Tag Archives: artwork

Your Trash, Her Treasure

April 9, 2017 by
Photography by Keith Binder

Even on a blustery, freezing January day, as Christmas lights still twinkle from neighbors’ homes, it’s Halloween inside Diane Hayes’ apartment.

Enter into her abode, which is located in the 105-year-old West Farnam Apartments off Dewey and 38th streets, and you’re confronted with fortunetellers and witches and skeletons, oh my! The 1,800-square-foot place is spacious, with floorboards that squeak and much of its early 20th-century charm still intact, but it’s Hayes and her often-merrily macabre refurbished artwork that makes the apartment truly spellbinding.

“For a while, I tried to keep all my work hidden in one room, but then I said ‘Oh, to hell with it,'” Hayes says. “By the time they carry my body out of here, I suppose things will really look strange.”

Hayes lives to make the old new again. From turning a vintage side table into an animatronic fortuneteller to using antique alarm clocks to create mini terrariums that depict tragedies like the Titanic sinking and Lindbergh kidnapping, she uses her creative magic to take everyday objects and turn them into art. A strong believer that “décor shouldn’t come from Bed, Bath & Beyond,” Hayes scavenges through Goodwill, antique shows, and online to buy things only for their pieces and parts.

After purchasing an item, she stows it away and lets ideas start marinating in her head. Once inspiration strikes, the tinkering begins.

“It’s not my thing to come home after a long day and sit down to watch TV,” Hayes says. “I’m always putting something together.”

While she displays most of her work in her home, she does sell some items on Etsy and has donated pieces to benefits for the Nebraska AIDS Project and the local chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

If she isn’t selling or donating a piece, chances are it will end up in her year-round Halloween-themed office. Teeming from floor to ceiling with things that go bump in the night, this room is more fun and festive than frightening, as most of her collection reflects Halloween styles that were popular in the 1950s and ’60s. And come Halloween night, Hayes is the ghostess with the mostess, inviting around 80 costumed party guests into her apartment to have their palms read by a fortuneteller and watch silent films like Nosferatu.

“I love the Halloweens I grew up with,” Hayes says. “It’s such a fun time of year, and it doesn’t have the stress or religious and political connotations of Christmas.”

Beyond Halloween, living in Omaha’s first luxury apartment building offers its own inspiration. Built in 1912, the West Farnam Apartments house the city’s oldest working elevator.

“You can hear those 100-year-old gears cranking and groaning, almost like a tiny factory that’s come to life,” Hayes says.

Perhaps, this explains her next project—refurbishing an old clock complete with its own ancient gears. Some projects she completes in a day, others she’s always working on, always tinkering. This clock’s finish date is yet to be determined, and to Hayes that’s just fine.

“It’s been an unfocused life,” Hayes says, “but I’m not sure I’d want to do it any other way.”

Visit etsy.com/people/halloweenclocks for more information.

This article was printed in the March/April 2017 edition of Omaha Home.

Art Rage

February 23, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Editor’s note: Cassils is a gender non-conforming trans-masculine visual artist. Cassils uses plural gender-neutral pronouns (they, them, their) and asks that journalists do likewise when referring to them. This plurality reflects through language the position Cassils occupies as an artist. For more about gender non-conforming issues, go to: glad.org/reference/transgender 

Powerful art does not need to be explained, though for the uninitiated, sometimes it helps.

Canadian-born, Los Angeles-based multimedia artist Cassils thrives on the power of art. The artist (who prefers to be referred to in plural, gender-neutral pronouns) launched their latest exhibit, Cassils: The Phantom Revenant—now on display at the Bemis Center— Feb. 2 with a thrilling live performance called Becoming An Image.

Cassils’ performance involved the transgender, body-building artist attacking a 2,000-pound block of clay using only their body, in complete darkness, with the occasional flash of a camera that illuminated both artist and object, burning the images into viewers retinas.

