Guest blogger Deborah Krieger interviewed William Daley, whose ceramics will be on view at the PAA from January 23rd through March 9th, about his career and his take on art, philosophy, and life. Deborah blogs about the Philadelphia art scene and beyond at I On the Arts. Enjoy excerpts from her interview with Daley below and check out Deborah’s blog for the full piece. Deborah Krieger is a Swarthmore College Art History student and emerging art writer and curator.
I On the Arts: For my first question: can you talk about how “14 for 7”, your upcoming show at the Philadelphia Art Alliance, came about?
Bill Daley: Well, my children just made a book for me, William Daley: Ceramic Artist, and we presented the book in Chicago at a book signing and so on, but after the book was about to be hatched, we contacted the Art Alliance. I had a show there in ’68 and was in group shows before that, and they offered to show some work at the Art Alliance and have a book signing. So that was sort of the core for the beginning of it…with seven decades of work, we picked two pots for each decade and came up with “14 for 7”.
IOtA: So, going back a little bit: What is your artistic background and your training? What was that like?
BD: Well, I went to art school as a G.I. after World War II at the Massachusetts School of Art. Now it’s the Massachusetts College of Art. And from there I went to Columbia Teachers’ College and got my Master’s in Art Education. And then from that I began teaching. My first job was in Iowa, in Cedar Falls; my second job was in New Paltz, New York—part of SUNY; and my third job was at the Philadelphia College of Art [PCA], which at that time was called the Museum School of Art. It later became the University of the Arts. Most of my tenure was at the Philadelphia College of Art [for] thirty-something-plus years. I taught one year at the University of New Mexico as a guest professor, and I also taught at …SUNY Fredonia from PCA, and went back to PCA at that time in ’63, and continued there until my retirement in 1990…
IOtA: That’s quite a range of experiences!
BD: (laughing) Well, I kept always moving. One time I quit in protest because they thought we were all Communists! Because [they] thought modern art was subversive… but anyway, the rest of the times I changed because I needed a change, or there was a better opportunity.
IOtA: Where did you quit from, if I may ask?
BD: Well, they didn’t actually accuse us. It was in Ulster County, New York, which is a very conservative county, and they just were not used to having contemporary artists in the art department at New Paltz. So they were really pretty upset by it, and we were a bunch of radicals. They fired—they relieved—two-thirds of the faculty of their positions and two of us resisted and quit. And we didn’t get any support from the college at large so I began my career at the Museum School of Art. I got a job there, and it was really a great boon that I had quit, ’cause the Philadelphia experience has been at the core of my experience since, and that’s been great. And it’s still great, because this is my second show at the Art Alliance. In ’68 I had the first show by the Philadelphia Council of Professional Craftsmen, of which I was a member, and they gave me the first show that they gave an earnest, worthy worker, I guess, to exhibit. And so I had a show there in ’68…
IOtA: Let’s see… so, how did you choose your medium?
BD: Well, when I started out I wanted to be a painter. And I was pretty successful as a veteran, a novitiate painter, and I had work in the Institute of Contemporary Art, which had just begun in Boston. Anyway, I took a ceramic class and I [had] liked clay when I was in high school, but I was so taken with this new teacher and I was smitten by the medium, and I just knew that that was it, although I was pretty bad at it. So that’s how I chose it—it chose me!…That’s how I got started with being seduced by mud. It’s a great medium. It’s the most primal, metamorphic material because it changes from rock, to dust, to mud, to something you can form, and then [it] dries out and you bake it or you fire it, and it turns back into stone. So it moves a whole cycle of what material can become. It’s a marvelous material. It’s also very seductive to use—it just feels great and slippery and all of it. It’s great stuff. I recommend it…
IOtA: How have your relationship with art and your journey as an artist changed over the course of your career?
BD: Well, when I first began, I was a little child—I knew I was going to be an artist in kindergarten, which sounds bizarre to say. But my father was a house-painter, and my mother let us paint with spinach juice and beet juice on brown paper bags, my sister and I, and she’d hang them up on the clothesline in the kitchen. And my father would come home and look at ’em and tell us how wonderful we were. So when I got to kindergarten and… all the way through school, art was my total focus. And then when I went in the army, I had a chance to have experiences that convinced me that that was what I should be doing with my life. So anyway, by the time I was at art school, when I went through high school, which had a marvelous art department… we went to the museums, all the museums in New York City, regularly on the school bus. And I did all kinds of airbrush work and painting and block-printing, the whole works, as a high school student. So I was hooked early. And then I went to art school…my interest has been of such long duration that my changes have been mostly going as kind of a spiral. It’s not a circle where you repeat and go around and around, it’s as you graduate…there’s a marvelous educator named Jerome Bruner, an educational psychologist, [who] talks about education for the left hand, the other way of knowing, the intuitive way. There’s a great book by a guy named Benedetto Croce called Aesthetics that says that intuition is the highest form of knowledge, not information or conceptual [didacticism]. So I’ve really been prone to be persuaded by people who feel that the unknown is still largely unknown, and we can find it by working material, and my material is clay.
