“Destiny,” an artistic collaboration between Martha Schermerhorn and Kathy Clem, will create a magical environment of figures that transport the viewer to an ethereal world of inner phantoms on Nov. 1-Dec. 1 at iGalleryKathyClem, 250 N. Goodman St., Rochester.
Clem and Schermerhorn recently shared what they learned from their collaboration and what makes a collaboration successful — trust, mutual respect of each other ideas, communication, commitment, learning from each other and fun.
The collaboration started two years ago when the artists brainstormed and researched different ideas of how to present an art installation. They established a formal schedule of regular weekly meetings, and explored ideas in their first year.
“We tried to visualize the outcome, and from this encaustic monoprint painting emerged as our medium of choice, because encaustics can be painted in very thin papers without causing the paper to wrinkle,” they said. “We took a class with Carol Aquilano and Kathryn Bevier on making books with encaustic. From this class, we learned how to make accordion books painted with encaustics; these eventually became basis for the castles in our installation.”
Encaustic painting involves the application of a mixture of hot beeswax and damar resin on a substrate, such as paper or wood. The mixture can be uncolored or colored with pigments. Clem and Schermerhorn used an encaustic monoprinting painting process where they first drew with encaustic painting sticks on a thin anodized aluminum plate heated at a constant temperature on top of a hot griddle. The artist then pressed a sheet of mulberry, or thin Japanese paper, on top of the drawing to absorb the wax, the result being an original print.
“We painted very intuitively, listening to music, each with a completely different style of painting,” Clem said. “Collaging the results of our painting together was the best way to accommodate our different styles, and to make a cohesive installation.
“The figure of ‘Fantasmita’ emerged from our first experiments. We knew that we had something new that we had never seen before that we could build on, and set her aside for a few months. When we started working on the project again, we decided to cut different figures and make a rough sketch of our installation with brown painter’s paper. We hung these figures in the gallery space to imagine how people would walk through the installation. The large sketches then became the patterns for our collages. Later on, the idea of lighting the images with small LED lights and presenting the installation in a darkened room emerged.
“I like working with Martha. She is always so positive, and has a very strong sense of design. Always with great enthusiasm, cheering anything we did, we kept propelling forward on our project. Many times our ideas didn’t work out, and we had to backtrack and figure out another solution, but we enjoyed every day we worked together. We were having so much fun and laughing so much that people in the building told us that we were making too much noise, and to please keep it down.”
“Kathy and I work very differently,” Schermerhorn said. “Our styles contrast, but we found the combination of each other’s strengths –— creating a totally different art than either of us would have done alone, independently. Together, we have created something we hope people will enjoy as they journey their own destiny.
“The collaboration got underway once Kathy and I settled on the theme ‘Destiny.’ We started work on this installation with drawings and notes in our personal sketchbooks. Our ideas were as diverse as creating clouds, large personal tarot cards and labyrinths. We talked through the possibilities of words, projections and maps.
“I had never worked on a show of this scale before, so it was exciting and daunting. Kathy is well organized and plans far ahead. This paid off when we ran into difficulty with materials or printing of our book; we had extra time built into the schedule.
“There were days here and there that were exhausting, especially when the figures were on the floor and we were working on our knees. We were able to keep things going with music and humor. Collaborating can be tough, but rewarding. Working with Kathy pushed me to explore new ideas. Kathy would order items that she thought we might incorporate into the work. She ordered a bunch of enormous calligraphy pens of different shapes. I loved working and playing with these, and began to make a strange script that worked as our little goddesses wings.
“The figures began to take on their own lives, and they informed us as to what they represented. For example, ‘Hope,’ the largest, green and lush, representing the promise of growth. We found ourselves responding and assigning the figures aspects and qualities related to destiny. The landscapes that we travel through on the creative path are sometimes scary and unknown; our figures represent inner guides we can call on to help find our way.”
The exhibit will open with a reception from 5 to 8 p.m. on Oct. 27. Call (585) 764-5589 or visit igallerykathyclem.com for information.