12
Apr
14

Mixed Media Art on a Stick!

The annual West Liberty University MAD Fest was held on Friday, April 11, with Professor James Haizlett orchestrating the event. Each year I am asked to teach a mixed-media workshop that is geared towards high school art students and their teachers. For the past two years I presented an altered photograph workshop based on the work of artist Alex Gross. I had seen Alex’s exhibition at the Jonathan Levine Gallery in NYC in the spring of 2012, which inspired the direction of my workshop.

This year I wanted to change things a bit,  just in case one of the visiting students might be returning to my workshop for a second year. Last fall I saw the work of artist Tom Sarver in the 2013 Carnegie International. By chance, my wife, Chris, and I got to meet Tom at the recent Out of Hand event at Contemporary Craft in Pittsburgh. He was there helping event visitors to make their own puppet, and I enjoyed making one myself.

It was about a week before MAD Fest and I still was not sure what I would present. At this point I am just listed in the MAD program as Robert Villamagna: Mixed Media Workshop. My experience with Tom Sarver at Contemporary Craft got me thinking about creating a one hour mixed-media workshop using a stick as the primary vehicle for the artwork.

The "Mixed-Media Art on a Stick" examples I made for the workshop.

The “Mixed-Media Art on a Stick” examples I made for the workshop.

I made a few puppet-like mixed-media examples earlier in the week to hopefully inspire my workshop students. From left to right: The first guy made up of a deconstructed shipping carton, a foamcore head, Sharpie, and miscellaneous scraps, arms are attached with nuts and bolts; the deer head is a piece of plywood, with plastic bread shelving cut into the shape of antlers, acrylic paint, nails, and Sharpie; the skeleton head is foam core with black mat board scrap for eyes, etc., his body and is cut from a plastic beach bottle, arms attached with a rivet tool; and meat head man is a photo copy of meat on foam core, his body is black mat board scraps, arms are attached with nuts and bolts.

My two workshops were scheduled begin at 1 PM and 2 PM. Early that morning I spent about four hours preparing the studio with labeled bins of sticks (wood lathe), cardboard scraps, cloth scraps, plastic detergent bottle pieces, plastic caps, colored and textured paper, etc. I set up a hot glue station with several glue guns, as well as a station for drilling and riveting. I was able to offer a huge assortment of colored and textured mat samples which a student of mine intercepted from the Micheal’s craft store dumpster. (Thanks Amanda!) At each table I had scissors, Tacky Glue, and an assortment of Sharpies. Due to the limited timeframe, I decided at the last minute not offer paint as an option. Even with a hair dryer on hand, paint takes time to dry and with only fifty minutes to work I felt it better to leave paint out of the equation.

Overall, I felt the students were energized, creative, and having a good time. About fifteen minutes into each workshop the studio became a beehive of activity. A special thank you to my WLU student assistants: Kevin, Jessica, and Alex! Here are some photos from my back-to-back workshops:

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04
Apr
14

NYC Art Trip 2014

 

On the Highline!

On the Highline!

On March 19th I made my 16th trip to NYC with students and faculty from the art department at West Liberty University. I was joined by faculty members Lambros Tsuhlares and Moon Jung Kang, and nine students: Brady, Abbie, Ryan, Lucas, Emma, Hanna, Josh, Richard, and Dillon. This is the second year without our buddy, colleague, and professor, Paul Padgett. He was truly with us in spirit.

The main purpose of the annual trip is to experience as much art as possible in four days, and pack it in we did! We were blessed with a safe road trip and a several days of sunshine and moderate temperatures. We arrived at our hotel around five pm, and following a short break we headed to the Garment District to visit the studio of photographer Rick Burda. Rick, a still life photographer, creates images for advertising, design and editorial clients. Rick kindly spent about two hours with us discussing his work.

Nearby Rick’s studio we stumbled upon the Last Rites Gallery, which exhibits work by artists who prefer to explore the darker side of contemporary surrealism. The gallery shares space with Paul Booth’s Last Rites Tattoo Theatre. This combination makes for a very unique gallery experience.