So I guess that’s some part of the core that keeps me revved up, that I’m always finding the boundary of finding out things…they’re are moving to me, and they’re moving to other people because they’ve sought my work out over time and wanted to have it in their lives. So art’s not complete until it completes a cycle. You have the maker, and the made, the object or thing, the offering, and then you have the audience. You have persons you are communicating with. So the artist is in community—the idea of the romantic artist in the attic…is a romantic misunderstanding. Artists are really [some] of the persons in the community that get some of the signals about what’s important, just as early as the scientists and philosophers and so on. And I’m not saying artists as in always physical artists; I think poets and singers and instrumentalists…the whole thing is all the same. Different form, but totally about giving form to the ineffable. It sounds pompous as can be, but I find it very compelling.
IOtA: This last question that I’m going to ask is what I always conclude interviews with. What do you hope people who see your work take away from it?
BD: That’s a good question! Well, what I would like them to do is to experience it, and I know that sounds corny, but I would like them to touch it. I would like them to respond to its form by… I’ll call it caressing it or searching it out with their eyes closed. I’d like them to understand that it’s about the inside of the inside of things, and it’s about the outside of the outside of things. In other words, I’d like them to use what they feel and touch and see and sense to imagine things that call up experience in their own being that permit them to tune it on it. So I do a lot of different things with different textures and different roughness, I [do] bumps and holes. I’m interested about open spaces, I’m interested in intimate, closed spaces, I’m interested in transitions from wonderful—like you were sliding down a hill in a sled or down a canyon or into a whirl, into a helix…I think of it almost as psychic physicality that I would like people to have about it. And as they wonder about it, they can wonder if it’s a palace or a temple…or a monument. I give them all names and that’s a little kind of clue to what they might be about. Right now, I’m making cisterns. A cistern is a vessel that holds some substance for either ritual or for preserving life. That’s either water, or holy water, or rain, or wine… so I’m making cisterns that are for libations and for…symbolic conservation. You can put them in your yard, or you can fill them with things for a party. And I’m having a great time doing it. But I’ve made hanging planters and baptismal fonts and many different kinds of vessels or containers for evoking feelings about being a human being… and my pots about body parts. I’m not a literal artist…I make objects that are about feelings. And I see feelings as touch, and I see it as touching your mind, and I see it as touching your whole spirit, about experience you’ve had to the present when you come to this object…
by Mat Tomezsko
On Wednesday, November 20 at 9:00pm DJ Apt One will discuss sampling and cultural re-appropriation in dance and electronic music, something he knows a thing or two about. In 2011 he produced a collection of beats for DJs called “T&A Breaks 3: Moombahton Loops and Samples.” One of his breakbeats was used by DJ Baauer for “The Harlem Shake,” which swept youtube and nightclubs earlier this year.
As a producer, DJ Apt One makes mixes by delving into various recordings and isolating parts of the tracks to be used in new and interesting ways. Essentially a sound collage, a new composition is woven using pieces taken from outside sources. Despite being made entirely of existing material, the mix transforms the elements into an original track. Sometimes a recognizable reference, sometimes highly obscure, there are many different ways to sample and appropriate music, achieving many different effects. Come to CAVECAST 011 on November 20th to learn more about this process.
Also, check us out in the November issue of Philadelphia Magazine, in which CAVECAST earned the distinction of being “worth doing after dark”.
Mat Tomezsko is the Programs and Events Coordinator at the Philadelphia Art Alliance.
By Joanna Grim and Christine Tang
If The Way of Chopsticks has piqued your interest in contemporary Chinese art, check out these exhibitions currently on view at The Asian Arts Initiative and the Leonard Pearlstein Gallery (located in the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design’s URBN Annex at Drexel University).
