Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Guillermo Colmenero

by Mandy

Last week, I made my first ever visit to the Chase Home Museum of Folk Arts located in the heart of Liberty Park in Salt lake City.  The museum is housed in a beautifully restored 1850s farmhouse, admission is free, and it contains the works of some of Utah's most talented folk, ethnic, and Native American artists.  I was particularly drawn, however, to several tiny sculptures in one display, depicting well-known Day of the Dead characters. The amount of patience, time, and detail put into these figures was astounding.  Guillermo Colmenero, who has studied drawing and design at Stanford University, was the creator of the sculptures.  
Since his days at Stanford, he has cultivated a love and talent for sculpture, and his vision has led him to create startlingly lovely pieces depicting nature, the beautiful, and the macabre.  His pieces have been shown all over in Mexico and in the western United States, and he has been commissioned to work on several large projects in Mexico.  In spite of this busy life, he graciously agreed to spend some time interviewing with me from Mexico City.

Mandy:  What kind of artist are you?
Guillermo:  I am a sculptor.  The word artist is so overrated these days; I don't like to use it anymore.
 Mandy:  When did you first know you were interested in art?
Guillermo:  As a child I was always interested in the arts, but the idea became more realistic in my twenties, I guess.

Mandy:  Who are your favorite artists?
Guillermo:  There are several.  Some of my favorites are August Rodin, Gerhard Demetz, Anthony Gormley, Salvatore Rizzuti, and Javier Marín.
Mandy:  Where do you find inspiration?  Who or what influences you?
Guillermo:  Other artists' works, such as books, movies, poems, theatrical plays...but mostly life and death.  And Mother Nature.

Mandy:  Name 3 artists you'd like to be compared to.
Guillermo:  Definitely Rodin or my contemporaries like Demetz, Wall, Poth, or Marín.

Mandy:  What is your biggest struggle or obstacle as an artist?
Guillermo:  Living off of what I create is the most difficult because you have to be a salesman, too.  Also, getting into the close circles of the art world is not easy.  You have to be very well connected with the people that make the decisions.
Mandy:  Are the people in your life supportive of your art?
Guillermo:  At the beginning they were skeptical about my career.  But with time, they were seeing my determination and my money earnings, and that shut them up (laughs).

Mandy:  Do you like to collaborate?  
Guillermo:  I wouldn't mind at all to collaborate with any of my favorite artists.  That would be great.
Mandy:  Have you collaborated with anyone yet? 
Guillermo:  I´ve collaborated with other sculptors like Peter Cole, Dennise Record, and others when I was working for Concept Casting and Western Architectural for facades on Las Vegas Casinos.
Mandy:  What are your goals as an artist?
Guillermo:  I would like to be exhibiting my work all over the world.
Mandy:  Have you been able to do that in any way so far?
Guillermo:  Yes.  I've been living off my sculpture for the last seven years, and that’s very pleasing.
Mandy:  If you couldn’t be an artist, what would you do?
Guillermo:  Probably be a dog trainer.  I discovered recently that I really enjoy training dogs.
Mandy:  Can you describe the technical process that goes into creating one of your pieces?
Guillermo:  When the idea arrives, I start sketching for a series of works with the same theme, then I create small maquetas (models) for each sculpture in clay.  Then, I choose the material, deciding from bronze, resins, wood, or stone... and finally I execute the sculptures.

Mandy:  Has your process changed over time?
Guillermo:  I have become more methodical and patient; I plan really well the structures, and also choose the final finish carefully.
Mandy:  Do you find yourself pursuing any recurring themes?
Guillermo:  I try to create dramatic sculptures; life and death are my favorite subjects.

You can read more about Guillermo, and see more of his sculpture on his facebook page: 

Or visit the Chase Home Museum of Utah Folk Arts, located in the center of Liberty Park: 900 South or 1300 South at about 600 East, Salt Lake City. Hours: 8 am to 5 pm, Mon-Fri

Guillermo also has an upcoming exhibit at ITESM (Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey, México), Santa Fe campus in México City.

