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PMAC exhibition and studio tour: Otto Kamensek, “Shards, Bone Deep”

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Exhibition: Ceramic sculpture by Otto Kamensek focuses on art and arthritis

Otto Kamensek’s ceramic sculpture will be exhibited in his end-of-residency show entitled “Shards, Bone Deep.” The exhibition, which opens the evening of April 17th and runs to May 8th, will be in the 3-D Gallery at the Port Moody Arts Centre. The centre is located at 2425 St. Johns Street, Port Moody, British Columbia.

On May 1, from 7:00-9:00 p.m, Mr. Kamensek will discuss “the release of pain, frustration, and stress through art” during an exhibition and studio tour at the Port Moody Arts Centre. Call (604)931-2008  to make a reservation for the tour or for more information. A $10.00 donation for talk and tour is suggested, with proceeds going to the OK Bursary.

Colleen Maloney’s article, “Art and Arthritis: Shards, Bone Deep,” was originally published in the Arthritis Research Centre of Canada newsletter for Spring ’14.

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“Art and Arthritis: Shards, Bone Deep,”

by Colleen Maloney

Otto Kamensek’s ceramic work has generated interest within the local art circles and the arthritis research community. Living with arthritis is reflected in Otto’s artistic expression and his work has led to invitations to present at community events and at national and international arthritis conferences. Last year, Otto earned a one-year ceramic artist-in-residence award at the Port Moody Art Centre (PMAC) to further explore his creativity.  The residency gives him a private studio space and access to equipment in which to develop his craft.  This year, his sculptures will be showcased in a solo exhibition titled, Shards, Bone Deep, a play on words relating to a piece of pottery or stone and the sharp ragged pain of arthritis.

Otto’s association with the PMAC and his involvement with the Arthritis Research Centre of Canada, as a member of the Consumer Advisory Board, coincided with the creation of what is now a series of pieces depicting the dimensions of arthritis.  He explained that as a student of art history he wanted to “try” to meld his health experiences into his art in a meaningful expression of life with chronic disease.

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“Chronic Disease Staircase”

The first piece in his exploration of arthritis, and one of the 12 pieces in his upcoming solo exhibition, is the Chronic Disease Staircase. It depicts a small figure on the bottom step of a multi-tiered staircase looking at risers that become progressively higher, while his shadow falls forward melting into the tip of the second step.

Otto says he knows the feeling of being overwhelmed because he’s been there;  “It’s the end of the day, the sun is setting, and no matter what you have tried throughout the day, you’re still at the bottom of the stairs.  It’s sheer frustration.”

His second piece, The Glimmer of Hope, was a turning point for him.  It began as all Otto’s pieces begin with an idea and a sketch.  But unlike other pieces that progress to the maquete stage and then on to the building of the ceramic sculpture, this piece came to a full stop.

“It is a very personal piece and it was difficult to construct because it required revisiting my past,” he explained.  “I had to decide if I really wanted to do it because it seemed to be pushing me down rather than lifting me up.” It gives those without arthritis or chronic disease a glimpse at the ravages of the disease and its emotional impact.

The two biggest pieces slated for the exhibition are Bone Deep, a hand at just over two feet in height, and a three-foot high caricature titled The Fog of Fatigue.

The hand is exquisite in its detail and artistry.  It shows the findings related to inflammatory and osteoarthritis including muscle, bone and tendons, and muscle wasting in the palm.  On each finger is written the word arthritis.  The letters on one of the fingers are fashioned to resemble bone.

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“The Fog of Fatigue”

The caricature is my favourite.  One look and you know it portrays fatigue; you know what it feels like to be constantly tired.  And you know how fatigue can make it difficult to concentrate because it can cloud the mind.  But one look isn’t enough.  His work has many layers and a depth that goes unrealized with only a quick look.  The Fog of Fatigue deserves concentrated inspection and is a must see at the exhibition.

Two of the other pieces in the exhibition are An Angry Joint, and Arthritis Still LifeAn Angry Joint demonstrates Otto’s talent for creating powerful, dramatic faces that capture the emotional and physical scars of living with a chronic disease.  Although I am not an art critic by profession, I do enjoy all forms of art and explore art galleries during my travels.  Based on the quality of his work and the important subject matter it depicts, I would like to see Otto’s work showcased in a major national gallery.  It would prompt a discussion about arthritis and chronic disease in general.

Otto’s sculptures from his solo exhibition are not for sale.  It is part of his commitment to promoting arthritis advocacy and will grow in size as time allows and ideas develop.  His greatest wish is that the collection will be exhibited in other cities so that people can develop a better understanding of what it is like to live with arthritis.

There is sadness in his voice when he says that his residency at the PMAC ends on May 1st.  “It’s been fun”, he says.

Otto and His Sculptures

The Glimmer of Hope is a sculpture that reflects Otto’s visual journey of pain.  It portrays a man bent forward in a chair, his arms resting on his scar streaked knees and his body infused with spikes, nails and needles.   Otto says he wanted to illustrate old rusty pain, sharp needle-like pain, and festering pain that seems to go on forever.  At the same time he wanted to depict hope, maybe even trust, that something better was around the corner, hence the name The Glimmer of Hope.  And there was.  His work is intricate and expressive and appeals to people with chronic diseases.  It depicts how they feel and helps them to better translate their feelings.  It gives those without arthritis or chronic disease a glimpse at the ravages of the disease and its emotional impact.

