March 26, 2015

Sphere: SGCI 2015 (Part 1)

A public sign from the series sign posts around Knoxville during SGCI 2015 

Last week I spent my spring break attending the Southern Graphics Council International (SGCI) conference, the biggest annual convention focused on the Printmaking field in North America. This year the conference was "Sphere," hosted by University of Tennessee-Knoxville (UTK) in Knoxville, TN. I went to SGC with another fellow BFA student, Erin Wohletz, and we had a blast there!!

We arrived at Knoxville on Tuesday afternoon, and stayed at the Hampton Inn in Downtown Knoxville. It was only a block away from the conference center. On our first night, we decided to check out the Market Square area, located near Gay St., Knoxville's art district in downtown. Erin and I enjoyed a meal at the Tupelo Honey Cafe, where we ordered their classic dish of Hickory Nut Gap Farm beef and bacon meatloaf with rosemary tomato shallot gravy, and a side of Orange Cranberry and Spiced Pecan Quinoa and Sweet Potato Fries. I love their meatloaf, but not a real big fan of the Quinoa. After dinner, we wanted to check out some galleries but most of them were already closed, so we came back to our hotel and got some rest to prepare for the first day of SGCI.

On Wednesday morning, we went to Jerry's Artarama, a big art supplies store just like Nevada Fine Arts in Reno (but at way bigger scale compared to Nevada Fine Arts). They had quite an impressive collection of Asian papers (Japanese, Indian, etc.) in different shades of colors. Plus, their prices were quite reasonable too. I would love to support an art store like Jerry's Artarama if they ever come to Reno. Erin and I bought some glassine (for the SGCI Member Portfolio Exchange that we both participated) and a storage tube for each of us (since we know we would buy prints and papers later at the conference).

Wednesday was officially the first day of SGCI 2015 with most part was for conference registration, portfolio exchange drop off, some touring around the conference center (where they already put up tons of great art for public viewing), and a keynote talk by Red Grooms in the evening. After registration, each of us received a "swag bag" with a copy of the conference book, including schedules, maps, exhibitions, etc. and some exhibition catalogs (those exhibitions ran concurrently with SGCI such as the SGCI Member's Traveling Exhibition and CNTRL + P: Printmaking in the 21st Century by Univ. of Tennessee Alumni), artists' stickers, show posters, and information on some printmaking programs/shops/opportunities around the US.

I met a friend from my undergrad at UNT, Ava Everett, at the registration so we spent sometime together most part of the day. It was really nice to meet Ava again and I got to catch up with what she had been doing in Texas. Later that afternoon, Ava took Erin and I out for dinner. We dined at the Nama's Sushi Bar, a Japanese sushi restaurant located at the Gay St. area. I got a sushi platter that was "custom designed by the chief" with my favorite salmon and tuna on it.

A picture of Ava & I at Nama's Sushi Bar
After dinner, we went back to the conference center for the welcome address and Red Grooms' talk. It was a really long talk, and we ended up leaving early to check out the LIFT: Contemporary Printmaking in the Third Dimension Reception at the Knoxville Museum of Art. The KMA is a small museum with only about four or five galleries. However, I think they had quite some cool exhibitions on view. I was surprised to see  Leslie Mutchler's TrendFACTORY at the LIFT exhibition. Mutchler was a resident artist at P.R.I.N.T. Press in 2012. She printed some prints as part of her TrendFACTORY project there during her residency. I was a volunteer at P.R.I.N.T. Press and helped with cutting and folding some of the pieces for her project back then. Seeing her works at KMA really brought back memories of my early time at UNT.

TrendFACTORY by Leslie Mutchler 
On the second floor, we went to see Currents: Recent Art from East Tennessee and Beyond and I immediately fell in love with one of the pieces from this exhibition. At first I thought it was a giant painting or something similar, but when I came closer, I saw circles everywhere! It was INSANE! I couldn't find any word to properly express what I felt looking at this piece. However, I was too excited that I forgot to look for the artist's name (silly me!!!!). I will have to go back to the exhibition's information site and find out whose work is this. Nevertheless, I think it was a cool show.

A picture of me admiring this piece

We also checked out works from Contemporary Focus 2015 at KMA. I loved some of the paintings from artist Karla Wozniak in this show. Such vibrant use of colors and lines.

Selected works from Karla Wozniak
I also saw some paintings of Mira Gerard that, strangely, really reminded me of some of Austin Pratt's paintings.

One of Mira Gerard's paintings
After touring the museum, we went down to the cash bar and got some food/drink to stuff ourselves. I was even more amazed looking at the Cycle of Life: Within the Power of Dreams and the Wonder of Infinity, a seven-part installation by Richard Jolley, internationally recognized as one of today’s most accomplished and inventive glass sculptors (according to KMA). This installation was commissioned by KMA back in 2009 and it was (and still) considered one of the largest figurative glass-and-steel assemblages in the world. This just blew my mind. And the most special part was that I can see more circles!

My favorite piece from Jolley's installation: Metaphysical
We said goodbye to KMA and came to the Icon Ultra Lounge, a restaurant on the 5th floor of Knoxville's iconic Sunsphere, a gold-colored glass sphere loccated right next to the convention center. I thought we could check out the view of Knoxville city at night but the lightning in the restaurant was too bright, so it really prevented any clear view outside of the glass window.

There's a glimpse of Knoxville city but the lightning really hammered the view

That night, the bar was really packed, with crowds of SGCI attendees coming in and out of its tiny space. I ran into Jeremy Menard, director of Frogman's Print Workshop, and got to catch up with him a little bit. I attended a bookbinding workshop at Frogman's in 2013 and hadn't met him again since then. As the bar got really crowded, many people showed up and quite some people also wanted to talk to Jeremy so we couldn't talk much. But I was happy to see him again.

We left the restaurant and went back to our hotel around mid-night. Our first day of SGCI ended and that night we slept tight and were eager for the next day.

(to be continue)

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