Most Viewed Stories
Yuma Symposium to once again inspire, entertain
Where: Frances Morris Boardroom, 3C Building
When: Thursday, Feb. 23
Cost: Free and open to the public
9:25 to 10:40 a.m. - Roberley Bell “Form Fauna and Floral”
10:50 a.m. to 12:05 p.m. - Sandra Luehrsen “The Sky's the Limit: Clay Totems”
1:40 to 2:55 p.m. - Ron Jones “How Voodoo, Sloppy Living and a Low Sperm Count Lead Me to a Life of Photography”
3:05 to 4:20 - John Babcock “An Artist Makes Paper”
Once a year Yuma throws a big art party.
Artists and art lovers from around the country gather here to inspire each other, share techniques and check out fantastic art that's graced the galleries of the Smithsonian and Museum of Modern Art.
Co-founder Neely Tomkins calls the Yuma Art Symposium “comfort food for hungry artists.”
The annual event kicked off 33 years ago, starting out small as a casual and friendly klatch of art folks. Today all that remains the same, but attendance has certainly grown, leading some fans of the symposium to call it a “backyard barbecue that has gotten out of hand.”
Also unchanged is the caliber of artists who attend the Yuma Symposium, which runs Feb. 23-25. Tomkins said that artists brought to Yuma as main presenters aren't just great people, they're also some of the best minds in the nation's creative circles.
“These people are at the top of their class. They have gotten Fulbright scholarships, have traveled the world and have received grant money from the National Endowment for the Arts, who also bring in artists who are good sharers. Most of them come from academia, they teach at big universities and have their song and dance put together. They know what they need to say and what people want to hear.”
Eleven artists are making presentations this year, coming to Yuma from as far away as Boston and New York City. They represent a rich diversity of art forms, ranging from clay, fiber and wood to metals, painting and photography.
Around 300 people register for the symposium every year. But Tomkins points out that locals can certainly register or simply attend the numerous activities that are free and open to everyone.
“There is so much that's open to the public. If people go to the lectures artists give, and then go see their art, they will understand the work so much more. They will see where the artists' ideas come from, know what their motivations are.”
Around 50 pieces of art from symposium presenters will be on display at the Yuma Art Center. The exhibit will open at on Friday, Feb. 24, and remain on display for a month.
“I encourage anyone who might want to sample what the symposium is all about to come on down to the Art Center and attend the opening on Friday, Feb. 24, at 5 p.m.,” said Rex Ijams, arts and culture program manager for the city of Yuma. “Not only will you see some outstanding art, participants can rub elbows with nationally know artists of all kinds! It's truly an amazing event that has been elevating Yuma for 33 years.”
Tomkins also suggests that people check out free lectures that the 11 guest artists will be giving at Arizona Western College. (See inset schedule for details). The four “pre-symposium” lectures are set for Thursday. No registration is required and admission is free.
The public can also meet the artists and other participants on Thursday during registration for the symposium. That will take place from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. at Lutes Casino in downtown Yuma. Also taking place then will be the Yuma Pin Swap, a much-cherished tradition where attendees trade decorative pins they have made.
The action that day will then proceed to the Historic Yuma Theatre at 7 p.m. for orientation.
“Each presenter will give a mini presentation. That's a great time for people to come,” Tomkins said, adding that symposium attendees are also given five minutes each to stand up and show their work or talk about a current project or favorite program. Graduate students sometimes ask for criticisms from the audience.
The public can also watch another symposium highlight scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 25. The annual and humorous National Saw, File and Solder Sprints will take place at 4 p.m. in the parking lot behind the Gowan Company on Main Street.
“It's a ring-making sports event,” Tomkins said, laughing. “It's a relay race with teams of three.”
Competitors run between tables set up with the materials and tools needed to forge a ring. Many teams dress up in costumes. Some bring cheerleaders.
“The ring must fit the finger of someone on the team,” Tomkins said. “It's always fun to watch and the rings are usually the awfulest things you've ever seen!”
Jody Alexander holds an MS in library science from Simmons College in Boston. She is an artist, book-binder, papermaker, librarian and teacher who lives and works in Santa Cruz, Calif. She makes paper and binds books in a number of historical and modern binding styles. She combines these books with found objects to create artists' books, sculptural works and installations. Her pieces celebrate collecting, storytelling and odd characters. For this year's symposium, she will talk about her work on character development, a presentation titled “Creating a Reality for the Voices in My Head.”