Have an artist (of any kind!) you'd like to see interviewed?  Leave a comment below.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Stephanie Corby

by Kita

There are people, out there, in the world, with a talent that simply does not have limits. They are pretty rare, but I've been lucky enough to come across just one such individual. Her name is Stephanie Corby, and when I tell you that this woman's voice will blow you away, I am not dramatizing. 
  I first saw her perform several years ago, here in Salt Lake City. By this point, she'd already released an album, and was touring. Her music was a mix of blues, jazz, folk, and her easy going, big smiling nature on stage was a hit with the audience. Most impressive, though, was the voice that simply doesn't quit. There seemed to be no range that she couldn't reach. 
  A gracious New Englander, she always seemed to charm everyone she met. Other musicians would sing her praises, and hosts couldn't speak more highly of the woman, so when I asked her for an interview, she kept with that trend and I couldn't have been more thrilled. Read on to unlock a little more of this fascinating voice and the great woman behind it.

The Interview:

Kita: How would you describe your music

Stephanie: I often refer to myself as a soulful songstress.  The Webster Dictionary’s definition of soulful is “full of or expressing feeling or emotion.”   I think that pretty much “hits the nail on the head” as far as my music concerned.  I approach everything I do musically from a soulful standpoint – whether I am singing, playing guitar or writing songs.  There is no other way for me.

Kita: When were you first interested in music? What caught that interest? 

Stephanie:  My first real musical memory is being about 5 years old – I was sitting next to my grandmother on a piano bench as she played Rachmaninoff.  She was an amazing pianist.  I was always amazed at the way she moved and swayed while she played with her eyes closed.  The music was so powerful – it stayed with me and moved me. 

Kita: At what point did you decide to go pro? 

Stephanie:   It was later than most!  I didn’t write my first song until I was 28.  I then started singing backup for other artists…and then after a couple years of writing songs, and performing at open mics,  I decided it was time to get serious about getting my art out into the world.

Kita: Has being on that level of music really changed your viewpoints/perspectives on the world? How about on music? 

Stephanie: It truly has.  It has humbled me.  As the years have gone by I have realized that my art is not really about me – it is about the people that sit in the audience or listen to my songs.  It is service.  I have been given a gift and it is my responsibility to share that gift with people.  I am always amazed at the way people take in music and how it affects them personally.  I am also amazed by the kindness I have experienced in the strangest of places and geographies.  Music unites people and I love that I can be a conduit in that regard.

Kita: Do you prefer the creation or the performance?

Stephanie:  I would have to say performance – simply because singing is my favorite thing to do….period. 

Kita: How have those closest to you reacted to all of this? 

Stephanie: They are happy, supportive, and proud.  J 

Kita: How have you found the music community?

Stephanie: I think initially I went to a lot of open mics and attended a lot of music conferences like the North American Folk Alliance and South-by-South-West.  It connected me with my tribe- a tribe that would lead me to many new places.  My true musical family resides at the Kerrville Folk Festival in Texas – I have been convening there with my fellow songwriters since 1999.

Kita: Do you struggle to maintain a good balance of day-to-day vs music? 

Stephanie: Yes – balance is always hard, isn’t it?  I try to carve out time on my calendar each week to devote to my “muse” – it doesn’t always work out but most of the time it does!

Kita: How about the business side vs the music side?  

Stephanie: For some strange reason I was born with a split brain that is both artistic and business-minded.  It has served me well.  I actually worked for a few years in NYC as VP of Marketing & Promotion at an Americana Record Label.  It was before I started my own music career and I learned so much about the business and how to manage myself moving forward.

Kita: What's your favorite aspect of music?  

Stephanie: Singing and performing with other people.  As I said before, music unites people.  When two musicians get into the “zone” while they are playing with each other, there is nothing better.  I often perform with an amazing guitar player named David Glaser.  I feel that he is my “brother from another mother!”  It is almost as if we can read each other’s minds musically….it is effortless and so rewarding.  To me it is the musician’s version of nirvana. J

Kita: Least favorite?  