Hua Hua Zhang: A solo exhibition of new works by Hua Hua Zhang, master puppet theater artist and sculptor is on view at The Asian Arts Initiative now through January 24th, 2013. The show presents sculptures and other works, including masks and shadow puppets, by the Bejing-born, classically trained puppeteer and celebrated performer Hua Hua Zhang. At the opening reception held on Friday, November 1, at the Asian Arts Initiative, Hua Hua explained how she views her work as crossing the boundaries between sculpture and performance. On display, the potential for movement and story emanate from what Hua Hua calls her “living sculptures.” Removed from their podiums and expertly manipulated by Hua Hua or one of the talented members of her Philadelphia-based performance company, Visual Expressions, the puppet-sculptures indeed come to life. A short performance given during the opening reception began with the draping fabric dress of a puppet suspended from the ceiling, and enclosing another puppet reclining beneath it, beginning to sway in a breeze generated by a large hand fan. The gentle movements of the fabric woke the sleeping puppet who nonetheless remained within a kind of dream-state. As if experiencing a heightened sense of a mind-body split, the puppets head slowly separated from its body, leaving the body to perform a moving dance of self-discovery. This short performance demonstrated how Hua Hua’s work combines traditional Chinese stories and imagery, including an emphasis on dreams, with more modern, perhaps Western, themes and styles (for example, one puppet, a rhinoceros, was made out of plastic tarps, in place of another more traditional material) in an effort to explore the conflicted emotions, the pain but also the rewards, of leaving one culture and becoming part of another. Click here for more information on The Asian Arts Initiative and Hua Hua’s exhibition.
Audiences are welcomed to join the Philadelphia Art Alliance for another opportunity to see Hua Hua’s work come to life. In conjunction with the Way of Chopsticks exhibition, on view through December 29th, Hua Hua and Visual Expressions will perform an original piece of shadow puppet theatre, Adventure of the Stone Monkey, at the PAA at 5pm on December 7th. All ages are encouraged to attend. Click here for more information and to register!
And don’t forget to join us this Saturday, November 16th, from 10-11:30am for a The Way of Calligraphy, an introductory calligraphy workshop for children and adults ages 7 and older taught by Hua Hua Zhang at the PAA. Learn about calligraphy and make your own works to take home and see the Way of Chopsticks exhibition. Click here for more information and to register. We hope to see you there!
The Start of a Long Journey: The Collection of Excellent Alumni Works from China Central Academy of Fine Arts, runs through November 22nd at the Leonard Pearlstein Gallery. The show features sixty works of art, including paintings, sculptures, and video, from 24 young alumni of the China Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA), China’s foremost Fine Arts Academy.
Much of the work on view in this exhibition aims to analyze and evaluate the previous era of Chinese art, which, according to Alex McKechnie of Drexel University, was influenced “by the intellectual trends during the Cold War period as well as traditional Chinese wisdom.” However, these emerging artists do more than evaluate the previous era of Chinese art. Through their work, they also examine issues and conflicts of life in China today and the feelings these issues and conflicts elicit. In this way, The Start of a Long Journey relates to The Way of Chopsticks, which also explores and comments on contemporary Chinese society, though through the more personal perspective of the experiences of artists Song Dong and Yin Xiuzhen.
Three notable pieces include “The Elephant Series,” “How Are You,” and “The Growth of Emptiness.” “The Elephant Series” by Zhang Yifan examines the deliberately ignored dangers born from modernization in present-day China. Although modernization in China may prove beneficial, one cannot ignore the explicit risks taken. For example, a recent building collapse was found to be a result of a faulty foundation, and air pollution in Beijing has worried environmentalists for years. Zhang explains that the light and crisp presentation of all-too-common scenes in China today contribute to the illusion of superficial peace and harmony that masks the unaddressed but present dangers.
The vibrantly colored canvas of Du Pengjiao’s “How Are You” perfectly captures how the rise of social media and technology creates intricate webs of connection and relationships. Another work, Sun Mou’s “The Growth of Emptiness,” seems to grow out of a blank canvas. From a distance, the image resembles a nerve cell, a neuron, a minuscule yet vital part of the body. Delicate, lightly colored lines gracefully span the canvas, creating an illusion of emptiness and hollowness. Upon closer inspection, these lines reveal themselves to be stems of vegetation or thin branches of trees that are, also, vital to the Earth. The parallels between the neuron and tree branches as well as the “simplicity of nature,” in Sun Mou’s words, influence the viewer to question the life all around us and to not look at the forest for the trees, so to speak.
The Start of a Long Journey presents these and other brilliant works by talented emerging artists. Dr. Joseph Gregory, Chair of the Department of Art & Art History, hopes that this cultural exchange will facilitate greater understanding between China and the United States.
During The Way of Chopsticks exhibition, Beijing born, Philadelphia-based artist Hua Hua Zhang is collaborating with the PAA on workshops and performances that will allow audiences to further explore Chinese art and culture. Hua Hua Zhang is a celebrated artist trained in both the classical traditions of Chinese puppetry as well as modern forms of puppetry and theatre. Her work bridges the realms of sculpture and performance and draws upon Chinese tradition as well as personal experience. She is also a teaching artist specializing in introducing American audiences to traditional Chinese art forms.
