I have been creating art and showing professionally for twenty-two years, in such varied formats as installations, sculpture, painting, mixed media, and fiber art, depending on the driving concept behind the particular work. I have won numerous grants and awards, beginning in 1981 with a Merit Award from the Los Angeles Bicentennial. Since I was still an undergraduate at the time, the award came as a shock to both the school and myself. My teachers looked at me afterward in a whole new way, especially given that the juror was Roland Reiss, dean of the Claremont Graduate School and a well-respected artist himself. My small multimedia sculpture was displayed at the Security Pacific Plaza in downtown Los Angeles in a ceremony attended by Mayor Tom Bradley and other dignitaries.
Subsequently, I received several regional awards, ranging from San Diego, California, to Larchmont, New York. Then, in 1988, I won an individual grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. I used this money to travel in Europe for six months, experiencing the arts and culture of the countries most directly related to our own artistic heritage. The sweep of ancient history helped bridge the past to the future for me and helped frame my vision of my own installation art. For example, in Ischia, what was once a fortress wall as wide as a boulevard has now become a place to jog and picnic on. I saw how I could show the evolution of function.
More recently, in 1998, I was selected from among 16,000 applicants to be one of the approximately 100 artisans in the Smithsonian Craft Show. As fate would have it, one of the jurors was Jane Sauers, an internationally recognized fiber artist who has served as president of the American Craft Council and who juries and curates shows all over the world. In the years since, she has opened many doors of opportunity for me, as she has and continues to do for other artists.
I have been featured in many group and solo shows over the years, including the annual SOFA exhibition in Chicago in 1999, which was a great honor as well as an opportunity to meet and view the works of the best of the best in that genre. However, the accomplishment that remains in my memory as one of the strongest validations of my work came in 1987, when I ventured as an unknown into Allan Stone Gallery in New York City and within a week was invited to join his fall Emerging Artists show. I was also one of only eight of the fifty-four exhibitors to be written up in local reviews.
Among other publications reviewing or featuring my work are the Italian architecture magazine Avitare, which published a special supplementary issue in 1983 on the arts and architecture of Los Angeles (in conjunction with the LA Olympics); Art Post (Canada), which reviewed my installation "Inner Circle" in its Fall 1987 issue; and Shuttle, Spindle, and Dyepot, which in 1998 wrote a featured article on my woven sculptural constructions. I got a bit of unexpected press on "Inner Circle" when the hotel where I was staying and putting finishing touches on the piece caught fire; as I rushed in and out out of the hotel carrying the thirteen life-sized female figures to the safety of Gallerie Evan across the street, local television covered the event and interviewed me on the evening news about my upcoming show.
Another television opportunity came when I got an invitation to present my work as an accomplished artist on The Carol Duvall Show, a national arts program on HGTV. Also, the City of Santa Monica continues to feature me and my work as a sculptor/installation artist on its award-winning station CityTV. Among my crossover experiences were being invited to display my work in the set design of a music video and being commissioned to create sculpture for another music video for Michael Franks. It has also been my joy to be invited to try my hand at such other creative roles as scene painter, production designer, makeup artist, costume designer, and editor on various stage productions and films. My paintings, sculptures, and installations have been sought, commissioned, and collected by many individual collectors, some quite notable, and several are also in major corporate collections.
Among my accomplishments, I certainly count the many times I have been able to teach and inspire students young and old to create and value art, to experience its soul-refreshing and spirit-enhancing capacity, as well as to find both self-respect and respect for another person's kind of beauty. Having had such great teachers myself, I feel part of a sweeping continuum from teacher to student through the ages. I feel I have a mission in life to touch people's lives by generating the excitement, joy and wonderment which come in the process of creating art. It is my philosophy that solving problems in art develops skills that mold the young brain in ways that benefit other areas of life as well; by going through another conceptual door, by approaching a conventional problem in a nonconventional way, students can for the first time achieve an "aha" moment. Raising students' awareness of the aesthetic in life also teaches them to look actively for beauty in the world around them and to appreciate the fragility and preciousness of nature. I hope that they will come away from my classes with a commitment to preserve the best in their world -- the best architecture, the best art, and the planet itself. I know I come away from the relationship renewed in my own commitment and inspiration to create new works.
Co-Written by C.A. Michel & Joan Martin
Edited by Joan Martin
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