It was a blend of performance, photography, and sculpture. “I use all parts of my body—my fists, my knees, my elbows,” Cassils says. “I beat this clay to the best of my ability, blind, until I’m basically compromising my ability to hit it properly.”

At the performance, the only sounds were those of Cassils’ labored breathing, as the artist kicked, punched, and even jumped on the earthy clay, accompanied by the click of the camera as the photographer blindly tried to capture the “full-blown attack.”

Becoming An Image was originally conceived of and executed for ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives, the oldest existing LGBT organization in the United States, which also happens to house one of the largest repositories of LGBT materials in the world.

“I was asked to make a piece in relationship to the missing gender-queer and trans representation in that archive, because like many archives in museums, it’s filled with the work of, in this case, dead, gay white guys. So rather than making an artwork that spoke to the one or two subjectivities that perhaps matched this description in the archives, I decided to make a piece about the troubling mechanisms of what makes it into the historical canon and what doesn’t.”

Cassils’ Powers That Be installation—on display through April 29—presents a six-channel video that is a simulation of violence, a staged fight that could be taking place between two, three, four, or five people. But in this fight, Cassils plays the role of both victim and perpetrator. “If you have two people doing stage combat, it looks really realistic, but if you take one person out, and the other person’s doing it well, it really looks as if they’re fighting a ghost, or a force.”

Cassils says “Any work is about responding to the socio-political circumstances that we’re living in …  Art doesn’t change things like laws do, but it generates discussion.”

This article was printed in the March/April 2017 edition of Encounter.

Public Art Primer

June 20, 2013 by
Photography by Chris Wolfgang

One thing never in short supply in this city of ours is public art. Downtown Omaha in particular has a vast collection of pieces—some you’ve surely seen and some that are tucked away. Keep your eyes open this summer for these few pieces in particular and impress your friends with how much you know about public art downtown.

Pioneer Courage Park and Spirit of Nebraska’s Wilderness Park
14th & Capitol and all four corners of the 16th & Dodge intersection

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Both owned by First National Bank, these installations span the width of several blocks. Follow Blair Buswell’s and Edward Fraughton’s pioneers, covered wagons, oxen, horses, and mules through Pioneer Courage Park, watch as they scare off bison who run along 14th all the way to Kent Ullberg’s Spirit of Nebraska’s Wilderness at 16th where Canada geese (each weighing approximately 200 pounds) seem to fly around the intersection, through walls, buildings, even traffic light poles.

The Garden of the Zodiac
Old Market Passageway, 10th & Howard

On the second floor of the Old Market Passageway (itself a unique artistic and architectural element of Downtown Omaha) are several bronze heads mounted on stone bases. This Garden of the Zodiac was sculpted by Evas Aeppli and represents the 12 signs of the Zodiac. Aeppli also created the Fountain of Erinnyesdiac in the lower level of the Passageway across from the V. Mertz restaurant. These three abstract metal heads, which each spew water, represent the Furies: Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone, all vengeful demi-goddesses of Greek mythology.

Nebraska Centennial Glass Mosaic
The outside of the Woodman building, 18th & Douglas

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Tom Bartek completed this work in 1967. The mosaic scenes depict Native Americans, pioneers, and Omaha being settled. In 2012, at the age of 80, Bartek released Retrospective, a collection of his works, in three galleries. You can learn more about the mural’s creation at omahamuralproject.org.

Fertile Ground
Eastern wall of the Energy Systems, Inc. building, 13th & Webster

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If you’ve been in the North Downtown area since 2009, you’ve seen Fertile Ground. This 70-foot-tall mural spans 328 feet wide—the length of a city block. It is the largest piece of public art ever installed in Omaha. It’s also the largest mural in the nation to have a single financial backer, the Peter Kiewit Foundation, which funded the piece as a gift to the people of Nebraska and the city of Omaha.

The Omaha Mural Project: Fertile Ground was coordinated by the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, which selected Meg Saligman as the artist. Saligman compiled Omaha’s story—past, present, future—in a unique back-to-front approach. Instead of a typical left-to-right treatment, the chronology pushes past events to the background and brings more recent events into the foreground. The painting took a year to complete—June 2008 to June 2009.

