September 2012: Paula Blackwell & Yuka Hirota

Yuka Hirota, native of Japan and resident of the US, creates abstract ceramic sculpture. Her works are hand built using the coiling method with stoneware or porcelain clay. “I find the process of making abstract sculpture satisfying, and find the tactile and malleable quality of clay very appealing to work with. I like working with forms that are simple yet complex in their image associations; forms that are calm yet suggest kinetic possibility. I draw inspiration from various forms ranging from prehistoric Japanese vessels to forms found in the natural world, the human body’s kinetic movements, domestic objects and industrial design.” The forms that ignite her imagination appear repeatedly in her preparatory sketches and gestural drawings and are characterized by their undulating curves, radiating lines and references to movements of the human body. The course of realizing the two dimensional drawings into sculptural three dimensional objects, creates challenges of editing, rearranging, multiplying smaller parts and reorganizing them in new and engaging ways. “The process unfolds with elements of discovery,” says Yuka, “ and I am often surprised by the end results.”

Artist Paula Blackwell creates "mysterious atmospheres" in her encaustic paintings of landscapes. She uses a combination of encaustic and oil on wood panels to create compelling landscapes that capture an air of mystery and timelessness. The ability of encaustic paint to reveal and obscure, creates intriguing surfaces and depth allowing viewers to exercise their imagination and see what they wants to see. Her goal is to emulate an aged or rustic appearance in her art. "Unlike in oil painting, my torch is my paintbrush," says Blackwell. She also uses pottery tools, dental tools and a variety of scrapers, trawls and spatulas to create visual depth and translucency. Her procedure in making encaustic art is to first paint on several layers of hot liquefied beeswax combined with dammar resin, fusing the layers to each other. She then uses an iron to smooth and flatten the uneven surface while also leaving behind peeks and valleys that she can back fill with water mixable oil paint. This technique of layering, melting and scraping creates a radiant and complex terrain of light, color and texture.