2017 National Mature Media Award WINNER

2017 National Mature Media Award WINNER
The Creative Landscape of Aging Wins a NMMA Award!


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

An Interview with BENNETT BEAN: Creating a Continuum of Art

I understand that you migrated to art as a college student. I assume that there were early creative experiences that paved the way. Was your artful spirit hibernating, were you aware of it?

First, it was the way I was brought up and given a sense by my mother that I was astonishingly wonderful. This is a perfect gift to give a child. Second, third grade was amazingly important.  I went to a university experimental school where their experiment was to provide a project then point to the back of the room where there were plenty of books and materials to find a solution. I still approach my art that way; I have a project and then I search for the solution. So much is about curiosity.

I was dyslexic before they invented dyslexia so I was considered stupid; but, I was so well armored by my mother’s spirit that I could not be crushed. I think of dyslexia as an advantage, and I feel sorry for artists who think in linear terms; I enjoy thinking in terms of a relational field of elements spun in space.

Becoming an artist was not a very popular thought when I was growing up in the 50s. In any event, my mother said that I could be an artist but had to finish school first so in that way she gave me permission and restrictions.

It’s interesting that your mother was the one to encourage you to take the leap in Art studies since often most parents place an emphatic push on traditional careers.  She must have been a very intuitive person with good instincts.

My mother was fabulous with great instincts and very smart. I had a great childhood with only standard suffering such as occasional bullying. It was idyllic to grow up in the Midwest in the 50’s.


You traveled through initial career journeys as an archaeologist then an architect to solidly planting yourself as an artist. How have these studies shaped your thinking in making your art?

I was really shopping for a way to make a living. I was very lucky to have gone to Grinnell, which was a liberal arts college where I was forced to explore a variety of studies. Their core curriculum was really good. I was just trying to figure it out and then I received permission from my mother to study Art and left Grinnell. I enrolled in the University of Iowa which was like a huge art factory and a wonderful place to be; an ideal situation with many types of students.


You write:“The things I make influence what I buy and the things I buy influence what I make…..  It’s a dance where ideas are applied in different ways depending on the medium.” This integrative approach must trigger a whole inner circle of visual and intellectual thought. When did you become conscious of this unique way of relating to the objects around you?


It is kind of a circle; each feeds the other. We’re making rugs in Nepal and using images of pots in the design, and as the rugs change it goes back and influences my pots again. Now I am making a new line of furniture which is taking imagery from both the pots and the rugs. It is a kind of interior discussion based on curiosity of what happens if I take this thing from here……stealing one thing from one place to see how it may fit in another . It’s an approach of transforming one thing to another.

Your approach to creating art is dynamic. You respond with flexibility, shifting your initial values to embrace a more complex view that hosts many elements of thought to bring down barriers of distinction among those elements. Do you consider yourself a flexible open person in life as well?


I have been a practicing Buddhist for many years; one of the things this leads to is that one becomes less interested in the distinctions between this and that.  I’m not interested in barriers, so I can move between things that others may find think of as very different. And a lot of what I do is to show up to the problem with whatever point of view I have and apply it.
I probably consider myself more open and flexible than others do. 
Also I may be more open than flexible because the way I do things requires discipline so it means that I may have to say “No” to people who want me to do something else.


Having created in many mediums (clay, paint, steel, fiber) and produced many objects/items, what do you still yearn to do now at 72?

I have way more ideas than I could ever actually physically execute. I would like to have a big pile of money so I could hire a bunch of people to do them. And what I would really like to make is big sculpture, monster steel things with gold inside. That would be fun. Also it would be interesting to revisit utilitarian ceramics because it is where I started.
It’s almost a continuation of all things and of course there is an economic piece to all of it since I stopped teaching 40 years ago and now I am focused on sustaining my studio.

As I get older, I clearly have less energy. I am slowly deteriorating physically although I still suffer from attacks of euphoria.