Stephanie: Egos.  Enough said.

Kita: Where do you find inspiration? 

Stephanie:  In everything!!!!!!!

Kita: Do you prefer working alone, or is collaboration more your style

Stephanie: I prefer to write alone and perform with others.

Kita: What is touring like?

Stephanie: Exhausting and rewarding.  Touring has allowed me to see many corners of North America that most people will never get to see.   I remember one time I did a show at a cowboy hotel in Reed Point, Montana.  The population of the town was 99 and 80 people showed up for the show!  Those are memories that you always take with you.  I also remember many faces and souls that I have crossed paths with over the years – some haunt me and some make me smile.  I am grateful for all of them.

Kita: If you could go back in time, and tell your beginner self one thing, what would it be?

Stephanie:  YOU ROCK – don’t let anyone tell you different!  

To get more information on this super talented lady, check out her website here: http://www.stephaniecorby.com/

Have anyone else you'd like us to chat with? Suggestions are taken in the comments below! 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Fvorboda Exlani

by Kita
Fvorboda is one of those names, synonymous with quality, kindness, and just all around talent. Most dancers settle for being a talented soloist- no mean feat, in and of itself. The more ambitious ones even jump headlong into the creating and running of troupes. But Fvorboda's attitude, a mix of can-do and badass-ery, shines through. This woman wouldn't settle. Instead of a troupe, she started a school.
  Desert Journey School of Dance is a safe haven for dancers, a place where they can come to dance, perform, and be themselves, no matter the skill level. And Fvorboda is at the heart of it all. Her true love is her troupe, Dragomi, one of the premiere troupes in the Intermountain West, with their unique dragon style. But don't mistake her for one note at all. She has such a wide variety of performance styles, and she's mastered them all.
  Most importantly, Fvorboda is more than just a talented businesswoman, dancer, and performer. She's also kind, never uttering a harsh word, and always willing to patiently work with her students and teachers on whatever they most need help with. In a fast-pace world of performance, that's a rare and valuable thing. 

The Interview: 

Kita: How would you describe your art?

Fvorboda: My art is as much teaching as it is dancing.  I enjoy assisting others to grow and develop and gain self-esteem and confidence.  This is a big part of why I teach.  And I have always loved to dance.  I love music and love the way the music flows through me.  Music is like another language to me--as it "speaks" movement responds.

Kita: What first got you into belly dance?

Fvorboda: A co-worker at my work asked me to try something new with her.  She'd found a beginning class at Kismet and wanted to try it, but didn't want to go alone.  I had always wanted to dance, but never had the body (in my mind), or the opportunity.  I grew up very much a "tom-boy" into sports and athletics, and was more into arm wrestling than snake arms.  It was a door that opened up to me at the right time, and never having been in a formal dance class before, it was new, fun, and challenging.

Kita: At what point did you really get into it on your own?

Fvorboda: When Kismet closed, my co-worker stopped taking classes.  I didn't want to stop and ventured off with Adina to take classes with her.  Soon, Adina left for Army Basic Training and I found myself alone. I continued taking classes from varying teachers and soon started my own mini school, Exlani School of Dance.  After 2 years, I started teaching at my work in the Fitness Center

Kita: What inspired you to start your first troupe?

Fvorboda: I invited friends and family to take classes and started teaching what I knew to my sisters-in-law.  It wasn't too long before we had costumes and were performing at belly dance events at the Galivan Center and Multicultural Center.  I had my own way of dancing that others seemed to like, and in 2001 Amani (the first Dragomi) was born.

Kita: Where do you find your inspiration?

Fvorboda: I find my inspiration in music and in other dancers.  Music is what guides my choreography, my movement, the feeling I push through dance, and the story I want to give to the audience. Other dancers are inspirational!  The way they have trained their body to move, the effort that they put in their dancing, and the stories they tell me.