At Last Rites Gallery.

At Last Rites Gallery.

The remainder of our evening included a stop at Times Square and then on to the fabulous Strand Book Store. The entire second floor of the Strand is devoted to books on art, design, and photography. It’s difficult to leave the Strand without finding something to take back home.

Early Thursday morning we walked the Highline Park, a linear park built on a 1.45-mile section of the elevated former New York Central Railroad spur called the West Side Line, which runs along the lower west side of Manhattan. This structure has been redesigned and planted as an aerial greenway, something I always thought would be an awesome purpose for the Bellaire Bridge that spans across the Ohio River.

Cynthia Haller at Stephen Haller Gallery in Chelsea.

Cynthia Haller at Stephen Haller Gallery in Chelsea.

The Highline Park threads it’s way above the Chelsea neighborhood, which has the highest concentration of art galleries in the city. Many of the galleries begin opening at 10 AM, and we spend most of our day visiting as many as we can. While visiting the Stephen Haller Gallery, co-owner Cynthia Haller gave us a “behind the scenes” tour of the gallery and some additional insight into the work of artist Nobu Fukui.  At around 4 PM we leave the Chelsea galleries and head to OK Harris Gallery in Soho. OK Harris usually has six to seven exhibitions going on at any one time, and the work within rarely disappoints. Later that evening we visited the New Museum which is only a few blocks from our hotel.

Remembering the Padge at Strawberry Fields in Central Park.

Remembering the Padge at Strawberry Fields in Central Park.

Friday morning we joined the rush hour mob on the subway as we headed up to Central Park. Our first stop was Strawberry Fields where we took a few moments to remember Paul Padgett, aka Prof. PP. We grabbed another train to 96th Street and walked westward across the park to the Museum of the City of New York. Here we viewed the exhibition City as Canvas: Graffiti Art from the Martin Wong Collection.

Martin Wong, an East Village artist and collector of graffiti art, amassed a treasure trove of hundreds of works on paper and canvas—in aerosol, ink, and other mediums. The artists, including Keith Haring, Lee Quiñones, LADY PINK, and FUTURA 2000, were seminal figures in an artistic movement that spawned a worldwide phenomenon, altering music, fashion, and popular visual culture. The exhibition  includes over 150 works on canvas and other media, along with photographs of graffiti writing long erased from subways and buildings.

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A second exhibition within this museum was Rising Waters, Presented to mark the one-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, Rising Waters draws on work submitted by over a thousand photographers, both professional and amateur, who responded to an open call for images in the storm’s wake. The juried exhibition features striking before-and-after images of the hurricane’s impact on the New York region, including preparations, the storm’s destructive effects, and the ongoing rebuilding efforts.

After lunch we were off the Whitney Museum of American Art, mainly to see the Whitney Biennial 2014, the show I love to hate. This Biennial will be the last to take place in the Whitney Museum of American Art’s building at 945 Madison Avenue at 75th Street before the Museum moves downtown to its new building in the spring of 2015. This is the 77th in the Museum’s ongoing series of Annuals and Biennials begun in 1932 by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. While there were a few pieces in the Biennial I was able to connect with, most of the exhibition left me shaking my head and feeling that too much of it was dull and lifeless.

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Now it was on to the MOMA where we fought the heavy “free night” crowd. Overall, students were pumped about seeing so many heavy-hitter artworks close up and in person. We gave the MOMA thunbs up as we headed to a Vietnamese restaurant for dinner, a great wrap up to an art-packed day!

Saturday has come to be referred to as “do-what-you-want” day on our annual trip. Students and faculty broke off into small groups, each heading off to various adventures throughout the city. Lambros and I, along with a few students, walked across the Manhattan Bridge over to Dumbo in Brooklyn. Dumbo, an acronym for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, is a Brooklyn neighborhood tucked between the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges. Tradition is to begin our Dumbo morning at Jacques Torres for a rich hot chocolate or mocha, and then onto several galleries and book stores. As luck would have it, many of the galleries were not open or between exhibitions. In addition, Powerhouse Arena, one of our book stops, had a clothing show event and there were no books to be had. Bummer!