The Road to Omaha
TD Ameritrade Park Omaha, 1200 Mike Fahey St.

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You may have seen this piece recently, either in person or on television. This bronze sculpture by artist John Lajba is often a focal point during the NCAA Men’s College World Series every June. The sculpture of baseball players was given to the city by local organizing committee College World Series of Omaha, Inc. The Road to Omaha was completed in 1999 and made the move from Rosenblatt Stadium to TD Ameritrade Park Omaha in 2011.

For more information about public art in Omaha, visit publicartomaha.org.

Lee Douglas Interiors

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Lee Douglas Interiors, a full-service design firm based in Lincoln, Neb., has expanded into Omaha with the opening of a new design studio in Bel Air Plaza.

Established in 1989, the business, owned by Lorele Lesoing and Doug Dittoe, services home builders, outside designers, and residential clients. The Omaha studio also serves as a retail storefront, stocking furniture, home accessories, and artwork.

“Our design team draws on six decades of experience in the [home design] industry,” says design assistant Meg Penrod. “We’re accomplished in custom home creation, ground-up construction planning, design finish, remodeling, and project management.”

Other interior design services include: hourly consultation, wall treatments, window coverings, bedding, upholstery, furniture, and accessories. The business also employs a faux-finish team, and offer original artwork and mural design services.

“Lee Douglas Interiors has worked with several Omaha clients over the years and felt their store and services offered something unique to the city,” adds Penrod. “We’ve earned a reputation for designing unique, warm, and creative atmospheres exceeding customers’ expectations. Our clients are anyone wanting a clever approach toward aesthetically beautiful yet practical and functional design for their everyday life.”

Penrod says the studio has plans to launch Lee Douglas brands and an exciting online store.

Lee Douglas Interiors
12100 W. Center Rd., Ste 1101
402-932-9932
leedouglas.com

Courtney Kenny

March 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann and Courtney Kenny

Courtney Kenny’s favorite piece, currently, is a self-portrait in charcoal. Tousled pale hair is set off by a careless smirk. And a huge, red, acrylic “F” circled over her face and checkmarked for emphasis. The unforgiving letter is the epitome of every student’s nightmares.

“When I was doing Failure,” Kenny says, “I was stressed and frustrated. I’d just got declined from some gallery, so I was stressed about that and kind of feeling like a failure.”

Her friends couldn’t understand it. “They’d say, ‘Why do you feel like a failure?’” Kenny recalls. After all, she of all her peers from Bethany College (she graduated last December) had been in juried shows as a sophomore and had her first solo exhibition as a freshman. She’s what you might call driven.IMG_4256 copy

The reaction she gets when applying to galleries and shows is usually along the lines of “You’re how old? What, 23?”

“It leads me to believe more artists wait till they’re older to show,” Kenny says, adding that most students aren’t even thinking about shows in college, just making art. “I was doing things my peers weren’t,” she says. Determined to get her work seen, she felt her way along with “lots of research, lots of trial and error, lots of rejection, lots of failure.” And even if she doesn’t sell as many pieces as she wants at the shows she does get into, she knows each show is an addition to her résumé. “It’s always better to be able to say, ‘Hey, I currently have a show here,’” Kenny points out. “That alone, other galleries perk up a little bit.”

All the while, she’s amassed a body of work in what she calls “unrealistic realism.” The style is realistic, with people and animals portrayed in fine detail with graphite, charcoal, acrylic, or oil, but the subject matter is unrealistic. Elements are drawn in such a way as to make viewers look twice. Is that…real? Could it be real?IMG_7354 copy

Consider, for example, the Nude Bitch. At first glance, the charcoal and acrylic piece is a study of a tired beagle sacked out on a couch. But upon closer inspection, a viewer might notice the rose petals. And are those draped sheets? “That one’s making fun of the nude model,” Kenny says. “No one gets it at first.”

She’s always looking for the quirk, the sense of humor, the hint of tongue-in-cheek. Artists such as Banksy, Chuck Close, and Francoise Nielly encourage her to embrace a subtle wit in her own work. And, perhaps, a tendency to poke fun at art itself. “I’ve always respected artists more who, if they do a piece that’s just three stripes on a canvas, and then I see another piece of theirs that does show they have the technical skills, I can accept the first piece,” Kenny says. “Then you know it’s intentional, not a cover-up for the fact that they can’t draw.”

For Kenny, drawing is where it all began, and she’s taken certain elements from drawing into her painting. For example, nearly all of her work is in black and white. Drawing in black and white is typical, but a black-and-white oil painting raises eyebrows. “It’s more honed in,” she says. “Minimalist. That’s also why most of my pieces don’t have a ton in the background.” A good example of this stark minimalism would be Unravel, a mixed media work with yarn and acrylic.IMG_3961 copy

Kenny does reserve splashes of color to draw focus, such as the In Bloom series. “Too much color,” she says, “and you’re almost noticing the color over the medium.” But she lets her viewers be the judges, saying she wants to provide a direction but not specific answers as to what her art has to say.

Kenny recently wrapped up a month-long show at the Crossroads Art District in Kansas City in March. Her next show will be at the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts in Nebraska City in July. For more information, visit courtneykennyart.com.

Nature-Inspired Office Space

February 25, 2013 by
Photography by Tom Kressler

The four elements—earth, fire, wind, and water—connote strength, simplicity, and timelessness andwere the source of inspiration for the design of the Pinnacle Bank Headquarters at 180th & Dodge streets in Omaha.

Pinnacle Bank, a Nebraska-based institution now in eight states, worked closely with the team at Avant Architecture to make the building essentially a piece of modern art. Rising from the horizon, the stone, steel, and glass structure suggests strength and elegance, simplicity and beauty.

“We’re really all about Nebraska and the Nebraska way,” says Chris Wendlandt, Senior Vice President of Marketing/Retail. Having previously worked with Avant, Wendlandt says the architecture firm knew their philosophy well. “Avant worked to match the building with the brand, and I think they did a great job.”

Wendlandt says that the goal was to create a space that would be simple, warm, and inviting, and something that both employees and their customers would be proud of.

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Since their grand opening in June 2011, the response of employees and clients has been overwhelmingly positive.

The overall design of the building is sleek, yet elegant. “The emphasis is on light, openness, and views [of the exterior landscape],” says Wendlandt. Italian tile runs throughout the approximately 82,000-square-foot building. Other materials carried throughout the building’s design are the dark, German wood veneer, Oberflex, used in cabinets and doors, as well as a Gage Cast bronze metal that can be found near the teller line, in the elevator, and in other parts of the building.

Glass plays a prominent role in the overall design as well. Running through the lobby is a green-tinted channel glass wall, hinting at the element of water and providing light, as well as privacy, to first-floor offices and conference rooms. Large glass-panel walls on both exterior and interior walls keep with the open and airy feeling.

“The consistency throughout the whole building gives it that warm feeling, but then the artwork really brings [to life] what our brand is,” says Wendlandt. While the design of the space is minimalist, the artwork is what captures the attention of the viewer.

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Aided by Holly Hackwith of Corporate Art Co., the art in the building was commissioned especially for the Pinnacle Bank project. With the majority of the artists being from Nebraska and the surrounding area, their work conveys the feel of Pinnacle’s home state. “We went through and identified artists we thought worked for the building,” says Wendlandt. Some of the more prominently featured artists are Jorn Olsen, Helene Quigley, and Matt Jones.

Then, in what Hackwith calls an extraordinary gesture, the Pinnacle executives allowed their employees to select which pieces would go into their personal offices. The result is an art collection that is a healthy mix of traditional and modern, serene and vibrant.

