Posted by: groundsforsculpture | March 5, 2010

10th Anniversary Seward Johnson Workshop

Seward Johnson 10th Anniversary Workshop

On Saturday, February 13th, Grounds For Sculpture held the second
workshop in its 10th Anniversary series. For each class in the series,
we start by looking at the artist’s work and discussing his or her
background, subject matter, and technique. Next comes the really fun
part where we experiment with some aspect of the artist’s process.
This has been a unique addition to the class because the focus is not
only on exploring creativity and getting our hands on some art
materials, but also on expanding our understanding of the artists’ work.
I have carefully chosen projects that provide this learning
opportunity, can be accomplished in a one-day format class, and that
do not require previous artistic training.

In this most recent class, we studied Seward Johnson; artist, collector, and founder of Grounds For Sculpture. I wanted to provide a unique experience for our participants because of his special role. So, we arranged for a private tour of Mr. Johnson’s studio. We were met by Lynn DeClemente, the Registrar for The Sculpture Foundation, and were given an inside glimpse into the artist’s creative world.

First, we were shown into a small lounge area with few furnishings including a couch, side tables, and a cozy fire place. All around the room, leaned up against the walls, sitting on tables, and propped up on all surfaces were simple vintage tin serving trays that Johnson had painted with views from his various homes and properties. The colors were vibrant with great attention to detail but not too perfect realism. The trays had a beguiling quality and an expressionistic style.

Next, we headed upstairs to the lofty studio. We were greeted by a drum kit that, as Lynn explained, was a well-used gift from Johnson’s family. Walking farther into the room we could see one wall covered with paintings, and others stacked up underneath. Subject matter ranged from landscapes to reclining figures. One detail I noticed was that the clouds in many of the paintings had an abstract quality to them. The picture plane was often flattened, and many also contained a large amount of detail in architecture and human interaction.  Lynn explained that although Johnson loves to paint, he has not exhibited this work though there may be plans in the future to do so.

In the center of the room, there were a few large sculptures that are works in progress and were covered with drapes to keep the clay moist and pliable. Along the back wall, shelves contained many maquettes of sculptures that Johnson has executed. These were of special interest to us since that was the focus of our workshop.  

We also took a look at the artist’s tools that lay on hand and discussed some of the techniques involved. During this part of the tour, we discussed Johnson’s background and his development as an artist.

Finally, we went through the back hallway to view Van Gogh’s bedroom.

This full scale room is actually a sculpture installation made by Seward Johnson for his series called Beyond the Frame – an homage to the Impressionist painters. In this room Johnson has created a life-sized scale depiction of the famous off kilter-perspective painting by Van Gogh. Upon entering this room – or this art tableau – the viewer is thrust into the painting and surrounded by the surreal elements of van Gogh’s shocking bedroom setting, in touchable 3D.

This room is always a show-stopper. I just can’t imagine what it would be like to wake up there…like living in an alternate world.

After this tour concluded, we made our way back to the Education Center and chose our paintings to work from. I encouraged everyone to pick something with a central figure to focus on regardless of whether the
painting was figurative, nonobjective or Impressionistic in style. I myself,
translated a painting by Picasso. After a brief tutorial on making an
armature and working with the clay, I set the workshop participants
loose and watched their creativity fly.

By Aylin Green, GFS Instructor and Staff member

Seward Johnson 10th Anniversary Workshop

Seward Johnson 10th Anniversary Workshop


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