Kita: How do you feel belly dance has changed your life?

Fvorboda: It has taught me a lot about humans--what drives them, what intimidates them, and the dynamics of how each individual interacts separately and as a group.   Bellydancing is much like a orchestra or choir to me, and there is a rhythm to each group that creates harmony when all work together.

Kita: Do you struggle to maintain a balance between day-to-day life and your dancing?

Fvorboda: Definitely.  I am the busiest person I know.  (But maybe everybody says that.)  I work a really demanding day job in a fairly high level position, I am a single mom of a gifted child, I have a house that I moved into not too long ago that needs attention, I choreograph a couple hours a week and I teach 5-10 hours a week.  And if I can find time, I donate plasma. ;) What drives me is what I am committed to, and holding my integrity to that.

Kita: How has running a business affected you?

Fvorboda:When it was just me, it was a breeze.  With several fabulous teachers working with me, it has become much more challenging.  My goal has always been to be a dance school first and and business second.  I want women (and men) to come to a place where they aren't spending an arm and a leg to do something they love.  But I also have to balance out what I can afford to run the school with what we have to offer at the school.  I believe I will always be in the learning curve on the business side, and the dance side.

Kita: Do you struggle to keep motivated on the business side as well as the dance side?

Fvorboda: Not too much.  It is really more about finding the time to do everything.  Sometimes I choose sleep, sometimes I choose finishing the finances.  

Kita: What were your goals when you started?

Fvorboda: To teach what I know, to share my knowledge with others, and to provide a place where others could come for whatever they needed, whether it be a new friend, to be a part of something fun, a sanctuary from relationships, a break from the kids, or the start of their dance career.   (And I wanted to have people to dance with.)

Kita: How about now?

Fvorboda: They actually haven't changed.  I would add that I want to focus on building confidence and allow people to open up.  Starting out very shy and closed, I also want others to be able to open up and be as fearless as they can be.

Kita: What is your biggest struggle?

Fvorboda: Time and internal struggles.  I am a tough cookie, but soft in the middle.  My humanity allows me to worry what others think, worrying if someone is not happy, failing at being the best I can be, or not good enough, and feeling valued for what I do.  I think everyone has that to some degree or another.  Give me a time machine, though, and I'd be ecstatic!

Kita: Do you prefer the creation or the performance side?

Fvorboda: Both, but moreso the creation side.  Performing is fun because it is challenging to me personally and takes me out of my comfort zone in a positive way.  But I can easily create and choreograph something for a group and never perform it, and I feel just as satisfied.  

Kita: If you could go back in time and tell your beginner self one thing, what would it be?

Fvorboda: Don't be afraid.  Don't be afraid of looking dumb, making a mistake, or trying something unusual.  Lose yourself in the dance, not so much the technicality of the moves.  
And do awesome stuff now before you get old and it hurts.  ;)

To take classes or check out the schedule at the school, visit: http://www.desertjourney.com/
Don't forget to check out Facebook! https://www.facebook.com/DesertJourney

Have someone else you'd like us to chat with? Suggestions are taken in the comments below!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Julie Lucus

by Mandy

 If you've taken a trip to the Urban Arts Gallery lately, you've been greeted by two majestic, deliciously gaudy life-size figures standing near the doorway.  You've been nearly blinded by the dazzling mosaic glass which covers one, or the pristine shining metal which makes up the other.  I was blown away by these, and several other pieces by Julie Lucus featured in the gallery.  I knew I had to interview her, however, once I saw the hollowed out dress form with a delightfully creepy doll head peaking out from the inside.  
Lucus is a multi-media artist, using found and seemingly unrelated objects and putting them together in a way which tickles the brain and inspires our pension for dark humor.  If you get the chance, you need to see these amazing sculptures in person.  I can't describe what you'll feel.  I can only say you will be pleasantly surprised. 

Mandy:  What kind of artist are you? 