On the Manhattan Bridge.

On the Manhattan Bridge.

After a super grilled cheese sandwich at Little Muenster, Lambros and I caught the train back across the East River to our hotel. We decided to check out a Red Grooms installation in a gallery on Bowery, and we discovered six more galleries in the neighborhood. This was a pleasant way to spend our last evening in NYC before heading back to WV in the morning. It was another great art trip to NYC, and with a four day window of good weather! Here are some more images from our visit:

 

27
Jan
14

The Dog Show

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This past week the Nutting Gallery at West Liberty University opened the annual Art Faculty Exhibition. This exhibition is one I have always felt privileged to be a part of ever since I began teaching at WLU. This year’s exhibition runs January 22 through February 13, 2014. Art faculty members exhibiting are Sarah Davis, Brian Fencl, James Haizlett, Martyna Matusiak, Moon Jung Kang, Nancy Tirone, Lambros Tsuhlares, Neal Warren, and myself, Robert Villamagna.
Each year the Art Faculty Exhibition features a theme and this year the art faculty selected the theme of “dogs”. The dictionary defines dog as a domesticated carnivorous mammal that typically has a long snout, an acute sense of smell, and a barking, howling, or whining voice. The works in The Dog Show cover a wide range of media including drawing, painting, mixed media, digital, construction, printmaking, photography, and installation. The art faculty worked their fingers to the bone in preparing for this exhibition, and it has proven to be a doggone good show that is worth barking about.
Having a new theme for the exhibition each year does a number of things. It brings a freshness to the annual exhibition, it challenges the members of the art faculty, and it shows students how a diverse group of artists each approach a single problem or idea, each in their own unique way and in a variety of media. Below, I have attached a series of photographs of the exhibition and opening reception. For additional information about The Dog Show or other exhibitions at the Nutting Gallery, you may contact me, Robert Villamagna at 304-336-8370 or at rvillama@westliberty.edu

15
Dec
13

Remembering the Padge

West Liberty University held it’s fall 2013 commencement ceremony yesterday, and as I sat in the auditorium, I could not help but reflect on my friend and colleague, Robert “Paul” Padgett. As many of you know, Paul, aka “the Padge”, passed away this past October. As the year comes to a close I want to share with you the Padge I knew through a short album of photos.

The Padge

The Padge

Padge in Dumbo. He loved NYC, and we made fifteen trips there with WLU students.

Padge in Dumbo. He loved NYC, and we made fifteen trips there with WLU students. Also in this photo are WLU Professors James Haizlett and Lambros Tsuhlares.

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Padge and I in front of the the Washing Square Hotel, NYC. I had just found a sign and a stretched canvas in the trash. Padge would encourage my obsession of picking up other peoples discards, and then would joke with me about it later. “What’s Chris going to say when you bring that home?” he would always ask.

Padge on the subway, always an observer of life.

Padge on the subway, always an observer of life.

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Our trips to NYC always began with Padge having his morning coffee. I took this with a Polaroid as we were pulling out of McDonalds.

This was the second WLU Art Faculty Exhibition that I was a part of. I was always by Padge's creativity and sense of design. Padge created the floor installation which he titled "Nesting Penquins".

This was the second WLU Art Faculty Exhibition that I was a part of. I was always amazed by Padge’s creativity and sense of design. Padge created the floor installation which he titled “Nesting Penguins”. This is several years before the gallery was renovated.

A closer look at "Nesting Penguins". Padge and I pulled the band hats out of the dumpster behind the Hall of Fine Arts. Those are eggs on the top of each hat.

A closer look at “Nesting Penguins”. Padge and I pulled the band hats out of the dumpster behind the Hall of Fine Arts. Those are eggs on the top of each hat.

