere has kept her busy for so many years because of her interest in the space within the shell.  When I asked her about why the sphere interests her so much she explained that her exploration in the sphere originated in making plastic molds of the interior of ready-made vessels.  Then she grew tired of the monotonous process and turned to making ceramic vessels.  Slowly but surely the vessels began closing their openings until they were completely sealed off and hollow and round.  Also, the figure (predominantly hands) is another theme that she frequents.  The use of texture in her work, photographic images, and loose painterly brush strokes and gestures are common characteristics throughout her work.  Most pieces have a fresh, almost unfinished appearance.  Grace seems to effortlessly move between mediums of ceramic, cement, painting, drawing, and photography with authentic interest and grace.  

The images below are from www.graceknowltonart.com

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