On the morning of Saturday, November 16th, Hua Hua will be teaching The Way of Calligraphy, an introductory workshop on Chinese calligraphy. The PAA invites adults and children ages 7 and older to join in. Click here to register!
Click here for information on Hua Hua Zhang’s current exhibition of “living sculptures” at the Asian Arts Initiative. And don’t miss her production of Adventure of the Stone Monkey: A Shadow Puppet Performance, on December 7th at the PAA!
Interested in calligraphy? Read more below.
by Mat Tomezsko
During the installation of Chopsticks III at Chambers Fine Art in New York in 2011, 8-year-old Song ErRui approached her parents, Song Dong and Yin Xiuzhen, and expressed her interest in joining their artistic collaboration. Up until that point, The Way of Chopsticks had been a project exclusively between Song Dong and Yin Xiuzhen. It was a meditation on married life and family designed to maintain complete artistic autonomy for both of the artists involved. Chopsticks serve as a metaphor for two equal individuals coming together to form something greater. The concept shatters with a third chopstick, but they were still intrigued by their daughter’s offer.
After considering the idea for some time, they decided to give it a try for their next exhibition. For The Way of Chopsticks at the Philadelphia Art Alliance, each of the three family members made a chopstick for the group called Third Chopstick. It offers three distinct points of view with each insight being compounded by the next. Taken together, the three pieces offer an impressively complex view of contemporary family life.
For her chopstick, Yin Xiuzhen, chose to depict a dizi, which is a traditional Chinese flute. The dizi, typically made of bamboo, was commonly used in Chinese folk music and was traditionally associated with the common people. The dizi Yin Xiuzhen has made is long, thin and made of chrome with a tail pipe and a muffler attached to each end, a reference to the well-known smog crisis in Beijing, which perhaps implies that the music produced by this instrument will be toxic. The piece simultaneously evokes a beautiful and humble tradition rooted in nature and the noxious environmental consequences of expansion and wealth in contemporary China. While praising the beauty of Chinese culture, Yin Xiuzhen is also criticizing the present conditions, for fear of what her daughter and her daughter’s generation may lose in the future.
Song Dong’s chopstick reflects his interest in fake electronics, which, while making reference to the pervasive presence of cheap knock-off products in Chinese society, also reveals his affinity for good-natured trickery. The chopstick has, at first glance, the appearance of a complicated high-tech device. However, upon closer examination, it becomes hilariously implausible as a functioning object. It is covered in useless knobs and old remote controls, and there is a keyboard simply tacked onto the side. There is, however, a functioning GPS device that periodically blurts out directions. Song Dong has expressed that this sculpture was made to represent his attitude toward his daughter, whom he wishes to control, but cannot. Since all of the devices are incorrect and useless, he has endowed her with a GPS so she can at least always find her way home.
Song ErRui modeled her chopstick after a wolf. She saved the hair from her shedding dogs to create two bands of fur running the length of the sculpture. There are ears attached and drawn-on eyes and teeth. The sculpture essentially takes the form of an elongated wolf head. Her fascination with wolves is quite sophisticated for an 11-year-old. She identifies with wolves because they are inherently social creatures, however, as the only child of parents who both come from large families, she feels like a lone wolf. This idea can be extrapolated to the issue of the One Child policy currently in place in China. After millennia of a society based on social and communal principles, the fundamental structure of the culture is being forcibly changed by the state. Suddenly, there is a nation of individuals, and perhaps individualists.
While the idea of a third chopstick may shatter the surface level metaphor presented by The Way of Chopsticks, in practice, adding another dimension expands the scope of the project exponentially. Once each chopstick is understood, they can then be understood in relation to one another, thus deepening the meaning. Yin Xiuzhen and Song Dong are commenting on Chinese society, but they are also concerned about their daughter. At the same time, you hear their daughter’s concerns, her own interpretation of society, and her view of the future. In addition, the structure of three chopsticks is maybe a more perfect resemblance of the asymmetry found in real life; when you open a drawer, you do not find your utensils neatly paired. Song Dong and Yin Xiuzhen’s dynamic as a pair was permanently altered with the addition of their daughter. Song ErRui brings a welcome and enriching change to their art as well.
The Way of Chopsticks is on view at The Philadelphia Art Alliance September 12 – December 29, 2013.
The Way of Chopsticks: Song Dong ＋Yin Xiuzhen is represented by Chambers Fine Art in New York City and Beijing.
Mat Tomezsko is the Programs and Events Coordinator at the Philadelphia Art Alliance