Arthritis Still Life is fashioned in the Flemish style, when artisans created pieces depicting possessions that illustrated prominent features of their lives and status in the community.   Within this genre Otto has created an arthritis still life.  It contains a table, and beside it is a raised chair and a cane.  On top are all the items associated with arthritis treatment including a small splash of red that I will not reveal.  You must see and discover the significance for yourself.

About Otto

In 1974, Otto was diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis — he was 9 years old. It was an era he refers to as the stone age of arthritis treatment. The disease brought changes to his body that necessitated changes in physical activity. When soccer was no longer an option, he turned to drawing and building models. In his  20’s and early 30’s, he worked as a buyer in the electronics industry; by his mid 30’s arthritis had played havoc with his body, resulting in hip and knee replacements and four long-term in-patient stays in a rehabilitation centre. Prowling the halls at night  he discovered the rehab centre’s art studio, and, one day he ventured in. His life became much sweeter. Otto left the centre with paper mache masks tucked under his arms and enrolled in clay classes at the PMAC. This was the beginning of his affiliation with sculpture and his dedication to working with clay. In 2005 he collaborated with a friend to produce a ceramic sculpture title Joan of Art and won second prize at the Port Moody Society’s Wearable Art Show, a bi-annual event that attracts entries from around the world. Otto continues to mold his experience of living with arthritis with his artistic endeavours.

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A Christmas Marketplace with a difference!

Picture this…a lovely room lit with winter light filtering through large windows…. The sills are wide and the ceilings high. It’s a lovely heritage building, Arts and Crafts-style; it’s the Port Moody Arts Centre and home to the Blackberry Artist’s Society. Dotted around the room are plinths festooned with festive paper and bows, neutral colors in contrast to the colorful artwork on display. You’ll find sparkling jewelry and rich hued weavings, lovely handmade paper. Ceramics, utilitarian and decorative, sit next to works of hand carved stone. Light shines through stained glass and framed paintings decorate the walls. Come see the delicate drawings, photography, and intarsia, hand-carved wooden toys…

But, what makes this a different marketplace? The select group of artisans who are members of this co-op devote themselves to their art throughout the year, exhibiting their work and selling it through their gift shop in the centre. To prepare for the Christmas Marketplace, each one of them has been working for months to bring you the best, the loveliest, the most beautiful of what they have created. When you walk into the centre, you’ll also be captivated by a Christmas tree just loaded with decorations made by the Blackberries. Between the tree, the exhibition and the on-site gift shop, you can experience and partake the best this unique Christmas Marketplace has to offer.

Stop by the Port Moody Arts Centre, located in the old City Hall building at the corner of St. Johns and Kyle in Port Moody. The Christmas Marketplace runs through December 23rd. Hours are from Mon.-Fri. 10-6 pm, Sat. 10-5 pm, and Sun. 12-4 pm.

Free artist demonstrations are ongoing: Nov. 30, ceramics with Pauline Doyle (took place today); Dec. 7, buttonmaking with Sarah Ronald, and Dec. 14, stonecarving with Tom Reid. Get a jump start on your Christmas shopping; come see us and you’ll meet a coop member who will be happy to talk about the artwork on display.

Christmas Marketplace  2013 evite

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Raku workshop this weekend

Horsehair Vase Judge's Special Award Mashiko 2006 Swanica Ligtenberg

Horsehair Vase Judge’s Special Award Mashiko 2006 Swanica Ligtenberg.
“Horsehair Raku Technique: taking out of the kiln at 1350F and putting horsehair on the pot which burns into it. Putting the pot on a tissue will give smoke effects on the pot. The yellowish color is from spraying ferric chloride on the put while it is hot.”
By Swanica via Wikimedia Commons

You know how you feel when something exciting is about to happen? Well, I can barely contain myself! I am taking part in a raku workshop this weekend. It is being taught by Dan Severance, of the Port Moody Arts Centre. A pro with much experience, Dan is also fun to be around. He’s perfected his techniques over the years and I know this all-day workshop will be terrific. We’ll be learning special raku techniques using horse hair and feathers, along with ordinary methods. I’ve worked with raku since the early 1980s but have yet to learn these advanced techniques. It’s perfect timing, as I’m going to start concentrating on raku.

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Raku pottery coming out of the kiln. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Western-raku-vase

A vase glazed and fired using the Western Raku technique, showing the soot, crackle glazing, and random oxidation typical of this pottery form. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

 I like the primitive nature of a raku firing…red hot pieces lifted from a kiln and plunged into organic matter. Crackle glazes and smoky blacks. It makes me reflect on the history of raku, on the Japanese and Koreans artisans who have fired pottery this way for centuries. One reason I’m stoked is because, while I’ve used traditional raku glazes on sculptures and vessels, I’ve yet to use the metallic oxides which result in beautiful coloration and patterns. So think of us this weekend. We’ll be working inside a gorgeous two-storey Arts and Crafts-style building, then firing outside alongside it. We’re enjoying a gorgeous fall here in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. Perfect for a raku firing: sunny yet crisp.

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