Mask Magic 2

Mask Magic 2

At a building owned by the Community Corporation of Santa Monica (CCSM), I conducted a two-part mask making workshop! Families who rented units in the building attended, with children, spouses, and neighbors.

webcThe work created is breathtaking, and was shown last Friday November 4th at an exhibition entitled,
The Artists Among Us“.

Here is this chapter of their story.

webiDuring the first workshop, participants learned to pound out slabs of air-dry clay, create an “armature” with newspaper to give their masks depth, and form their clay slabs over the armature.

weblThe following week, participants used acrylic paints to add color, visual texture, design and pattern to their masks and other clay items, and also enjoyed painting on thick watercolor paper. As acrylic paints dry quickly, and are no longer water-soluble once dry, the artists were able to continue to add paint, details and layers.

web1Reveling in color and brush work, this young artist filled her surface with exploration.

webaI did not see this couple enter the room, and suddenly there they were, painting with complete concentration.

webbParticipant interaction makes the whole experience the more rich.

webdEach got their own palette of colors on a Styrofoam plate, with empty plates available for mixing and discovering colors.

webeGreen grass with delicate characters above.  She must love purple. Maybe she will add it later to her painting!

webfFocused artist and craftswoman.

webgAdding detail.  Every brush I brought seemed to have been used!

webhShe seems to know exactly what she wants to paint, as if the vision was already inside her head.

webnEnergetic color, imagery, brush strokes and composition create movement in this piece.

webvA lion happened on this plate!  Painting? Mask? Both?!

webzHe said it was his first time painting…he must be a natural. What talent!

Many thanks to the marvelous and devoted  Rene Melara, programmer extraordinaire, for the opportunity to work with these wonderful participants, and see their artwork blossom.


Mask Magic

Mask Magic

At a building owned by the Community Corporation of Santa Monica (CCSM), I conducted a two-part mask making workshop! Families who rented units in the building attended, with children, spouses, and neighbors.

The work created is breathtaking, and will be shown Friday November 4th at an exhibition entitled,
The Artists Among Us“.

Here is this chapter of their story.web1web2The mask is formed of clay….then painted…

web3then shown.

web2Women share as they create.



web7A seasonal offering sculpted…webiand painted. Dia De los Muertos sugar scull is created…webkand comes to life with color and pattern.

webtClay characters drying.

webyColor helps to define the mask personalities.

webwPainted plates are another way to create masks and characters. The round shape suggests a lion, and the paint defines it!

webuColor, texture, shapes, and the artists’ choices bring the forms to life.

webs“Once in a blue moon…” (!)

webrEmotions are elicited through facial expression, color choices, and the way the paint is applied to the textured, sculpted clay surfaces.

webqWhat a line-up!

weblStrong sense of design and pattern.

webmwebgwebcFocused artists

webfMeticulous painting creates detail.

web4Bringing out the eyes…

webo   Proud participating artist with her creations.


webpThe fruits of love’s labor.

Leap Before You Look: The Poetry of Pottery at Black Mountain Collage

Leap Before You Look: The Poetry of Pottery at Black Mountain Collage

The Hammer Museum near UCLA in Los Angeles has an eye-opening show, entitled “Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933-1957”. Black Mountain Collage was  an experimental school founded in 1933 in Black Mountain, North Carolina near Asheville.

Apparently a a magical place where art and creative endeavors played center stage, Black Mountain was influenced by the educational principles of functional psychologist .John Dewey. Many of the school’s students and faculty were or  or went on to become prominent and even famous in their respective fields, such as visual artist Robert Rauschenberg, composer John Cage and dancer/choreographer Merce Cunningham. many of them worked together and influenced each other during or after their tenure at the School. which closed in 1957 after only 24 years.

Below are some highlights from the pottery shown in “Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933-1957”.










webK  webLwebL1


webM webM1

We are the Vessel

We are the Vessel

This post is dedicated to my Mom, the ceramicist Judy Disman, for whom I took these pictures!

On a  recent visit to The Hammer Building at LACMA (The Los Angeles County Museum of Art),  while looking for a small photography show, my husband Mark and I stumbled upon   “Art of the Ancient near East”.  Taken with the wonder, elegance, dignity and whimsy of the ceramic, metal and wood carvings, vessels, and sculptures, we wandered the exhibit, and look forward to returning. These pieces are part of LACMA‘s permanent collection. We hope You enjoy them too!  Please click on ALL  OF THE LINKS, for further information.

webAComposite Ibis figure. Images of the  Ibis show up often in ancient Egyptian art, and  can be  entrancing…riveting.

webCwebBAnother view of the Ibis: Ibis Processional Standard

webEwebDI will have to revisit this incredible painted bird…which looks like a wise owl… and photograph its label. I couldn’t find any other information on it from the LACMA site.   Despite  its color… it exudes dignity, seriousness, and a silent kind of gravitas.