Julie:  I am a sculptor and artist provocateur.  Blurring boundaries, breaking rules, and compulsive experimentation occupies much of my artistic time. I use unconventional materials and concepts outside the scope of traditional art-making to delight the eye, and shock the sensibilities. I use both new and recycled materials, often disassembling them and then reassembling them in new, startlingly exotic combinations.  In much of my work there are underlying tones of irony, irreverence, and mischievous humor. 

Mandy:  When did you first know you were interested in art?

Julie:  I developed an interest in art in high school and it’s been with me since.  From photography to pottery to growing bonsai, and just about everything artistic in between- has engaged me at some point in my life.  I didn’t produce my first sculpture until 2002 or so, but once I did, I pretty much lost interest in all other creative activities.

Mandy:  Who are your favorite artists? 

Julie:  Damien Hirst never fails to impress me with his shocking sculptural and installation works.  He is fearless in his use of controversial materials to convey his message.  His design concepts are very costly and he is not afraid to put a lot of money into his works. Hirst is a risk taker when it comes to business strategy, and an outright marketing genius when it comes moving his art. 
Liza Lou is a bead artist who first gained attention for her room-sized beaded installation, “Kitchen” in the late 1990’s. What I like about Liza is that she elevated “the craft” of beading to a fine art form that even the most pretentious art critics can’t ignore.  She has not allowed her material of choice to define her as a “crafter”.  She rejected that label rather loudly, and has gone on to show her works in some of the world’s most prestigious galleries.  
Mark Ryden is a pop surrealist painter and what I love about his work the most is his color palette. He uses a lot of pinks and greens together.  I would re-color the world with his palette if I could because it has such a strong effect on me.  His doe-eyed children and animals make me feel warm and fuzzy and at the same time, slightly melancholy and a little devilish too.
Chinese artist, architect and activist Ai Weiwei is a hero of mine because he is not afraid to agitate through art in order to raise political awareness. He makes people mad, but he also makes them think, and that creates dialogue.  And in my mind, that is as admirable reason to create art. He is also very much a humanitarian, and has employed hundreds of his country’s poorest people to help produce porcelain objects for some of his large-scale installations.

Mandy:  Where do you find inspiration?  Who or what influences you?

Julie:  I have been greatly influenced by found object art, and I use some parts of that art making process.  I love the idea of combining things and rearranging parts and objects to make entirely new objects.  I tried for a long time to live with the corrosion and imperfections that are an integral part of found object art, but just couldn’t come to terms with that.  When I create, I go for shiny, glossy, smooth, perfection with bold color.  Many of my pieces include found or vintage items, but you would never know it because the finished piece is usually quite pristine. 
My inspiration usually comes from reflection, or what is going on in my life at the time- but it also includes the peripheral influence of popular culture.   I like to approach subjects that are perhaps a little disarming, irreverent, morose, and macabre. I am also more than a little fascinated with death and rebirth. 

Mandy:  Describe the technical process that goes into creating one of your pieces.

Julie:  Oh boy, which one? I use a lot of different techniques in my work.   Ok, well let’s say I want to create a 3D creature and then mosaic it with glass.  I begin with the sculpture base, using wire, wood, fiberglass and resin, and/or high-density Styrofoam to get the basic shape down.  You can carve Styrofoam with an electric knife to create some really elegant lines.  I refine the base shape by adding to it with bondo or plaster.  I hand-sand the structure and then repeat the process as needed.  I usually coat the entire structure with a two-part epoxy resin to create a super hard shell over the structure. I paint the base exactly how I want it to look when it is covered in glass. I hand cut my glass into ½” x ½ “ or ¼ “ x ¼” squares depending on the complexity of the shape. I use the direct mosaic method and glue the glass directly onto the structure. Once the mosaic work is complete, I grout the entire structure.

Mandy:  What is your biggest struggle or obstacle as an artist?