I probably had few dozen exhibition openings of my own work during the time I knew Padge, and I believe he attended every one. Here we are at my opening of "I've Seen You Naked" at Penn Gallery in Pittsburgh, along with artist and friend Howard Lieberman.

I probably had few dozen exhibition openings of my own work during the time I knew Padge, and I believe he attended every one. Here we are at my opening of “I’ve Seen You Naked” at Penn Gallery in Pittsburgh, along with artist and friend Howard Lieberman.

Padge and Lambros, in front of a NYC Restaurant called "Ginger", which happens to be Lambros' favorite root!

Padge and Lambros, in front of a NYC Restaurant called “Ginger”, which happens to be Lambros’ favorite root!

Padge was always ready for a photo op that contained wording that somehow connected to one or all of us.

Padge was always ready for a photo op that contained wording that somehow connected to one or all of us.

Padge, in a NYC gallery. wearing a Hershey rain poncho I loaned him.

Padge, in a NYC gallery. wearing a Hershey rain poncho I loaned him.

Paul, Janice Barnett, Chris, and I camping at Seneca Rocks, WV.

Paul, Janice Barnett, Chris, and I camping at Seneca Rocks, WV.

My wife, Chris, took this photo of Padge and I discussing the art world as we enjoy a hot tub near Hocking Hills, Ohio.

My wife, Chris, took this photo of Padge and I discussing the art world as we enjoy a hot tub near Hocking Hills, Ohio.

I took this photo of Padge in front of the George Washington Arch in Washington Square Park, NYC.

I took this photo of Padge in front of the George Washington Arch in Washington Square Park, NYC.

Me and the Padge at my birthday party at Later Alligator in Wheeling.

Me and the Padge at my birthday party at Later Alligator in Wheeling.

We were at Powerhouse Arena, a great bookstore in Dumbo, when Padge saw a poster advertising a book by one of his design heroes.

We were at Powerhouse Arena, a great bookstore in Dumbo, when Padge saw a poster advertising a book by one of his design heroes.

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Taking a break at a Chelsea gallery. This was our last NYC trip with the Padge.

Paul and I in front of a light installation somewhere in Chelsea.

Paul and I in front of a light installation somewhere in Chelsea.

Padge checking out the design books at our favorite bookstore, the Strand, in NYC. This is my favorite photo I ever took of my friend.

Padge checking out the design books at our favorite bookstore, the Strand, in NYC. This is my favorite photo I ever took of my friend.

 

 

 

 

14
Nov
13

Clay Pots in Memory of Paul

We recently lost our good friend, professor, and artist Robert Paul Padgett. Paul’s sister Kathy had asked Lambros Tsuhlares, ceramic artist, and Adjunct Professor of Ceramics at West Liberty University, to create 35 small clay jars that will contain Paul’s ashes. It is the plan of Paul’s family that these jars of ashes be given to family members and friends, and that the ashes then be taken to various locations throughout the country that Paul loved.

Over the past few weeks, Lambros has been forming and glazing the jars. Yesterday Lambros did a raku firing of the jars, assisted by West Liberty Univerisity students Emma Romanowski, Josh Verhovic, Natalie Rees, Lexis Irvin, and Roy Jenree.  Raku is a process by which pottery is fired at a relatively low temperature and then moved while hot to a closed container with combustible materials (as paper or sawdust) that ignite and cause a reaction creating colors and patterns in the pottery’s surface. (Raku means “enjoyment”, “comfort” or “ease” and is derived from Jurakudai, the name of a palace, in Kyoto, Japan, that was built by Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1537–1598), who was the leading warrior statesman of the time.)  Here are the photos I took during the raku firing. In addition, I have included Paul’s obituary at the end of this post.

Robert Paul Padgett was born April 17, 1945 in Chicago, son of the late Ralph Emerson and Agnes Loeb Padgett.

Paul was a dedicated and loving father; grandfather, brother, uncle, and friend. His children and grandchildren were so important to him and he cherished visiting and traveling the country with them. Paul made many trips out west and down south in the pursuit of family unity. His family felt so appreciated and supported because of his effort to remain connected despite the physical distance. Paul interjected the spirit of discovery and joy into everything he did with his family.

