Instructors exhibit art at Arrowmont

May. 17, 2013 @ 11:39 PM

Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts is displaying work for its annual Instructor Exhibition, featuring diverse works from over a hundred Arrowmont workshop instructors.

The exhibit, which continues through Aug. 17, showcases work from internationally renowned artists dealing in a vast array of media.

“Representing diverse styles and media, the exhibition complements the educational experience of the individuals attending class sessions while also signifying the trajectory of contemporary craft,” said Stefanie Gerber Darr, Arrowmont’s gallery director, in a prepared statement.

The artists themselves are as various as their works.

Binh Pho is an acclaimed woodworker originally from Vietnam, where he studied architecture toward the end of the Vietnam War.

Pho tried to escape the communist-controlled country several times, landing him in re-education camps until the fall of 1978, when he and 38 others in a small boat successfully floated seven days across the Gulf of Siam to Malaysia.

Pho now lives in Maple Park, Ill., but his work is heavily influenced by his roots.

“My past influences my work tremendously,” Pho said. “Most of my pieces have a story or inspiration behind them, and with those pieces I want to tell a story.”

His piece in the instructor exhibition was inspired by a place he visited.

“It’s mostly a bamboo scene of a place I visited recently with bamboo and a full moon,” Pho said. “It’s what I have a fond memory of.”

Pho’s penchant for storytelling through woodwork is somewhat unique, but it translates well into some interesting projects, specifically collaborations with authors.

“The book I collaborated on with Kevin Wallace, called ‘Shadow of the Turning,’ is a fairy tale. He wrote the story, and after I read a chapter and I started work for it,” Pho said. “It’s similar to artwork in a children’s book. I’m doing much the same thing but on a 3D canvas.”

From Oct. 17-20, Pho will be teaching a masters workshop at Arrowmont focusing on piercing and airbrushing techniques in woodwork.

“Piercing just means perforating, cutting a negative space out of wood,” Pho said. “I’ll be guiding people to see inspiration and transfer inspiration to work, rather than just make something pretty.”

Pho has previously taught and exhibited work at Arrowmont, but he’s not been to the campus for about three years.

“I understand a lot of things have changed,” he said. “I’m looking forward to going back.”

Fiber and mixed media artist Amie Adelman, another artist featured in the instructor exhibition, has also been connected to Arrowmont, so much so that she calls it her second home.

“I’m so excited to go back,” Adelman said. “This will be the third summer that I’ve taught a workshop there since my residency. It’s always a really great place to go back to. Fabulous people and great students and great atmosphere.”

Adelman’s residency was back in 1998-’99. She said it helped her land her first job as a fiber professor at Iowa State University.

“It was a really great opportunity to meet people and network with professional artists,” Adelman said. “Arrowmont opened so many doors professionally.”

Adelman’s artwork on display at the school focuses on formal aspects of fiber, including color interaction and quality of line. It also attempts to push the boundaries of embroidery.

“I really look at pattern and repetition and color,” Adelman said. “There are always slight color changes that happen in my work, so sometimes you have to get up close to notice different color shifts.”

Adelman’s two-week workshop, from June 30 to July 12, will focus on the combination of textiles and watercolor.

“The twist on my class is that it uses ink and watercolor on fabric, which is usually used on paper, and then uses dyes on paper — and sometimes using all three to make some interesting things happen,” Adelman said. “I don’t know anyone who’s teaching that. That’s why it’s unique.”

Adelman said these techniques are all about breaking boundaries, “instead of staying within them.”

Debora Coombs, however, often must stay within boundaries. She’s a stained glass artist, whose work is often bound by the size of the window — and her clients’ requests.

“I do a lot of commissioned work, a lot of religious commissions,” said Coombs, originally from England but now based in Readsboro, Vt. “I’m very much in service to the client.”

Her religious commissions include two 25-foot windows for Marble Church in New York City, as well as work for St. Mary’s Cathedral in Portland, Ore. Oregon is also where Coombs was first introduced to stained glass as an artform.

“I was an exchange student in Oregon, and I stayed with a mother who was really into art and architecture,” Coombs said. “The Pacific Northwest is a place where a lot of glasswork goes on. I saw a lot of contemporary glasswork there, and when I got back to England, I decided that was what I wanted to do.”

Coombs said it’s peculiar that she’s so passionate about such an old-fashioned artform, and her fascination with it does not date back to her childhood days.

“I don’t really even remember church windows from when I was a child, but I always had this interest in light, color, sparkly things,” Coombs said. “Even as a really, really small child I remember being fascinated by scratches on window panes.

“So I think I had this really deep fascination with light and visual things. I’ve done it ever since and I still absolutely love it and am completely passionate about it.”

That depth shows through in Coombs’s exhibition work, which attempts to reveal connections between her subjects without explicitly stating them.

In her “Menfolk” series, one panel of which is on display in the Arrowmont instructor exhibition, Coombs shows the interactions between males and other subjects, often animals.

“Each panel has a man or boy in the foreground, along with various other images,” Coombs said. “As a woman I’m interested in the emotional landscape of men. Those are very intuitive pieces, so they’re not terribly logical. They are narratives that I don’t try to explain in words.”

Coombs’s workshop, from July 21-27, will focus on painting stained glass.

“A lot of stained glass is unpainted, but my work is painted,” Coombs said. “There are not many people who teach or do that anymore. It’s a little old-fashioned and slightly dying out, so it’s important for me.”

Coombs said she’s been aware of Arrowmont for a long time, but she’s never been to the school. She’s been close, though.

“The last big religious project I did was 44 windows for St. Henry in Nashville,” Coombs said. “I really liked being in that part of America. I like the people and the way they speak and the way of life.”

rhargett@themountainpress.com