webOHead of a Cat

 A Word on Early Pottery, from the Curator:
“Pottery was invented toward the middle of the seventh millennium BC in the Near East, and it is one of the characteristic elements of the civilizations that emerged from the Neolithic period. Pottery, more than any other medium, was soon used to provide an avenue for artistic expression. The decoration on the ceramics varied in different cultural communities over time, and distinctive styles began to emerge on pottery as early as the fifth millennium BC. Ceramics are also indicators of socioeconomic contacts and cultural boundaries, and the diffusion of pottery styles may reflect the expansion of cultures. LACMA’s collection of pre- and proto-historic Iranian pottery includes examples of the distinguished pottery styles and forms from the fifth millennium BC to the Late Iron Age period that ends around 800 BC.
– Ali Mousavi, Assistant Curator of Ancient Iranian and Near Eastern Art, 2008

webLwebLLJar with Boots! Like many of the pieces, this piece is  “anthropomorphized“, which adds to its intrigue.  Is it possible for a work to be both serious and whimsical? Dignified and fun? Are the boots tongue in cheek, or some kind of cultural reference?  Do only the ancient Iranian/Persian makers know for sure?

webFwebGwebGGPainted, and still vibrant after close to three thousand years!

webIIwebIwebIHThis birdlike vessel looks to be different hues in different lights. Metamerism? it reminds me of bird-like pitchers with beak-like spouts that my Mom, the potter Judy Disman made.

webJwebMFollow this link to see the front of this piece!

webKwebKKSporting “juglets”

webNThese pieces, so magically  alive, seems to interact within their case. They interact on  the level of shape, form, space and color, the elements of visual art, of course, but also as beings and  personalities, still retaining their strong spirit ofter millennia. They are ancient, yet timeless, and have much to offer us still.  Probably, they always will.

Maria and Julian Martinez: Like Black on Black

Maria and Julian Martinez: Like Black on Black

Maria Montoya Martinez: 1887- July 20, 1980, San Ildefonso Pueblo, New Mexico

Julian Martinez, 1879- 1943, San Ildefonso Pueblo, New Mexico


Maria Montoya Martinez and Julian Martinez were two of the most highly acclaimed potters in the Southwest. They became known throughout the world for their highly polished, black on black and multicolored functional ceramics, also called pottery: works made of clay.  Of all their achievements together, Maria and Julian are best known for their invention of  “black-on-black” pottery.

WEB5At one time, Maria signed her work as “Marie”.

Maria and Julian were from a community called the San Ildefonso Pueblo, 20 miles away from Santa Fe, in the valley of the Rio Grande, in the Black Mesa country of New Mexico. They married in 1904, when Maria was age 17 and Julian age 25.

WEB2Maria and Julian and their Blackware and Polychrome pottery

New Mexico is also where the Artist Georgia O’Keeffe worked during the second half of her life. O’Keeffe was inspired by the landscape and nature of New Mexico.

Maria learned how to make pottery at an early age from her aunt. She only went as far as the third grade in school, and did not speak much English.

WEB3Maria Montoya Martinez at work

Traditional pottery making techniques were being lost, but Martinez and her family experimented with different techniques and helped preserve it.


In 1908 black-on-black pottery that had been crafted by the Pueblo people from the 1600s was found. Maria Martinez, known as a skilled pueblo potter, was asked to re-create this ancient pottery style. She experimented, finding that she could create pieces with a deep glossy black background and dull black decoration: black-on-black pottery, or “Blackware”.


Embarrassed that she could not create high quality black pots in the style of the ancient Pueblo Peoples, Maria  hid her pots away from the world. She worked tirelessly to perfect the art of Blackware pottery. Her skill grew with each pot, and her art began to be recognized by collectors and developed into a business, focused on the then-unique Blackware style.


Maria made her own clay. She gathered and combined red clay, and blue sand, and mixed it by hand. She only gathered what she needed. She built her pottery completely by hand, forming the base of the vessel and building up the size with “rope” coils.


Julian Martinez, Maria’s husband, began decorating the pots she made. Men often painted pottery for the women of the Pueblo. Their work together is famous and improved the life of their entire Pueblo. Julian did master the decoration process by trying and experimenting. He painted the designs with a clay paint called “slip” on the surface of the clay piece. Julian worked as a farmer, general laborer, and janitor, in addition to being an artist. He was elected governor of San Ildefonso


In 1918, Julian finished the first decorated Blackware (sometimes described as “black on black”). pot with a dull background and a polished, shinier Avanyu design. Avanyu, a horned or plumed water serpent is the “guardian of water”. Its curves suggest flowing water or the zig-zag of lightning. The snake’s body movements seem alive, showing the appreciation the Pueblo peoples have for nature and life.


“The first rush of water coming down an arroyo after a thunderstorm, a symbol of thanksgiving and for water and rain” was the interpretation by Julian of an Avanyu.


Avanyu may be related to the feathered serpent Quetzalcoatl and is used as a decoration on Native American pottery of the Southwestern United States. The designs on each pot give the pot a personality and unique individualized look.


Many of Julian’s decorations were patterns adopted from old, old pottery of the Pueblos. Some of the stylized designs showed birds, road runner tracks, rain, feathers, clouds, mountains, and zigzags.

Julian had the skill to execute his vision with a precise, even hand that set a new standard for his generation of Pueblo painters.