John Babcock holds an MFA in sculpture from the Academy of Arts and Humanities, Institute of Experimental Printmaking from Monterey, Calif. He currently works in his mountainside studio south of San Francisco. His medium is paper, and his work has been shown in major museums internationally. His works are included in many public and private collections, including The Museum of Art and Design, New York.
For this year's symposium, Karl Baden will be showing parts of his face photographed in sequence on single rolls of 35mm film, which are then printed as enlarged contact sheets. His presentation will include these and other forms of manipulate and straight documentary self-portrait projects from the late 1970s up to the present. Karl Baden's photographs have been widely exhibited, including at the Robert Mann Gallery, Zabriskie Gallery, Marcuse Pfeifer Gallery, and Museum of Modern Art, New York City; the Howard Yezerski Gallery, Institute of Contemporary Art.
Roberley Bell holds an MFA in sculpture from State University of New York at Alfred. Bell's projects examine ideas related to the built environment exploring the relationship between the man made and the natural landscape focusing on the artifice of nature. Bell creates both exterior and interior works. Her gardens projects are both a play on and with nature. The recent sculpture series Flower Blobs take their cue from blob architecture. Their forms are in fact nothing in nature, though the sculptures reveal themselves as natural forms.
Michael Cullen has been designing and creating pieces at his studio and workshop in Petaluma, Calif., since 1990. Since the beginning, Michael has embraced the idea of creating work that ranges from understated to ornate furniture; from elemental and monolithic sculpture; and to work that is narrative and whimsical in character. Because he builds what he creates, Michael is always aware of separating his two passions — that designer in him is always set to challenge his skills as a master maker.
Bob Ebendorf holds an MFA from the University of Kansas, Lawrence. Since 1999 he has been the Belk Distinguished Chair at East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C. Robert Ebendorf began recycling the ordinary things that society discards long before “repurposing” became a fashionable buzzword. He has also worked in Oslo, Norway, first on a Fulbright scholarship and later with a Louis Comfort Tiffany grant. Selected collections include the Smithsonian, Victoria and Albert Museum, Schmuck Museum and Metropolitan Museum of Art. He has received numerous awards including the Governor's Award for the Arts in North Carolina in 2010.
Since the 1970s, Ron Jones has traveled extensively in Mexico, Southeast Asia and Indonesia. He has photographed the people and the places they live along the way. He captures their art, dance and spirituality. Jones lives in Santa Cruz, Calif., where he works as a photographer.
Sandra Luehrsen earned a BA and an MFA degree from Arizona State University. She left her position as assistant dean at ASU to start her own business. She also teaches a 3-D design class at Mesa Community College in Arizona. For the past 10 years, her work has emerged and been inspired by family research where “restored pottery becomes a metaphor for ancient lives.” Luehrsen exhibits her art nationally and internationally. Since 2007, she mounted solo exhibitions at the Chandler Center for the Arts, West Valley Art Museum and Central Arizona College.
Larry Sparks, or simply “Sparks,” has been building homes for 40 years, ranging from the very elegant to simply designed cottages throughout Colorado and New Mexico. He has lived in many of them but now is working on a collection of buildings in El Rito, New Mexico he calls his own home: the Shack, the house itself, covered almost completely on the outside with found advertising metal signs, and the inside with other collectables from “the road” or the dump or junk stores he casually visits almost constantly; the studio and the garage (really another studio) and a few acres with various sculptures made of bowling balls, rusted found objects, some alarmingly large; and an outside composting toilet with a wall of wine bottles to rival the Rose Window at Notre Dame.
Helen Shirk received her MFA in jewelry and metalsmithing at Indiana University in Bloomington. She was the head of the jewelry/metals program at San Diego State University until 2010 and is now retired from teaching, having taught since 1975. She draws on a combination of inspiration from her travels to the natural world where she is able to create botanical forms, surface variation and color. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, including the Victoria and Albert Museum, National Museum of Modern Art in Kyoto, Carnegie Museum of Art and the Renqick Gallery of the Smithsonian.
Marlene True received her MFA in jewelry and metal design from East Carolina University. She is interested in jewelry and its ability to communicate. According to the artist, she “works with recycled steel sourced from tin cans as a material for fabrication, images, color and text. She is currently program director for the Pocosin Arts' Metal Arts and Business Program in Columbia, N.C. She has taught workshops and given lectures at colleges, universities and art centers including Penland, Arrowmont and Haystack.