This blog highlights the talents of this years symposium presenters. For more information about attending this years symposium, please see

Sunday, October 27, 2013

"How Bambi Found Her Way Into My Work" by Willem Volkersz

I have an immigrant’s fascination with America.
After my family moved from Holland to Seattle when I 
was a teenager, I began exploring the West, camera in hand, 
documenting a vibrant culture of billboards, vernacular 
architecture, and hand-painted mailboxes.  Over time, I became 
increasingly fascinated with popular culture: larger-than-life 
advertising figures, neon signs and tourist souvenirs. 

Ultimately, after art and architecture studies at the University of Washington and an MFA at Mills College, these experiences became part of my visual vocabulary.  

 Now, as I travel, I stop at second hand stores and antique malls and buy objects (often the kind that decorated our grandmothers' homes): ceramic birds and dogs and other small objects.

Birds of North America (2005) mimics Audubon’s famous compendium, except that here they are really birds of North American junk stores. 


Other objects have more personal meaning to me, like a small, bronze Statue of Liberty or a souvenir Empire State Building--reminders of my first days in the US.  Travel souvenirs abound and I pick up postcards, metal ashtrays in the shape of states, and globes.

Often, these objects help to illustrate a story.  In Western Landscape (2007), objects on a shelf below the painting comment on both the beauty as well as the rapid urbanization of the West.


Postcards and globes help to tell stories of travel and adventure, as in Selfportrait (Baggage) (1991-2005).


 In the recent series Short Stories, I explore the potential of small, suitcase-sized sculptures each of which contain a painting, an iconic neon image, and found objects.  In Orion the Huntress (2013), I continue an ongoing theme in which I explore the constellations while in another (Vincent in Paris, 2013) I return to my fascination with the life of Vincent van Gogh, whose work was much in evidence when I visited museums in Amsterdam as a boy.

In my slide lecture, I will show numerous examples of my work and the roadside culture that fascinates me and talk about the evolution of my use of found objects, the themes in my work, the process of collecting and my working methods.  

--Willem Volkersz
    2014 Yuma Symposium Presenter

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Tom Ferguson

Somewhere there is an elegant quote that expresses the paradoxical idea that; there is nothing permanent in the world except change.
I like to start my day with a cup of coffee on the patio at dawn, watching the sky become light. This time of year is especially delicious because the air is cool, and the sun’s appearance and my rising are more closely synchronized. I find I’m focused more inward than outward these days and I’m paying more attention to the cycle of changes and events that mark the turning of the year. I’m thinking about how our lives cycle within the larger cycles of our planets’ progress.
There is a comfort to having a routine. We seem to crave structured activity and familiar repetition. Having time for this morning ritual before leaving home and family for the day allows me to collect my thoughts and consider the day’s schedule. Having an active mind like most people, various thoughts rise up to be considered as I sit. I often replay and marvel at the authentic and beautiful experiences that flow into my life and how there is repetition there too.
I see another set of cycles in my work activities of teaching, making, loading, and firing.
The end of my daily cycle is usually punctuated with a glass of wine and another opportunity to reflect.
Live. Enjoy. Repeat.
We just finished our fall break from school and I was fortunate to be able to spend part of my time with some friends and my son camping out as we paddled our boats down two great desert rivers, the Salt and the Gila. We’ve been down them many times before. I think a lot about our experiences on the river. I fell in with a “bad crowd” when I entered public education twelve or so years ago. I became corrupted. I found out about river running and now I spend a majority of my free time scheming about how to get a permit or organize a trip down a river. To have a select group of friends together in a wilderness area, for several days is a special experience. It simplifies the list of things you need to be concerned about. You focus on the place, and the tribe, or group you are traveling with. You move at the pace of the water. Even though the place is familiar there are always changes. I have come to realize that the river is an appropriate metaphor for life. Water, the essence of life, moves through the landscape in time. We use the water metaphor frequently such as: drinking in, absorbing, percolating, distilling, diving in, or using flood, torrent, flow, navigate, and a river of…to provide visuals for specific experiences when we attempt to express them.
The river is always changing, yet always the same, a constant and continuous cycle from the source to the sea to the source.
We live within a cycle inside a cycle inside a cycle. We expect that the events that help define our lives will reoccur weekly, monthly and yearly. Always the same, yet changed. We can’t always know precisely what to expect. There is beauty in that.
Thirty years ago I took a trip to Yuma to check out an art “thing” on the advice of one of my mentors. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I figured I’d enjoy it. I ended up having a wonderful time. I met some new people who have had a big influence on me. I saw some great art. It was inspirational to listen to artists as they explained their work and their creative process. My personal creativity was rejuvenated. I was able to attend the next year, and I’ve been returning regularly. It’s the Yuma Symposium. It isn’t your typical art “conference”. I look forward to it every year. It is my favorite opportunity to reconnect with good friends and meet other like-minded creative folks. Someone observed that; “Friends are the family you get to choose.” When we’re packing for our Yuma trip I always have an anxious expectation of seeing those familiar faces, and anticipating the opportunity to learn and meet some new people. The format is familiar. The time of year and location are the same, but there are always surprises.
It begins with a pin swap, and it ends with a dance.

