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Asco: Nausea



Two weeks ago, the Visual Studies class went to visit Asco, the Elite of the Obscure, a show currently exhibited at the Williams College Museum of Art. The exhibit, named after the strong word for nausea in Spanish,  presents the works of pioneer Chicano artists who started this art movement in Los Angeles from 1972 to 1987. Asco is not the kind of artwork you merely observe with mild interest; it  is a fascinating collection of videos, photographs, paintings, collages, and sculptures that captures the restraint and oppresion that the “tight-knit core group of artists” Harry Gamboa, Jr., Gronk, Willie F. Herrón III, and Patssi Valdez felt in the art world the first few years after they graduated from Garfield High School. Their work not only produced tangible art, but included perfomances, protests, and public art. All of their work melds their unique art and their activism to bring about an understanding of the Chicano existence in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. This exhibit has moved from LACMA (Los Angeles Museum of Art) to the Williams College Art Museum in February, 2012, and will continue to be exhibited until July 29th, 2012.

Detail, Asco, Instant Mural, 1974, color photograph by Harry Gamboa, Jr. Courtesy of the artist © Asco ; photograph © 1974 Harry Gamboa, Jr. x1200


The Academy at Charlemont has a wide range of studio block classes including Italian, Funk Band, and Ceramics. Italian is taught by an exchange student named Bea. For her senior project she is researching different methods of teaching language classes. The class has learned vocabulary for family, food, colors, and days/months. It is Bea’s plan to teach them enough to have phone conversations with  her friends in Italy. Funk Band, taught by Mr. Weeks,  is a class open to kids of all still level and instrument type. The class is currently made up of 6 students playing 3 songs. Instruments being played include drums, guitar, bass, piano, and saxophone. Ceramics is a double block class taught every tuesday by Cristy Knox. Projects are usually wheel-thrown, hand-built, or drape molds. The class is also experimenting with new glazes, and project forms. These are only a few of the classes offered at the Academy, there are many other opportunities to explore their artistic interests.

Jonathan Winfisky


Coloring our glass

I’m Miikka and I’m an exchange student from Finland. I’m having an exchange year in Colrain MA and I go to the Academy at Charlemont. Charlemont Academy gave me a change to take visual studies as a part of my studio block classes. Class is giving me a great opportunity to see local artists and culture what I probably wouldn’t be able to see on my own. I have always been interested about art in some kind of way, my prefers change every now and then.

All that I had experienced about art of classbloving in the past have been seeing work of Alvar Aalto in Finland. He is most known design artist in Finland and my expectations in classwork are the factory produced works of him. I have always wondered how it is like to work with class and it’s been a great mystery for me.

Tuesday January 31st we made a couple of hour class trip to Jonathan Winfisky’s class studio in Charlemont Massachusetts. It was also my first visual studies class trip. Studio was in peaceful spot and view from his studio to outside was just magnificent. I was surprised that there is still people who can make a living from art without getting lagged in the legs of big corporations.

Jonathan’s presentation wasnt just shoving what cool things he can do with class, he also told us the story how he find his way to be class artist and to put up a studio in Charlemont. Being a classblower isn’t just making pretty bowls if you want to make living. You have to know the science of class and every other aspect from building you oven to know how to sell your work. Jonathan Winfisky’s wife Leslie is part of his studio, she makes the business work.

Also we got to see how to add color combinations inside of class works and how there is many ways that have an affect for what kind of piece of art you are able to do. We also got to do our own little class ornament’s wich was a new experience for me.

William R. Cumpiano, February 28

Last Tuesday our class got the chance to visit William R. Cumpiano, a master luthier working in Northampton Massachusetts.

He began learning how to make guitars in the 1970’s from european emigrants living in new york. These immigrants were the first people who treated guitar making as an art in the United States; previous to that guitar making was done in a factory setting on an assembly line. In the early 1940’s and 50’s, however, the first luthiers came to the United States, and it was from them that he learned his trade. In his time he has made over 200 unique guitars for musicians such as Arlo Guthrie, Michael Lorimer, John Abercrombie, Country Joe MacDonald, the Todd Rundgren band, June Millington, and Joel Zoss. In the pictures below you will see his unusual and beautiful works and repairs of rare and valuable instruments.