Paul had the true heart of a teacher. He enriched the lives of his family and friends by sharing facts and trivia about art, graphic design, music, literature, history, and geography. Paul effortlessly used every moment as an opportunity to teach us all something inspiring about the world and impart to us his sense of wonder and curiosity.

Paul began teaching graphic design at West Liberty State University in 1972, retiring this year, only when his illness required him to do so. Paul was a favourite professor of many adoring students and contributed greatly both personally and professional to the art department family at West Liberty. Paul revelled in simplicity and structure in his own art and design and left us with an amazing body of work to appreciate for generations to come. His work was in many ways ahead of its time and will continue to give us the gift of discovery every time it is shown.

Paul was an avid guitar player, singer, and song writer, sharing his gift of music to those who were closest. Through music, Paul brought us an appreciation of love and life, and a deep understanding of the emotional truths that make life worth living. The personal songs he wrote for us were huge gifts that can never be removed from our minds and hearts. In addition to his own musical compositions, he was like a missionary, creating many converts to a musical appreciation of the greats like John Lennon, Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits and his number one favourite, Bob Dylan.

Paul was also a champion of human right and equality and generously gave his time and money to support causes such as Occupy Wall Street, Amnesty International and many others throughout the years. Social activism was an important value that he encouraged us to participate in, even at the end of his life.

Paul was a lover of life and fought long and hard to continue to be here with us. Paul did not lose to cancer, he conquered over fear. He showed us strength and courage and the ultimate selflessness. These and many other gifts will never be forgotten.

In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by his brother, Douglas Padgett.

He is survived by three children, Robert Padgett of Los Angeles, Amanda Padgett of Spokane, and Michael Padgett of Wheeling; four grandchildren, Lily Evans, Asher Stewart, Sorrel Stewart, and Dylan Padgett; two sisters, Jeanette Farhangui of Tampa, and Katherine Padgett of Dahlonega; nephews, Bijan Farhangui and Matthew Jones; nieces, Shirine Fawaz, Christina Blymiller, Giselle Padgett, and Claire Rodriguez; and great-nieces and nephews, Alexander, Christopher, Megan, Alexandra.

09
Oct
13

Oglebayfest Artist Market 2013

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Early morning leaf blowing in front of the artists’ tents.

This years Oglebayfest Artist Market was three days of warmth and sunshine. Each morning started out cool, but each afternoon found us enjoying temperatures in the low 80s. Great weather, a bit unusual for October, and best of all, no rain. The crowds were heavy and most artists I spoke with were happy with their sales. However, based on the constant line at the kettle corn booth, I would say popcorn is the business to be in.

My booth at the Artist Market.

My booth at the Artist Market.

My sales were good, consisting of small and medium sized works. I did not sell any “heavy-hitter” pieces this year. Other artists I spoke with gave the event mixed reviews, some selling well while others barely made booth rent.

Nancy Tirone exhibited her mixed-media works.

Nancy Tirone exhibited her mixed-media works.

Nancy Tirone, a WLU professor who teaches art education, was exhibiting at the Artist Market for her fourth year. Nancy has a unique style of work that combines writing with collage and painting. She reported her best sales ever!

Although he did not have a booth, our friend and artist, Kyle Hallam, came to hang out with us for the day.

Robert Villamagna and Kyle Hallam.

Although he did not have a booth this year, our friend and artist, Kyle Hallam, came to hang out with us for the day. It is always a pleasure to hang out with Kyle, talking art and life.

Artists Victoria Lavorini, Seth Miller, and Lambros "Clay Ninja" Thsulares."

Artists Victoria Lavorini, Seth Miller, and Lambros “Clay Ninja” Tsuhlares.” Lambros mugs make beer taste better!

Two of my former West Liberty University students had a booth at the Artist Market: Victoria Lavorini and Seth Miller. Victoria was presented with the Fine Arts Best of Show Award at the Artist Dinner on Saturday evening. Victoria also reported strong sales of her work.