Tom Ferguson

Tom on the river
 Opening rituals at the Yuma Symposium National Saw File & Solder Sprints

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Giving Tree by Kimberly Winkle

As a craft artist I have consistently been impressed by the unwavering generosity of my peers.  When a question arises about a technique or material, it is quickly snapped up by another maker who promptly answers it with happiness and generosity.  This act of boundless sharing is one of the wonderful aspects of the craft community that I cherish most.  I am lucky and honored to be a part.
I have been involved in various collaborative art making events, which have all proven to be utterly fantastic.  However, unfortunately, I have not had the privilege to attend the Yuma Symposium before. Until now!!!  I am very eager to forge new friendships, share techniques, exchange ideas and have a heap of fun.  The collective energy of all in attendance, including myself, is sure to be magical. 
In keeping with the giving nature, I am super excited to share some of my techniques of using Milk Paint on wood.  The material is unlike any other painting media in a variety of ways, which I’ll happily explain at Yuma (teaser!).  But, some of my favorite characteristics of Milk Paint are the surface qualities and its ability to amplify textured surfaces. You can see some of this displayed on my House on a Hillside Boxes.  The curvature of the boxes suggests the swollen arc of a hillside, while the striated texture is evocative of windblown grass.  I will be presenting the techniques I used on these boxes, along with other techniques, at Yuma.  The emphasis of my presentation will be on combining shaping, texturing, and mark making methods with Milk Paint on wood.  But, it can also be applied to a variety of other supports.  The paint really is that good.
On the other end of things, I am equally excited to indulge in the bounty of the event by soaking up as much of the Yuma experience as possible.  I am excited to see what everyone else is presenting, sharing and making so that I can go back to my studio in rural Tennessee reinvigorated, energized, and with a whole slew of new friends and inspiration. 
 Hillside Boxes by Kimberly Winkle

Hillside Boxes detail

 Red Oculus

 Red Oculus detail

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Lanny Bergner

I first started working with metal mesh in 1983.  That was my final year of Graduate School at Tyler School of Art.  Back then I was working with aluminum insect screening and making all these suspended organic forms out of strips of screening.  It wasn’t until about four years ago that I began torch treating stainless steel mesh to create patterns and drawings on the mesh.  This has opened up a whole new world for me.  Prior to torch burning, structure and process was the primary driver of my work.
I included a few photos of me making “Columnar,” of one of my torch treated stainless steel works.  It was made out of 15 sheets of stainless steel mesh that I first sprayed with lacquer (the lacquer gives the mesh a bronze-like look), and then I burned the pattern/drawing into the mesh using a propane torch.  I can control the tone by how close I hold the flame to the mesh and how quickly I pass it over the surface and paying close attention to how orange the metal gets.  I treat the torching process much like drawing or painting.  I have never been that much of a pencil and charcoal drawer.   In the past I would draw for brief stints and then I would always be lured back into 3-D works.  But, since flame drawing is such a dynamic medium I have been increasingly pulled into the drawing/painting world and I just love it.  Now torch work is an integral part of my art.
I also use silicone and glass frit in my work.  One of the photos shows me pressing clear silicone through one of “Columnar” torch treated mesh squares.  Once the silicone is pressed through the mesh it takes on a bead-like appearance.  I use glass frit as a color element.  In “Columnar” I use it to surface Smoothfoam spheres.  I first coat the spheres with clear silicone and then press the frit into the silicone.
After exploring mesh for over 30 years I still feel like I have hardly scratched the surface of the material’s creative potential.  One piece just leads to the next.  Currently, I am working on large vessel forms for a show this September at Snyderman-Works Galleries in Philadelphia.  Most of these pieces will be made out of heavier gage stainless steel mesh, that way the vessel forms will be strong and self-supporting.  I’m also introducing more color into my work by mixing powdered pigment with clear silicone (I should have some images of this body of work by conference time). Creativity just keeps marching on and I keep enjoying the journey. 
 Lanny Bergner, 2014 Yuma Presenter

Burning pattern into the mesh with propane torch for "Columnar"

Pressing silicone onto the mesh for "Columnar"

Constructing "Columnar"


Finished work- "Columnar"   

 "Primordial Muse 2"

 "Primordial Muse 5"



Monday, October 7, 2013

"All of the Above" by Ken Bova

I get asked on occasion just what exactly is the Yuma Symposium?

I’ve been thinking about the proper reply for a while now. Usually I’ll respond with a kind of stock answer gleaned from the web site and/or generated from my experiences of other symposia devolving into details of a) pin swaps, b) lectures, c) demonstrations, d) border crossings, e) pool parties, and the like. But it doesn’t seem to satisfy. It’s more than that. Really, it is.

In searching for a succinct response to the “what is Yuma” question the word “nexus” floated to the top. My dictionary (yes I actually do have a dictionary) has this definition for the word: the central and most important point or place: the nexus of all this activity was Lutes Casino.

Okay, I substituted the Lutes Casino part, but the definition is pretty close. Nexus comes from the Latin meaning "that which ties or binds together," and is the past participle of nectere "to bind."

It’s also the root word for “connection.” And that, to me, is what is most definitive about the Yuma Symposium. It’s the connections, the links, associations, contacts, relations, friends, colleagues, and networks of like-minded creative souls that gather in Arizona for a few days of art R & R.

So take your pick. The Yuma Symposium is like a multiple choice quiz but there are no wrong answers.

Me, being a nexus between two beautiful artists, Mary Luke and Anna Belom.

--Ken Bova
   click here for more information about Ken Bova