“Their employees really felt like they were a part of the process,” says Hackwith. Each work of art includes a plaque detailing the name of the piece, the name of the artist, and a brief description of the piece and artistic process involved.

The executive offices on the upper floors have glass-panel walls that look into the hallways and common areas. Employee cubicles have lower walls with glass panes imbedded, giving nearly every employee access to natural light and breathtaking views.

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A community meeting room was created so that many of Pinnacle’s nonprofit clients can reserve it for their own use. “Community is…very important to us,” says Wendlandt. She says that they made a conscious effort to include a conference room with community access to it. All conference rooms are equipped with the latest in audio-visual technology

The top floor houses a green roof as well as a meeting area surrounded by glass-paneled walls that can slide open and be used to entertain clients or hold business meetings.

The building has achieved its sought-after LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certification. To earn this distinction, the building must meet green building standards regarding energy performance, water efficiency and several other aspects. In September 2012, the Pinnacle Bank project was also honored for its superior design with a silver award in the Corporate-Healthcare category by the Nebraska-Iowa Chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID).

President Sid Dinsdale and the executives at Pinnacle Bank have created a new work space that reflects their values as a company. In doing so, they have also built a monument to where they came from and the clients they serve.

When Less is More

December 25, 2012 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Trish Billotte downsized from a large, traditional house in Fair Acres to a smaller modern condo in Omaha’s Old Market in 2010. But some people would question whether the move was “downsizing.” The contemporary “smaller” home sprawls over 3,200 square feet.

The downtown space was a big, barren area made up of two units when she bought it. She combined the empty shells into one residence. “I loved the brick walls,“ says Billotte. “This space had the most charm of those I looked at.”

Trish Billotte

Trish Billotte

She found ample room to create a stunning home that features windows with wide views of the heart of the Old Market. Within 10 months, the space was transformed into a model of what an empty concrete box can look like with the help of architect Paul Nelson and interior designer Beth Putnam.

Ceilings stretch up 17 feet leading to one pesky inconvenience—changing lightbulbs. The man who changes the lightbulbs requires a 12-foot ladder and lots of patience.

The new condo is the third design project that Putnam has worked on with Billotte. She considered her client’s personality when planning the newest residence. “Trish likes color, and she likes unique things.”

Coral is the color that stands out as you face the open kitchen, which has cabinet covers made of thermofoil. “It’s a lacquer look that isn’t lacquer,” says Putnam. “There’s an underlying wood core that incorporates a metal element similar to metallic paint used in the automobile industry.”20121114_bs_3672 copy

People dream of owning a kitchen like Billotte’s. Two refrigerators. Two ovens. Two dishwashers. A warming drawer. A microwave hidden behind cabinet doors.

Tucked away behind the kitchen is a hallway where items needed for entertaining are stored, including an ice machine and an extra refrigerator that is especially useful during the holidays.

The kitchen, living, and dining areas are ideal for entertaining. A long sectional couch and conversation nook of chairs in the living area tempt guests to relax and talk by the fireplace. The dining table can seat six (or 16 cozily).

Rooms have unique lighting. Pendant lights in the kitchen focus on the kitchen island. Traditional crystal on a contemporary bar makes an interesting contrast in the guest bath. Mesh-covered lights float over the two suspended-base sinks in the bath adjoining the master bedroom.20121114_bs_3691 copy

It’s also what you don’t see that makes the condo unusual. Storage. Lots and lots of storage. “One problem with condos is they normally don’t have storage space. We incorporated as much as possible,” says Putnam.

When planning storage, Billotte took into consideration her height—or lack of it. China and silverware are stored in lower cabinets. “I’m short. In my older home, I couldn’t reach them,” she says.

Black and cream tile adorns the walk-in shower in the master bath. The bedroom’s huge walk-in closet and companion shoe closet adjoin a laundry room. Laundry is placed in baskets on shelves in the walk-in closet. The baskets can be passed through and reached on adjacent shelves in the laundry room.