"Cigarette Head", by Robert Villamagna, made using a sign from a vintage cigarette sign, along with repurposed metal product containers.

“Cigarette Head”, made of a sign from a vintage cigarette sign, along with repurposed metal product containers.

Lambros was ready a table full of beer mugs!

Lambros was ready a table full of beer mugs!

Artists Cecy Rose and Alan Fitzpatrick k

Artists Cecy Rose and Alan Fitzpatrick k

Artist Market Director Rick Morgan (right) and his trusty sidekick, Brad Johnson.

Artist Market Director Rick Morgan (right) and his trusty sidekick, Brad Johnson.

 Josh Verhovic sets up his work in the WLU studnet booth.

Josh Verhovec sets up his work in the WLU student booth.

Each year, WLU has a double booth for art students who want to sell their work at the Artist Market. There is no fee for art students to participate, and the students get a first hand experience of selling their work.

WLU student Emma Romanalski with some of her pots.

WLU student Emma Romanowski with some of her pots.

Potter Lambros Tsuhlares and sculptor Eric Price waiting for the money to roll in.

Potter Lambros Tsuhlares and sculptor Eric Price waiting for the money to roll in.

Robert Villamagna and former WLU student Bill Kuzma, along with his girlfriend whose name I forgot! Sorry!

Robert Villamagna and former WLU student Bill Kuzma, along with his girlfriend whose name I forgot! Sorry!

Family and friends at the Artist Market, including grand daughters Sophia and Grace, my son Shawn, and my wife Chris.

Family and friends at the Artist Market, including grand daughters Sophia and Grace, my son Shawn, and my wife Chris.

Chris and I enjoying a good a laugh at the Artist Market.

Chris and I enjoying a good a laugh at the Artist Market.

28
Sep
13

The Tagliavini Project

Last spring, while doing some internet research, I stumbled upon the work of artist Christian Tagliavini. Tagliavini is a Swiss-Italian, born in 1971, educated in Italy and Switzerland, where he lives and works as a graphic designer and a photographer. This combination provides him with the ability to create and  produce images that blend fine arts, design, and excellent craftsmanship. Through his photographs, Christian Tagliavini tells beautiful stories that are this mix of the real, and the surreal. I was so excited by his work, that I decided to create a “Tagliavini” project for my Design II. at West Liberty University. This class is a 3D design class and is made up almost entirely of freshmen students.

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Two images by Christian Tagliavani.

I began by introducing my students to Tagliavini’s work through images, a Youtube video, and a short biography.  The students were impressed with what they saw, and excited to see what they could create.  We discussed Tagliavini’s images, and afterwards I gave the students part one of the assignment. Each student was instructed to come to the next class meeting with his or her idea for a cardboard “outfit”. All proposals were to be accompanied by sketches.

We had two sections of Design I., each with 12 to 14 students. Each of the students presented their idea, and then pinned their proposal sketches on the wall. After all proposals were presented, each of the students voted for their favorite. The seven proposals that received the most votes were created by a student team. The student whose design was chosen became a team leader, and each team consisted of three or four students.

Whenever possible, I try to get my students to use repurposed materials that otherwise might go to the landfill. All the “clothing” in our project was made from repurposed cardboard shipping boxes, adhesive, gesso, and acrylic paint. One of the outfits did have a non-cardboard element: a veil.

Once the projects were completed, Wheeling photographer Neal Warren worked with the students and created the images that brought our project to life. Neal also teaches photography here at West Liberty University.

The photos below will give you an idea how our project turned out. I believe that students, as well as myself, learned so much from this experience. In turn, we gained even a greater respect for the work of artist Christian Tagliavini.

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Neal works with the students setting up the photographs.

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Neal Warren hard at work making out project look great!

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Yes, I got a chance to be Iron Man for a moment!

My thanks to Neal Warren for shooting our project, to my students who worked hard to turn an idea into reality, and to artist Christian Tagliavini for being the inspiration behind our learning experience.

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