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A look into the world of artists featured in this weekend’s Lodi Open Studios Tour

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Posted: Friday, October 7, 2011 8:21 am

If you want to know about artists, take a peek into their workspaces. You can learn a lot from what covers the spaces — is it messy with open bottles of acrylics or neat and organized? For some, it’s where they draw inspiration — from tattered paper pinned on a busy cork board to piles of beads in colors that, strangely, work well together and create their own patterns. Some artists spend a few hours in their studios, while others literally live and sleep in them.

For the fourth year, locals have an opportunity to view the studios where Lodi and Stockton-area artists spend so much of their time. This weekend’s LOST — Lodi Open Studios Tour — are featuring 26 artists are 10 Lodi locations. Here is a look at several artists who will have their work, artistic processes and studios on display.

Ava Avione

Paintings in oil, charcoal and in variety of media

Ava Avione lives in her studio, which is a museum in an empty building on a Stockton college campus. The 10,000-square-foot, two-story space surrounded by windows is her home, her workspace and a gallery of 189 8-foot-tall paintings. The loft-like space is broken up with couches, tapestries and her paintings, which are stacked dozens deep.

Ava, now 69, has been an artist since she was 3. She was born in Massachusetts, but started traveling early. She went to school at University of California, Berkeley and the University of Oregon, and was an architect for 26 years while she continued to pursue her painting. She’s lived in 80 countries, her favorites being India, China, Morocco, Chile and Brazil. The Stockton living museum is the smallest of her massive collection that she says is spread out across the world.

In the entrance of her studio with the soft light of the first rainy day flooding through the foggy window panes, Ava describes her work. Dimensional Expressionism is the art movement she’s spearheading. She studies energy and color and shapes. She makes colors, actually, from patterns. Fabric with all tones and textures is spread across the space to inspire her and teach her about color as Western and Eastern light hits it at different times of the day.

“My (work is) about exploring dimensions through planes of the earth and beyond,” Avione said. Through her artwork, she expresses her exploration of energy in the universe.

The living museum (the idea that she lives and works there) is a concept she’s coined, and she encourages other artists to create their own living museums. She’s founded and funded 80 living museums around the world.

Avione makes her own extenders, binders and glues, and is passionate about pigment, using pure pigment, gold and silver. She gets her supplies from all around the world. But what makes her paint special is that it’s rich with pigment. She get pigment from the top of the paint barrels, while most paint company’s bottle and sell what is on the bottom of the barrel.

She usually only lives in one space for months, but she has found that she enjoys Stockton and calls it the jewel of the Delta. She has been immersed in the local arts scene for three years, and has enjoyed her involvement with the Sandhill Crane Festival, the Mexican Heritage Center and Elsie May Goodwin (Stockton Art League).

During LOST, Avione will share at least a dozen of her 4-by-8-foot paintings in her Galactic Goddess and Fire and Light series at a Lodi winery.

Glenda Burns

Paintings in oil, hand-painted silk scarves and ceramics

Glenda Burns is a woman of many artistic talents. She works in her studio, set between old oak trees that fold over her Morada landscape. There are three rooms in her creative space: one large workspace, where she paints on silk scarves and blank canvases, a room where she sits and throws pottery on a wheel and a third room that holds her kiln and shelf of finished and unfinished pieces of handmade dishware.

Burns began doing art full-time when she retired after 15 years of teaching fifth grade at Heritage School in Lodi. 

“Painting was a whole new life for me,” she said. “It’s exciting how I’ve progressed.”

An oil painter, Burns has been painting for 15 years. Her father and sister are painters, but she hid it from them for several years until she was confident enough in her own methods.

About eight years ago, she tried wheel-thrown pottery, and found a new passion. Not only does she make and sell her pieces, she’s gotten so involved in the craft that she is now the president of the local Potter’s Guild. 

Her own pieces vary from detail-painted bowls to hand-painted tile mirrors. Each of her pieces are bright and wrapped in color.

“(My work) is bold, I think,” she said. “I like to experiment with color ... and see what colors do when they react with each other.”

Her use of colors come to life on the silk scarves that she stretches and hand paints one at a time. She sits in her studio, the silk scarf stretched on a rectangle frame, and she spreads color from the tip of her paintbrush dipped in silk paint.

Burns will show her work at another artist’s studio during this weekend’s LOST. She will show her paintings and pottery, and demonstrate silk scarf painting.

J.C. Strote

Fused glass dishware and wall hangings

In the back of a barn on the outskirts of Lodi, J.C. Stroke has an art studio with everything she needs: five different kinds of kilns, rows of colorful glass sheets, a glass cutting table with enough room for her and a friend to work comfortably, a flame-working station to make glass beads, a beveler, tile saw and floor space for her 14-year-old German Shepherd, Molly, to nap.

