I’ve been pondering how the past influences artists and informs design. This was brought to mind when my friend and I recently enjoyed a wonderful Exhibit at the National Museum of Women in the Arts: Pathmakers: Women in Art, Craft, and Design, Midcentury and Today.
It’s striking how some of these artists made the local visual style their own – molding it, shaping it. The art became something new and idiosyncratic but at the same time echoed the past, putting it on a continuum of artistic evolution.
Christine Nofchissey McHorse
Originally a Navajo from Arizona, McHorse went to high school in Santa Fe, NM. She met her husband there and it was her mother in law who taught her pottery using the sparkly micaceous clay that is common in the Taos are of New Mexico. McHorse is always experimenting, I love how she describes her approach, you can read more here:
There’s a period where I gain as much of the craft as I can, and then I start exploring structure — how far I can push the shape or how much extension I can get without losing the strength of the clay. A lot of them are experimental pieces of construction. I do a lot of combinations of shapes that I’ve done before or ideas I’ve had before and it just leads me to other shapes and ideas.
At the same time, you can see the Santa Clara Pueblo Influence in her work. She pushes the medium and the style to make it her own.
This is a tiny Santa Clara Pueblo bowl I picked up in Santa Fe:
Here’s McHorse’s pottery in the exhibit:
Born in Kenya, Odundo moved to London after secondary school for training. Her work takes her African roots and European experience and uses the two beautifully. Their form is balanced and nuanced – decorative containers that hark back to traditional African style but are molded by her European experience. Is that silhouette of a face and head we see? Is it abstract or representational?
The work Wilson shows in this exhibit lets the history speak for itself – she took wood tools for making textiles and made them in glass. This transformed them with luminosity. I’ve always had a soft spot of tools of trade – so often they really are works of art.
Like these artists, his is what I often do – my fine arts background informs my designs. Let me use that to give voice to your graphic design vision.