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.
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: