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updated: 9/9/2013 2:11 PM

Witness the creative process at art studio tour

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  • "Prayer Memorial for the Souls of Terezin," bronze, by Geneva sculptor Larry Johnson.

    "Prayer Memorial for the Souls of Terezin," bronze, by Geneva sculptor Larry Johnson.
    Courtesy of Larry Johnson

  • Ginkgo, fused glass by Geneva artist Pam Kruse.

    Ginkgo, fused glass by Geneva artist Pam Kruse.
    Courtesy of Pam Kruse

  • Geneva artist Pam Kruse works on glass projects in her kiln.

    Geneva artist Pam Kruse works on glass projects in her kiln.
    Courtesy of Pam Kruse

  • The Geneva studio of watercolor artist and Greater Geneva Art Guild President Lorraine Ochsner will be featured on the guild's 2013 Art Studio Tour.

    The Geneva studio of watercolor artist and Greater Geneva Art Guild President Lorraine Ochsner will be featured on the guild's 2013 Art Studio Tour.
    Courtesy of Lorraine Ochsner

By Gail Gaboda

Get a glimpse into the creative process and meet artists in their natural habitat during a weekend of art in Geneva, set for Friday through Sunday, Sept. 13-15.

More than 30 member artists will exhibit their work at the Greater Geneva Art Guild's first Art Studio Tour. Artists will give demonstrations during the tour, and all artwork will be available for purchase. Each ticket is good for all three days of the tour, and tour-goers can explore studios in any order.

This self-guided tour of nine Geneva locations gives visitors a perspective on how art is created, said guild President Lorraine Ochsner. Participating in the tour are fiber artists, jewelers, metalworkers, media artists, mixed media artists, painters, photographers, sculptors and wood workers at art studios, galleries and businesses.

"People will learn the insight of the artist. The studios are as different as the art created there," Ochsner said.

Sculpture with soul

Sculptor Larry Johnson will open the doors of his L.K. Johnson Studio on Stevens Street to tour-goers.

Johnson describes his original bronze pieces as his "abstraction of life-forms" that are first modeled in clay. His organic reliefs embody "the concept of 'porta' or entry points, doors or openings into a dimension described by winglike movements and passages," he said. Other themes in his series include journeys, lyrical gestures and spiritual concepts.

For example, "Prayer Memorial for the Souls of Terezin" was inspired during a visit to the town of Terezin in the Czech Republic, which was used as a World War II concentration camp. More than 90,000 died there.

"My sculpture is intended to be a positive, uplifting symbol of the power and beauty of those souls, remembered and prayed for eternally," Johnson said.

He has been working with clay, plaster and wax for more than 45 years.

He hopes to engage visitors in conversation about the artistic process.

"They may be interested to learn about the process of making a bronze sculpture or they may be inquisitive as to what ideas inspire me, what concepts prompt my creativity, or even, be able to give me their insights into my work," he said.

The beauty of glass

Several locations will feature more than one artist, creating variety and diversity at these stops on the tour.

Pam Kruse's colorful fused glass is a must-see, but because her medium involves intense heat (up to 1,500 degrees) and very sharp objects, she doesn't open her studio to the public. Instead, she will exhibit her work at the studio of painter and guild member Rhonda Gentry.

Also included in her collection are functional art pieces, such as bowls and coasters, as well as pieces from her popular ginkgo and glass barbed wire series.

Kruse describes her artistic process as "controlled chaos." She's always experimenting and her glass projects are in varying stages of development throughout her studio.

"Fusing glass is a different kind of creative process," she said. While painting and drawing yield immediate results, glass fusing requires the artist to surrender her creative vision to chemistry.

"Once the kiln lid closes and the fusing process begins, that piece it is out of my control," she said. "I live for the moment when the kiln has cooled enough to open. It is so full of anticipation and wonder."

A former graphic designer, Kruse started making jewelry to fill a creative need, which turned into an interest in glass beads, and evolved to fused glass. She is looking forward to the opportunity to meet visitors on the tour and explain her work.

"I love interacting with my clients," she said. "I love sharing the discovery of a piece of art that will delight you, or a gift that will delight someone special."

Additionally, she hopes to grow her passion into a sustainable business. "I know of no better way to do that then to spend face time with lovers of art."

Watercolor and more

Ochsner works primarily in watercolor, preferring landscapes and florals.

"Although I use the same colors, I use different paper sizes, from small to full sheets, whatever the mood strikes," she said.

She will demonstrate her watercolor technique to guests.

"I never know what I will paint until the paper is in my hand, but it will probably be a floral, or a landscape, maybe some birch trees."

Ochsner also will host several artists at her home: Andrea Burchett, colored pencils; Mary Ann Diggory, pottery; Mary McLaughlin, fibers; as well as painters Theresa Jaeger and Jane Marble.

Ochsner has been painting professionally since 1965 and has had her own studio since she was 11.

"My dad closed off a room in the basement and built a drawing table and easel. The easel is still around."

Engaging art lovers

The art guild board selected the studio tour for its sophomore event after its Premiere Exhibition in November 2012 at the Geneva History Center. Rather than host another exhibit, the group wanted to create an event that engages and educates art lovers, Ochsner said. The guild is fulfilling the mission of its parent organization, the Geneva Cultural Arts Commission, by making art accessible to residents and visitors, she added.

Art guild members learned of a studio tour in Wisconsin and after attending, "we liked what we saw and developed a tour to fit our community," Ochsner said. "We think this is the first one of its kind in our area."

For the past few months, guild members have been advertising the tour with the help of "Artys," PVC pipe figures creatively attired as various artists such as Vincent Van Gough and Andy Warhol.

In honor of these creations, the guild has dubbed their Saturday night fundraising celebration the Arty Party. There will be live music, light refreshments, a silent auction and raffles, and of course, lots of artwork.

"It's a great way to meet the artists informally and have fun while supporting the arts in Geneva," Ochsner said.

The quaint charm of Geneva on a fall day is the perfect companion to the studio tour, she added.

"Our beautiful Fox Valley area is a magnet to the creative spirit."

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