Other than guitars he has also built many traditional Latin-American instruments, and impressively he also built (presumably) the first guitar out of carbon-fiber ever. Because it is so strong, and so durable, he was able to build a very unusual guitar with significantly less bracing than a normal guitar. Unfortunately the process of cutting carbon fiber is very toxic so he hasn’t made to many of them, but he has patented the process.

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8 Easthampton Road, Northampton, Massachusetts, 01027


Donna McGee

My name is Abby, I’m a senior at the Academy at Charlemont. February 14th our class took a trip to the East Street Clay Studio in Hadley to visit Donna McGee. Donna’s unique style of painting and etching on her ceramic pieces result in beautiful and funky tiles and pots. Her method is mainly based on the sgraffito technique, the process of painting wet clay with slip and scratching an image into the coating. Donna’s inspiration comes from figures, landscapes and home life; a shelf is packed with sketchbooks full of ideas, designs, and studies. While showing us her process we were given small slabs of clay to make our own tiles. I was really excited to try the sgraffito technique, it was great to learn the process, be inspired, and then actually get the chance to put my energy into what I had just learned. Here are pictures from our trip:

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East Street Clay Studios

Artist: Mara Superior, Title: Mates for Life - click to go back to previous page

February 14th, 2012

On Valentine’s day, Christy Knox’s advanced ceramics class and Visual Studies headed to East Street Clay Studios to visit with artists Donna McGee and Mara Superior and hopefully get to attempt their techniques. While Donna McGee works in red earthenware clay and uses sgraffito to sketch gesture drawings onto slab pots, Mara Superior has a very different technique. She works in porcelain with sprig embellishments of mementoes she has found on her travels to Europe and around the U.S.

We arrived at the studio where we were greeted with heart shaped lemon cookies and introduced to both artists. Mara had set out some of her plaster molds along with clay to make molds out of. While she introduced us to the history of the sprig technique and showed us an antique sprig plate she had acquired, we got to experiment with the molds and make our own sprig designs.

Scene + Seen February 2012 (108 of 132)

When she began to talk about the work she is currently making, she brought out a beautiful platter with two mermaids and sea shells on the edges. She also showed us her collection of work in her studio, including a teapot that featured the Obama and the White House, a teapot with two swans, and several little sculptures she was working on.
The work of both women was fascinating and inspiring. Both of them have been working at East Street Clay Studios for at least 20 years, where seven people originally worked, while now only the two of them remain.

Heartfelt Moments at East Street Clay Studios, Hadley, MA 02/14/2012

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On Tuesdays I teach a class at the Academy at Charlemont.  (Disclosure, my two kids attend the school and one of them is currently in the class.) I teach this class with two full time art teachers Thomas Brown and Kerlin Coyningham.  We utilize one the region’s specialties, the variety of artist studios, museums and art professionals in a field trip based program.  Due to the small scale of the school (110 students grades 7 – 12), a two+hour studio block and a bus driver (previously mentioned Thomas Brown), we are able to leave campus for visits up to one hour away.  Our visit on February 14th took us to East Street Clay Studios in Hadley, MA.  This is the studio I worked in over 20 years ago when I was a ceramicist and the two potters we visited have been there ever since.  (More disclosure – at my gallery in Pittsfield, we represent one of them Mara Superior and occasionally show works by the other Donna McGee.)

Often these visits take us to places and people I’ve known throughout my lifetime of being first a producing artist, then a shop/gallery owner in Northampton, MA -Pinch Pottery and PINCH! and now as the owner/director of Ferrin Gallery, Pittsfield, MA.  On this particular day and visit, the trip down memory lane was reinforced by the photos on the bulletin board and a visit to the studio space where my formative years were spent.  While I watch these kids learn about the lives of artists, I often marvel at how long I’ve been doing what I do, how the years have flown by and how I was their age when I started down this path – making pottery in high school, taking photography in junior high school, going to summer programs to study photography, glass and finally choosing Hampshire College, Hadley MA and studying art at the five colleges, glass at UMASS, art history at Smith and Mt. Holyoke (more disclosure – my professor, Roy Superior is the husband of previously mentioned artist Mara and Roy now teaches drawing and watercolor at the Academy. I’ve since gone on from that studio, to almost 30 years later establishing another version of the group studio where I currently live and artists work in our renovated mill building, Project Art, Cummington, MA.

The slide show from the day captures some of the “heart” felt moments we experienced on Valentines Day.