Monday, June 29, 2015

Stephanie Pui-Mun Law: Immortal Ephemera

I'll be honest with you: I don't know what "ephemera" means. It doesn't really come up in daily conversation for me. In fact, I think Stephanie may be the first person I know that actually used the word in my presence, or rather, in an email sent to me about four or five months ago.

After her wildly successful show in March 2014, I asked her to show again for 2015, and she readily accepted. Neither of us had any idea what she'd do this time around, but I knew she'd stew it over for a while and something would pop up.

Towards the end of January, I shot her a quick email asking if she finally
decided on a theme for her show. She wrote me and said yes, and then dropped the e-bomb on me. "Ephemera".

It means "things that are enjoyed or used for a very short time". It also means things that last no more than a day. In the case of Stephanie's collection of work, she was clearly meditating on the comparatively short life of insects, one of the Earth's most ancient of creatures. Insects are literally everywhere: earth, air, water, fire (well, maybe not fire). Many of them live in complex societies, produce fibers or honey, weave or build geometric homes and often live such short, basic lives. They are so lowly, yet feature so prominently in our myths and legends.
Immortality, Watercolor
Stephanie pulled and stretched and magnified the insect, often to sizes over 200% larger than life (such as in "When Flowers Dream'). Its as if she meditated on her subject's very soul, dipping into the ink of Life and quilling the results in watercolor pinks and blues. Labyrinths and ghostly trees dapple the landscapes, signifying the mysteries surrounding these critters (what signals their rise and retreat? what is their purpose? who guides them?). Elfin figures appear and recede from sight. There is clearly a magical element being expressed within these compositions beyond just the beauty of these insecta subjects. Stephanie teases out the transcendental qualities through color, texture, and intent.
When Flowers Dream, watercolor and gold leaf
True to form, Stephanie did not abandon her fairy world and created a small series of fairies called "The Hidden Ones", painted on birch wood. Her discovery of absorbent ground (a type of medium that allows you to paint watercolor on any surface) opened up a whole world of possibilities, including  painting on wood, metal, pretty much anything she fancied. Additionally, this medium has enough body to create textures, giving her pieces an extra dimension and allows play with light and shadow (such as with "Immortality" - the butterflies are built up in absorbent ground).
Amidst the Brambles, from "The Hidden Ones" series, watercolor on birch
I always say that art must be seen in person - as difficult as that can be for most of us - and Stephanie's work is no exception. Her work changes with the light, when seen close up or far away, and at different angles. It's luminous and vibrant, yet delicate, like porcelain. She adds elements of surprise into her pieces, much like Easter eggs, and each time one observes her paintings, a new object, element, shape will pop up, giving the composition a whole new life and meaning. Much like "ephemera", I suppose!
Cicada, Watercolor and gold leaf
"Immortal Ephemera" will be open until July 3rd, 2015. Work is available to purchase online or direct, and the online catalog is available through July 4th.

-Julie Baroh, June 2015

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Summertime, and the Living is...

We're about to hang Stephanie Pui-Mun Law's wonderful "Immortal Ephemera" show today, and as I sit here at the crack of dawn, cup of coffee in my shaking, tired hand (after all, it is literally the crack of dawn), I'm reflecting on the concept of "when does the hard work turn to easy work?".

I think that when we've thrown ourselves into a task that requires everything we've got, we all hit that point when we wonder when we'll get that break. For Krab Jab Studio, I always sort of fantasize that summertime will allow me to slow down a little bit. After all, for the second time this year we have a two month show ("I'll Read You a Story" children's picture book show starts in July) and this year I have an assistant, Kathryn, whose been busily snapping our operations together and turning us into a well oiled machine. We're getting more press now, which is a huge blessing. And sales seem to get better quarter to quarter of the fiscal year. So I should be able to kick back and put up my feet.

But I know I won't.

For example, I just wrote up an article for the blog Muddy Colors based on my workshop at this year's Spectrum Fantastic Art Live convention, called "Demystifying the Gallery World". The intention of the article was to elaborate on the bullet points of my lecture (which is available here as well as on our YouTube channel). In my Muddy Colors article, I tacked in a segment called "Finding a Gallery" which wasn't in my lecture but I get a lot of questions about. From there, I concocted a nearly 3k word article, of which I wasn't even halfway through the lecture segments. Clearly this was a two-part article; therefore, I will have to write the second part and turn that in for publication at a later date. Lord knows how long THAT segment is going to be!

Prior to Kathryn coming on board, I was behind in everything, me being only one person and all, running a business on my own. One of our priorities is getting caught up and back on track, whether its editing and releasing older Artist Talks to our YouTube channel, cleaning out our storage, or organizing our back room. We've made huge headway but I know we've got much more to do, much of it on my own head, like cleaning up my messy accounting books (we keep good records but I am living in piles of paper).

Meanwhile, I'm working on curatorial projects outside of our normal show schedule. I work with the crew that runs the Mythic Worlds convention, creating a space within the convention that embodies the heart of what the convention is all about. I'm working on travelling our fantastic "Lennon" show, which just ended this early June but needs to be seen by many more eyes. I have a few more irons in the fire I can't really speak about yet, but will take a good chunk of my energy.

Then there's my home life, which is just as busy. Family weddings are coming up, house needs to be repainted, backyard has a couple of projects, and I have a couple of trips to plan. House is always in need of cleaning and organizing, and our two Boxers need entertainment and exercising on a regular basis. I have my own artwork to make, mostly consisting of finishing a few large paintings which will likely take me all summer. I have an overdue commission to complete.

In all, I know that the hard work won't end. Really, it never does, especially when you're working in a field you really enjoy. It turns into an attitude thing: "hard work" doesn't mean "tiring, unsatisfying work". My plate is full, but it's full of yummy, juicy stuff. Granted there are some dull, not-fun things on my list, but when you run your own business there's always a few things you're not crazy about doing. You just dig in and do them. I am rewarded with a sprinkling of easy days, and when I get one, trust me, I really savor it. But it's okay if the entire summer isn't one big fun vacation. I'd probably get bored anyway. There's only so much sitting around I can do before I get antsy.

-Julie Baroh, June 2015