Julie:  Knowing who you are as an artist is hard and getting people to see you in the same light is even harder.  The “craft versus art” debate has been dogging me for years.  Am I an artist, or am I a craftsman?  Or, am I an artist of craft?  Art aficionados tell us that craft is technique driven, and that objects made through the pursuit of perfect technique are decorative objects without any underlying substance. They tell us that fine art is an idea or thought that is represented visually.  They tell us fine art is conceptual, and will journey further, intellectually and emotionally, past purely decorative objects.  
Admittedly, I do some design work that is strictly decorative, but the majority of my work is conceptual, and does involve thought and emotion.  The problem is, the execution of my work is very technique driven, and when I am creating, the process is just as important to me as the concept.  I’m torn really, and can’t decide if I am offended or not when critics call my work “craft as art.”  

Mandy:  Are the people in your life supportive of your art? 

Julie:  My family is supportive… or at the least, tolerant of my art, and the lifestyle that supports it.  My art and work areas have pretty much taken over most of my home; so hanging out at my house is an interesting experience for most people.  A lot of the furniture and possessions I spent half my life acquiring have gone by the wayside, to make room for art, supplies, and work areas.  In my mind, I’m living the dream, but for some friends and relatives… well they do worry about me not having a couch.  (Laughs).

Mandy:  Do you like to collaborate?  Who have you collaborated with? 

Julie:  I do bounce concepts off artist friends from time to time, but when it comes down to actually doing the work, I don’t collaborate.  Creating art is a very singular experience for me, and when I am creating, it’s all about me being in the moment, and going the direction I want to go creatively. I know that must sound pretty narcissistic, but I think a lot of artists feel that way.  I love every moment of the creative process, and would find it difficult to share that with anyone.  It’s a journey that I want to take alone.

Mandy:  What do you think about the art scene in Salt Lake? 

Julie:  If you had asked me that a few years ago my answer would have been very different.  I think the Salt Lake City art scene is much more contemporary and cutting edge than it used to be.  Urban and underground artists are recognized and accepted in most art circles these days, and hip young galleries seem to be popping up all of the time.
When I first entered the art scene in 2004, the majority of what was showing in galleries was traditional, conservative works created in traditional, conservative mediums. I joined an artist-run co-op named,  “New Visions” gallery.  It was a wonderful showcase for both known and unknown artists like myself, whose work was quite a distance outside convention at the time.  Art Co-ops are hard to keep going, so the gallery closed after a few years, but it was a great place for me to start showing my work.  And, while I don’t necessarily like to collaborate on art per say, I did enjoy the collaborative effort of trying to keep a gallery open and thriving.  All of the member artists were working toward the same goal of having and maintaining a venue for their art.

Mandy:  Do you have a favorite local artist?

Julie:  Now, answering that would get me in some trouble...

Mandy:  What are your goals as an artist?

Julie:  Generally, my goals as an artist are to be true to myself and to continue to create things that I am proud of; to not be afraid of chasing perfection through technique; to continue to experiment with new materials and processes; and to never chase after money with art.  More specifically, I’d like to have a show in New York and build an art car some day.

Mandy:  Have you met any of your goals so far?

Julie:  Yeah, I would say so, but the solo show in New York and the art car are going to take some time. (Laughs)

Mandy:  If you couldn’t be an artist, what would you do? 

Julie:  Fortunately, I have been lucky enough to have a career in a creative field (photography and video production), so I am never without the opportunity to do something creative.  But, if I couldn’t make art outside my day job, I might very well be institutionalized (laughing).   Art… the kind you make for yourself and not other people…. is like therapy, and it’s usually cheaper and much more effective.  Most of the time I create art for myself, not for the public.  But, if someone else happens to like it, well, that’s really a bonus.

To contact Julie, or see more of her art, visit her website:


Julie currently has pieces showing at the UAA Urban Gallery at the Gateway Mall (137 South Rio Grande Street, Salt Lake City), and at the Sugarhouse Gallery (Artistic Framing Company), 2160 South Highland Drive, Salt Lake City.