Listen…can you hear it? Just 20 days away and you may hear that school bell ring.
Back in the classroom, the first assignment was, without fail, an essay on, “How I Spent My Summer Vacation”—something I always looked forward to. Must be the writer in me. Summertime and the livin’ was easy.
As an art columnist, I recently thought how fun it would be to learn how a dozen or so local artists spent at least part of their summer days creating art or getting inspiration for their next project. Stepping away from their vocation to turn to their avocation while on their vacation—it is just too much to bear…but here goes.
The idea grew out of a discussion with Reina “R76” Wooden and Charlie “Bootleg” Feathers one afternoon this summer. Using that as a jumping off point, Charlie immediately shared photos from a recent trip with his father and Reina followed suit with an anecdote worth repeating. A debt of gratitude to both for a list of artists and for providing me with the basis for how they spent their summer vacations.
For Feathers, it meant traveling to the Watauga River in Tennessee to build a rock sculpture on the banks of the river. It should withstand the test of time as the shoreline provides cover for protection. Feathers laid out an installation skyward bound.
“Its balance reflects where I am in life and how being a sculptor is my only passion,” he shared, which is strictly for the record, just so no one “rocks” his boat.
His partner in art, Reina R76, was a willing collaborator in a series of tutorials on body casting throughout the month of June. And July found her as the new kid on the block at the Millworks, ensconced in Studio 318 with fellow artist Andrew Guth and Erik of Owl Creek Supply Co., noteworthy as Reina is the first artist of color, with African/Venezuelan heritage, in residence at the Millworks. She even threw Mud at the Queen in Linglestown while learning how to turn clay into columns of beauty. By taking a class in the art of pottery making, she felt “invigorated and inspired.” For her, the experience was enlightening and energizing.
Hannah Dobek, aka sister vinegar, of Metropolis Collective in Mechanicsburg, spent part of her summer painting a commissioned piece providing Radiator Kings Music, a blues group, with cover art for their soon to be released (Aug. 21) album, “Unborn Ghosts.” Dobek pays tribute in part through her painting of a stallion’s head in profile, evocative of Johnny Cash’s legendary hit, “Ghost Riders in the Sky,” from the 1960s.
Summer did not rain on Bethany Nicolle’s parade as she “spent time laughing with friends, reflecting on her old career as a bartender” and creating exquisite art (pictured) and making state-of-the-art masks that are tongue-in-cheek if you’ll pardon the expression. Perhaps you’ll see exactly what that means.
The new normal has kept painter Julie Riker away from her usual itinerary of summer art shows and competitions. Her rapturous plein air paintings of the Susquehanna River from the high ground vantage point of Negley Park are picture perfect as they become almost photographic in their exacting detail. Just being in the beauty of the outdoors provided her with “wonderful therapy” by allowing her “to focus on the positive things in the world.” In addition, it fostered a connection with other artists practicing social distancing.
Natalie Dohman feels the sky’s the limit as the summer has afforded her the opportunity to install murals in Harrisburg and New Cumberland, prepare works for two upcoming art shows, and create an online store selling graphic designs that revolve around the Civil Rights movement. Her website, ndesignarthaus.com, is a moving gallery of images and art that is vitally fresh and fluid (pictured).
Accustomed to painting in plein air settings, Jonathan Frazier adapted his frame-of-mind painting, taken from photos and memory. Inspired by past trips to locales outside of central PA, Frazier used landmarks like the Domino Sugar Refinery Plant in Baltimore to create a painting of sensation and skyline.
For Douglas Beard, work took priority, so time away from the daily grind found him plugged in creating and building artisinal lamps, giving new meaning to art shining from within to brighten the world around us, illuminating tables and stands (pictured).
Nicole Herbert found herself toiling at the wheel, not as a driver, but in throwing a pot or two of functionality following form. Valuable leisure time was spent gardening and enjoying the routines of life took that on new pleasure relaxing in the backyard with her life partner.
Larry Washington Jr. spent the days and nights of his summer exploring new avenues in studying and practicing photography as seen in a poignant shot of night, capturing a skyscape of four houses of worship with crosses forming a vanguard of vaulting symbolism as the focal point in the frame.
Gallery assistant and instructor at the Art Association of Harrisburg, Nate Foster, along with family members, shared their love of art with the community this summer. His wife, Tzu, taught a drawing class there while youngest son, Malik (pictured), assisted Nate with hanging the Li Hidley exhibit now featured at the gallery. Nate curated that show and is working on preliminary sketches for the member’s show, “La Petite Exhibition,” which will open for the AAH-sponsored Gallery Walk next month. The Fosters also spent time away from the gallery finding the perfect house in Midtown.
The Huckle Buckle Boys are comprised of Zack Rudy and Garrick Dorsett, who always come as a package deal. With no limit to their imagination, their pet project of the summer was print-making, which pushed their boundaries with wildly wondrous woodcuts, the oldest form of printmaking. Leave it to HBB to recycle something old into something fresh and new.
I would be remiss to not include a personal favorite, my wife of 43 years, who is constantly creating new works of art. When she’s not busy being my 3rd in the Burg photographer, you can find her gathering sticks and materials from nature to weave with textiles or forming clay beads with our 5-year-old granddaughter and creating organic art with our son, Beau, for “Art in the Wild.” She will always be my source of inspiration. Happy Birthday, Jana!
“How I Spent My Summer Vacation” closes on that note as all contributors, whether at home or on the road, share as a common theme. There is a newfound appreciation in the season’s recalibration of life as we now know it—time for reflection, time for creativity and, most importantly, time for exploring what makes us happy and fulfilled. Thank you to all the artists who took part in this essay. Now you’re ready for the first day of school.