Stroke has worked out of her studio since 1998, but has been fusing glass for even longer. When she retired from Lawrence Livermore Lab, she got more serious about making glass art. Her dishware, decorative plates and jewelry are all handmade in her own contemporary designs.

She starts with an idea of colors and styles of glass she wants to piece together. After she has an idea of a design, she cuts the glass and connects the flat pieces together. She lays the flat piece of colored glass over a mold — whether in the shape of a bowl, slightly curved tray, etc. — and leaves them in the kiln to melt until they take on the shape of the mold. 

Stroke originally learned the art of pottery, but turned to glass after she took a class.  She loves the colors of glass, but also realized it is cleaner and doesn’t dry out her hands like clay did.

Glass also gives her a creative outlet because even though she says she can’t draw or paint, she is good at making glass art.

Strotes work is available at the Lodi Art Center and the Goodwin Gallery in Stockton, and will be available for sale during LOST.

Karen Dillard

Semi-precious jewelry

Karen Dillard simply wanted jewelry. So, she bought some beads in colors she liked, created a design, pieced them together, one by one, and in the end, realized she was having fun. She also realize she had a knack for jewelry making. And she really, really liked it.

“It became a passion and I couldn’t stop,” she said, adding that before she knew it, she had 40 of her own necklaces in her jewelry collection.

Dillard works almost solely in her Lodi jewelry studio, a quaint bedroom with vintage flair and a large table where her beads and supplies are organized and visible. On baskets in shelves, strands of beads are color-coordinated like piles of jewels. Seeing her tools and materials is part of the creative process. Sometimes seeing everything will spark a new idea for a necklace or reveal a color combination she never expected could work.

Retired from the banking industry, Dillard now stays busy selling her jewelry creations at craft shows and local businesses, like cellardoor and Sea Salt Cottage.

The pieces are chunky, colorful and, as she describes them, “casual, but elegant.”

“They all have a little bit of a bohemian feel to them,” she said.

Many of the pieces reflect rich tones and deep turquoise, teals, reds and amber. 

Dillard won’t sell a piece that is not full quality. Even the beads are quality made, from handcut gemstones to handmade paper beads that raise money and help women earn a living wage with Project Hope. The nugget pieces have inconsistencies that she sees as beautiful and unique. 

“It’s Wilma Flintstone meets Janis Joplin,” Dillard laughs.

Customers love Dillard’s work. It’s hard for her to keep her inventory stocked because by the time she makes a new necklace, someone is buying it. With each necklace, she likes to share stories of the beads with the person buying it, and how the beads are from Africa, India, Asia or South America.

But as with most artists, the magic happens largely in her studio. She doesn’t watch TV or listen to music while she’s working. She simply keeps her reading glasses on, her wire cutters close by and her imagination completely open.

Barbara Schwartz

Fabric banners and mixed media

Barbara Schwartz hasn’t always been an artist. First she was a mother and elementary school teacher, and then a family psychologist and writer. She found her artistic side after she retired, and has been progressing ever since.

Now she works away in her quaint art studio in her Morada home, where she will sometimes venture out to spread her supplies across the kitchen table or other rooms of the house. When it comes to the messy job of painting banners, she’ll cover her kitchen counters in strips of fabric.

One of her favorite art endeavors are her banners, which started as prayer flags. The purple and pink denim flag, titled “What A Woman Wants,” celebrates color, movement and fun. It’s girly, glittery and bright, what Schwartz says every woman wants.

Each banner hangs lengthwise and differs in design and color. Others are bright with orange butterflies or short messages with Schwartz’s own poetry incorporated in the piece.

Schwartz’s first love is her series of “Little Ladies,” doodle drawings of quirky girls having fun, rollerskating and sharing their insights, such as “I’m braver in my tutu and boa” and “I’m glad I know now what I didn’t know then.”

For Schwartz, she paints what she enjoys.

“I don’t have formal training,” she said. “I need to do things that come from me.”

Barbara works best in the morning, when she can sit in her studio with a window open to her green backyard. Family photographs hang above her work station, and her supplies are within reach, though mostly tucked away in a cabinet behind her. Of every medium she uses, her current favorite supplies are her neocolor pencils, which   she can use like watercolor paints, and Intense pencils she can add water to, as well.

Schwartz’s art will be displayed at another artist’s studio during LOST.

Contact Lodi Living editor Lauren Nelson at laurenn@lodinews.com.

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