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March 2016

Margaret Braun

MargaretBraunimage1SugarCupsArt can be conceived and constructed in many different mediums. Jackson Pollack used house paint instead of oils. But there are some articsts that take their materials one step further. Margaret Braun is a renowned baker who also is sugar artist - one who uses sugar to create inedible art as well as edible art.

Margaret Braun’s medium is sugar. Growing up in Levittown, New York, amongst thousands of cookie-cutter houses, Braun was curious about the ways in which personal identity genuinely thrives when set against sameness.  As a child, she responded to this environment by filling notebooks and covering surfaces with ornate sequential patterns.  As an adult, she rediscovered this solace by decorating cakes. 

During her time at New York's Museum of Art and Design, Braun designed, created and executed an installation of 2,000 hand-hewn sugar cups produced through a variety of techniques from molding sugar to painting decorations in gold leaf.  Her process is rigorous and methodical, creating a studio environment that is equal parts the workplace of a fine artist and of a craftsperson operating under a strict production schedule.

Braun is the author of Cakewalk: Adventures In Sugar With Margaret Braun, teaches throughout Europe and South America, and has been featured extensively in film, print and TV. 


Wendell Castle

Wendell castleWendell Castle (born November 6, 1932 in Emporia, Kansas, USA) is an American furniture artist and a leading figure in American craft.

His work has an organic fluidity not often associated with everyday furniture.

Father of the art furniture movement, Wendell Castle has been a sculptor, designer, and educator for more than four decades. An influential artist, his work has led to the development of handcrafted, modern designer furniture as a major art form and his name is revered above all others in the field. 
His bold and graceful pieces, often organic, and sometimes whimsical, are crafted from rare and beautiful hardwoods, plastics, veneers, and metals in a timeless contemporary style. His expression of color and exotic materials are synonymous with the Wendell Castle name. 

In 1958, he received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in industrial design, and in 1961, he received a Master of Fine Arts, both from the University of Kansas. From 1962-1969, he taught at Rochester Institute of Technology, School for American Craftsmen, in Rochester, NY, and is now an Artist in Residence.[1] In 1980, he opened the Wendell Castle School in Scottsville, NY. He has garnered a number of awards, including a 1994 'Visionaries of the American Craft Movement' award sponsored by the American Craft Museum, a 1997 Gold Medal from the American Craft Council and a 1998 Artist of the Year Award from the Arts & Cultural Council for Greater Rochester.[2] He has also received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Comfort Tiffany Foundation. In 2001 he received the Award of Distinction from The Furniture Society.

Leo Manso

Leo mansoAs a young man, open to the influences of the late 30’s and 40’s [Leo Manso] found social realism too doctrinaire. He was drawn to color as a major means of expression, and sought to master the understanding of color and its usage through the study of Persian Miniatures, the Siennese masters, Klee, Matisse, Bonnard, and the folk arts of many cultures. Early awareness of Sung masters showed him the bridge between East and West, for to him they had achieved the same ambient space, light and atmosphere as Turner and Monet. [Manso] sought an art of transcendence approached through meditative participitation.

In 1947 Manso set up his summer studio and home in Provincetown. He helped organize Gallery 256, the first artists regional cooperative of that era. Among it’s members were Barnet, Botkin, Browne, Busa, Campbell, Candell, and Daphnis. The gallery acted as a Salon des Refuses, encouraging exhibitions, lectures and discussions by artists not in sympathy with the Provincetown Art Association’s more academic jury system.

As early as 1948 Manso had exhibited with avant-garde groups. During that same year he helped organize the “Formations” group in New York, exhibiting with Ferren, Lipton and Marca-Relli. He was active in the American Abstract Artists exhibitions which included, among others, Albers and Ben Nicholson. Through the film maker and photographer Thomas Bouchard he came to know Kurt Seligman and Fernand Leger.

In discussing Manso’s early work he insists that it be described as “Abstract Impressionism” because of his interest in light and atmosphere, but for me there are affinities with the Abstract Expressionism of many of the artists he knew at the time. A powerful movement was underway, which owed a great deal of its strength to a meeting of the minds, at least on the surface. One of the principal ideas of this new art was to encourage multiple interpretations. The viewer as well as the artist were free to evoke imagery from the unconscious.

[Manso’s] earliest paintings were subjective and autobiographical, based on personal reaction to nature. In this he had much in common with the plein air artists and the Impressionists, but unlike them he did not seek to capture the visible. He painted what nature evoked, concretizing his emotion. Resonances, echoes, memories, stirred by direct confrontation with nature were his concern. And so, his work, lyric in spirit, was filled with light, air, enveloping space.

Manso speaks of the impact of Turner and Monet, how Turner makes the viewer part of the vision, not as observer, but as a participant in the vast drama of nature. Monet, in his late paintings produces similar sensations, for in his Nympheas series there is no horizon, no base. It is as though one is in the experience, an existential position.

In his early period, seeking to express himself, Manso, like Jacob with the Angel, wrestled with his ego. In the second period he [modified] this by submerging himself in the collective symbolism of Eastern thought. In the NOW, Manso, like Kandinsky, is in the closest possible touch with the spiritual in art.