Windows in the guest bedroom in the second-story loft open to the master bedroom to bring natural light into the room. If you fear reptiles, you may want to forget showering in the guest bath. Ceramic tiles on the floor and in the shower appear to be leather-like reptile skin. It’s like bathing with a crocodile. But a very attractive crocodile.20121114_bs_3696 copy

Artwork in the home is by local artists, including a painting by artist Steve Joy. A high-gloss painting over the sleek gas fireplace in the living area was moved after it started bubbling from the heat. Billotte replaced it with sturdy ceramic pieces by artist Iggy Sumnik, who studied under internationally known artist Jun Kaneko.

She has space for her children to visit. Son Chase, 28, is pursuing a doctorate in physical therapy at Emory University in Atlanta. He met his wife in Nicaragua when he served in the Peace Corps. Daughter Taylor, 31, is a technical producer for a New York City ad agency.

Billotte now has a five-minute drive to work and is loving it. She is co-owner with her brother, Andy Cockle, of Cockle Legal Briefs. The third-generation business, which produces U.S. Supreme Court briefs, was founded in 1923 by their grandparents, Albert and Eda Cockle, both attorneys.

Jo Anderson

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Jo Anderson adores Midlands art, and she loves showcasing the talent of those who create it.

Anderson is founder and owner of Anderson O’Brien Fine Art, an upscale art dealer and gallery that has been a fixture of Countryside Village at 87th and Pacific streets for more than three decades. Two years ago, she opened a second location in Omaha’s Old Market.

“I always had my eye on it,” Anderson says of the space at 1108 Jackson St., which housed Jackson Artworks for nearly 18 years. “Wouldn’t it be great to have a gallery downtown and have a broader audience?”

When the owners of Jackson Artworks announced they were closing, Anderson stepped in and took over the space in summer 2010. It’s since become one of downtown’s leading galleries.

The gallery in the Old Market has a different energy, audience, and atmosphere than the one in Countryside Village, says Anderson. Housed in a former warehouse, the downtown space is sleek and contemporary with white walls, exposed ductwork, concrete floors, and an open, airy feel. It’s also larger, so viewers have more room to get further back from the work and admire each piece fully, whether it’s an oil painting or sculpture.

Anderson’s gallery represents about 60 artists from Nebraska and surrounding states. Many are professional artists and art educators from area universities and colleges. Anderson says she prefers to represent established artists rather than up-and-coming talent.

“We have a consistency of work that is solid,” she says.

“Every day is different. It’s very rewarding. It’s just a great life.”

Keeping the number at a manageable 60 allows Anderson and her staff to give artists the time, attention, and resources they need. She takes great joy from being around art all day. “You’re dealing in beauty,” she says.

Anderson’s love of art goes back to childhood. She often accompanied her physician father to Indian reservations, where he treated patients. The visits sparked an interest in ethnographic art. Years later, Anderson opened the Plains Gallery at 78th and West Dodge Road, which she operated for more than a decade before selling it.

She then opened a poster gallery/frame shop near 76th and Pacific streets with business partner Sharon O’Brien. They didn’t have enough money to invest in original art, so they sold poster art.

In the early 1980s, the duo launched Anderson O’Brien Gallery in Countryside Village. They started out slow by representing a few artists, building clients, and upgrading their art collection. By the early ‘90s, O’Brien had gone on to pursue other ventures, leaving Anderson as sole owner.

As gallery owner, she has a variety of responsibilities. She meets with artists to discuss details of current and future exhibits, including determining how many pieces to feature and choosing an image for the event invitation. Other duties include handling bookwork, waiting on customers, and scheduling delivery and pick-up of artwork.

The gallery sells artwork to a mix of customers, from businesses to private collectors. It offers shipping, framing, hanging, appraisals, and other services. Anderson also works with interior designers and architects to place art in homes, offices, and other spaces.

“Every day is different,” she says. “It’s very rewarding. It’s just a great life.”

For more information on the gallery, its artists, and upcoming shows, visit aobfineart.com.