Monday, September 16, 2013

An Interview with DONNA MC CULLOUGH: Creative Recycling through Artful Welding

You started drawing early. What do you most remember about your beginning creative years?
I remember seeing Degas bronze dancer with the fabric skirt at the Baltimore Museum of Art. That piece definitely influenced my work!
Grand mom taught us how to cross stitch and other needlework. We were always working on something and have many ribbons from submitting our art work in the County Fairs. I also loved to draw horses and sketched all over my notebooks and art pads. Now I have horses and do sculptures of them.
My mom painted and gave art classes in our home and Dad did woodworking. Art was everywhere around us. She sewed and taught me to sew and I began making my own clothes in 9th grade.

Your female artistic influencers as you grew up were family since your grandmother, mother and sister were artists. Did everyone work differently in different mediums or in a similar venue?
My sister and I were encouraged early on. My mother, grandmother and great grandmother were all artists. One of my great grandmother’s paintings of strawberries in a wooden bowl hung in my grandmother’s dining room. Grand mom painted china and did needlework. Mom painted and now makes jewelry also. My sister was a graphic designer and painter and now teaches painting and drawing at Youngstown University. I started painting and drawing and ended up doing sculpture.

You were employed as a staff designer working in retail packaging for many years before having a “aha” moment which triggered your study of welding and ushered you in the world of 3 dimensions. In a way, this also revealed your talents similar to your father’s in carpentry. How did you take that artistic leap from 2 D to 3D, from creating classic art to creating mechanical art?
I still am a graphic designer/art director three days a week. These are very long days with a very long commute.

I never realized that connection to my dad’s carpentry. I can figure out most projects on my own; I somehow have the three dimensional sense to work forms out. I don’t need to draw or build diagrams or miniatures.Perhaps it's because I know my subjects well: female forms and animals…horses, dogs and chickens.
As far as making the leap, it took me a bit to overcome the fear factor of welding. I started doing oxy acetylene which has an open flame and looks much scarier than mig (metal inert gas) welding which I do now. But, I knew that this was a core need that I developed so I stuck to it. I work by myself and sometimes just the weight of some of the pieces makes it difficult to deal with. Those are the times I think I should go back to painting! I do all the hauling and installations for my shows also and wonder how long I will be able to do it.

Many of your female dress pieces depict contradictions in elements. It could be a metal bodice and a tulle skirt or a metal bodice and an unfilled metal frame skirt or the drill team series which plays on the concepts of both an oil drill and a cheerleader drill. Do you think of these concepts before beginning your piece? Do you sketch or plan your form before creating it?
I do not normally sketch out dresses. I do have ideas when I start a project. Sometimes a piece starts when I choose an interesting piece of metal that I feel lends itself to a bodice and start from there. Sometimes I do the top part and then decide what would work best as the skirt. Each piece is totally different. The pieces I do actually plan are the Drill Team girls (the oil and gas can pieces). The material (oil cans) is difficult to find so I really think before I start cutting the metal. I also try to figure out what I will use for the skirt before I start the top part.
One example of how things begin is a piece called Belle Epoche. This is a horse piece. I was cleaning out my locker in a studio that I rent and found two pieces of metal from an old grass catcher from a commercial lawn mower. These pieces were what was left from another time I had used part of it. The shape of the pieces reminded me of a horse neck. So, that is how that piece was born.

Do you actively seek to recycle elements in your art or is it serendipitous?
I think the answer to the question is both. I love to create new objects out of totally unusual materials. I have a dress in my current show called Heat Wave. She is created from an old oil heater that a friend was throwing out. I actually jumped into the large dumpster and hauled it out! I attached the label from the oil heater to the back of her dress. A bit of humor.
I started using what I found because I did not have the money or know how to find or buy what I needed. This directed the style of my pieces and now I am known for that look. I acquire pieces by finding them on the road, scrap yards, friends, goodwill, ebay etc.

Your love of animals is reflected in your art of horses, dogs and various fowl. Do you prefer to work in a series like the female form or to create individual sculptures like the animals?
I mostly create the dress series because they are often what the galleries want. I used to do some dresses, then work on animals. I enjoy trying to plan on creating dresses/animals/dresses/animals alternatively.

Looking ahead, what are you visions and goals for further developing your art now that you are only months away from being 60?
I plan on working on life size horse pieces. I also anticipate creating more pieces that will actually hang on the wall. I want to expand my reach, get my work into more galleries, and somehow combine art and traveling.