Author Archives: laureen

trials and tribulations of mentorship

Yesterday evening at a reception, one of the people I call mentor, gave me the blunt honest truth about my unruly behavior. As painful as it is to be criticized, it is often necessary…especially for me…. This morning (at 4:30AM) I awoke to a cat pawing at my sheets and an argument in my head (inspired by my mentor’s observations). The nagging question: How do I stick up for myself and empathize with others all at the same time. It seems impossible…

So I get out of bed, have coffee and a muffin and do my morning chores. The question continues to nag…. I come inside and pick up the deck of Zen cards – shuffle them around in my hands until I am absolutely sure I am there – pick five cards….

My new observation is: I can work on feeling compassion for others while being loyal to myself.

Here are the cards (in the order received) given to me by this morning’s universe:

  1. Compassion – FEEL the pain of others.  Understand their struggles and disappointments, their hardships and inadequacies, and open your heart to them.  REALIZE that everyone is doing the best they possibly can.  Judge no one. But rather, cradle all of humanity in your heart.
  2. Zen Mind – EXPERIENCE all things with the enthusiasm of a child, as if you were seeing it for the FIRST time.  This is the Zen mind, always new, always always aware, always that of a beginner.  (without resentment)
  3. Loyalty – Become loyal to your innermost TRUTH. Follow the way when all others abandon it.  Walk the PATH of your own heart.
  4. Joy – Joy is INSIDE you. Not in attainment of things desired, nor in the achievement of goals made, but in the simple feeling that lies within you.  Know that this JOY is unaffected by outer circumstance, and joy will be yours forever. (wow – this is a tall order)
  5. Success – SUCCESS is not found in what you have achieved, but rather in WHO you have become.  (I think this is the most important)

Dafodil Shade for Garden Variety

Since 2005, Martina and I have lived in the log-house on the grounds of Stenton Museum in Northwest Philadelphia.  Thanks to the beautiful spring weather and our volunteer gardener, Jean, I am inspired to create “Garden Variety”.  A series of lamps in the spirit of the gardens just outside my front door.

I’ve been walking through the gardens at Stenton collecting flowers and photographing arrangements on a piece of black fur in my Germantown studio. Here is the first sample layout.

This winter, I came upon some books about the work of Louis Comfort Tiffany.  Until then, I never knew too much about Tiffany or how he worked.  Honestly, I just thought there were a bunch of over reproduced lamps.  I will share more as I go along.

The Philadelphia Inquirer 2010

Galleries: Art and Technology Converge in University City

By Edith Newhall
For The Inquirer

For those who missed the news:
The Esther M. Klein Gallery at the University City Science Center is now operating under a program called Breadboard, whose mission is to “convene communities around creative applications of technology.” Hence, the EKG’s latest exhibition, “Machinato Causa,” a collaboration among Breadboard, the Center for Emerging Visual Artists (CFEVA), and NextFab Studio, a technology workshop and prototyping center at the Science Center. The shared project began last summer when Breadboard solicited proposals from CFEVA’s artist members for a six-week residency at NextFab, asking them how such an opportunity might help them to streamline their art-making processes. Artists chosen for the program would be expected to exhibit their NextFab works together at EKG after completing their residencies.

Do you really need to know all this to appreciate “Machinato Causa”? Not really, though the gallery should have mounted wall texts saying which of NextFab’s state-of-the-art tools helped to realize the works of the exhibition’s three chosen artists. (NextFab, of which any artist or designer can become a member, offers the use of a laser cutter, a VersaCamm vinyl printer and cutter, a CNC plasma cutter, a digital embroiderer, and various other machines.)

Clearly, Laureen Griffin used quite a few of NextFab’s tools in her installation, “Beauty Revisited: An Ongoing Series of Settings for the Artist’s Gender Portraiture Project,” which includes a room covered with wallpaper of her own design (what appears to be digitally enlarged photographic images of a city street and the parlor of a house) and some furniture, including a lamp with a shade printed with photographic images of butterflies – a contemporary twist on Tiffany. Griffin’s photographic portraits of people of various gender identities seemed not to have been the products of any advanced technologies.
The main gallery space was given to Marisha Simons and Peter Hanley, who worked collaboratively on cut-paper forms suspended from the ceiling. I’d like to have known the technology that allowed the lights inside these pieces to dim and brighten and change colors simultaneously, but I appreciated their fragile, alien presence nevertheless.
Esther M. Klein Art Gallery, 3600 Market St., 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. Information:
215-966-6188 or Through Jan. 2.

Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery Controversy

Please take action!!

I recently received an email forwarded from Jennifer Sichel, the research assistant for Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture (October 30 through February 13, 2011), described as follows:

“…the first major museum exhibition to focus on sexual difference in the making of modern American portraiture. “Hide/Seek” considers such themes as the role of sexual difference in depicting modern America; how artists explored the fluidity of sexuality and gender; how major themes in modern art—especially abstraction—were influenced by social marginalization; and how art reflected society’s evolving and changing attitudes toward sexuality, desire, and romantic attachment.”

The email declares:

“Dear friends,

As many of you know, I spent several years in DC putting together a show at the National Portrait Gallery called Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture. The show casts the history of American art through a queer lens, challenging our assumptions about what/how art means.
The show is not a reductive look at “gay” art but rather a look at how artists navigate around a complex set of codes that govern sexual expression, how they circumvent and/or use these codes to express their own silenced desires, how they’ve dealt with love and loss when AIDS ravaged the community, and how (more recently) artists complicate society’s imperative to identify as “gay/lesbian.”
The show is under serious attack from the right.  They demanded that a video by David Wojnarowicz be removed, and the museum caved with an hour.  I am outraged — almost 20 years after his death, Wojnarowicz is still being silenced! And now there is a good chance the entire show will be pulled.
Please help me in rallying behind the show.  We need an army of support.
What can you do?
Email NPG’s director, Martin E. Sullivan expressing your support for the show.  His email address is:
Forward this email to everyone and anyone who might care.
Write your congressmen/women.
Spread the word on facebook, twitter, etc.
In solidarity,

EMMA’s Parlour

A place where material culture is re-examined and gender roles are fluid. Installation art by Laureen Griffin and Victorian style miniature theatre by Martina Plag and Leah Walton engage the spirit of nostalgia during a tumultuous time when anarchy, labor struggle, and womenʼs sexual liberation bear equal weight.

From the Philadelphia Fringe Festival 2009 at University City Arts League. Funding made possible in part by a grant from the Puffin Foundation and a house party put on by our dear friend Mary Kalyna.

[nggallery id=25]

Pittsgurgh Tribune-Review 2010

Philadelphia artists’ works create compelling show

By Kurt Shaw
Sunday, October 10, 2010

It may be the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, but seven artists from Philadelphia have taken over the first-floor galleries of the center to display their art. Organized by the center’s Adam Welch, their exhibit “Context Ingeminate” is the result of an ongoing annual trading of spaces between the Pittsburgh Filmmakers/Pittsburgh Center for the Arts and the Center for Emerging Visual Artists in Philadelphia.
The exhibit features the work of the Philadelphia group’s Career Development Program Fellows: Ana B. Hernandez, Bohyun Yoon, Leslie Atik, Tim Portlock, Maria Anasazi, Laureen Griffin and Allison Kaufman.

Their work represents a small cross-section of the 21 artists awarded a career development fellowship, a two-year program that gives participating artists an opportunity to experience a full exhibition schedule, receive career counseling and mentorship, teach in the community and participate in numerous professional development opportunities.

“This exhibition exchange is part of an ongoing collaboration by CFEVA and PF/PCA created in order to strengthen the artistic dialogue between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia,” Welch says. The title of the show, “Context Ingeminate,” attempts to “marry the passive and the active, the viewer and the creator,” Welch says, which it does flawlessly thanks to engaging works like Yoon’s “Structure of Shadow.”
Taking up an entire gallery, Yoon’s installation is comprised of hundreds of small, cast-rubber body parts. They create numerous shadows of figures on the walls that seem to dance, thanks to a gyrating light bulb hung directly in the middle of the installation that activates as the visitor approaches. Yoon says the truncated rubber figures, hung like puppets, portray the idea of a group as opposed to an individual. It’s something he relates to his training in military methodology while serving in the Korean army. “As soon as I entered the military in Korea, my superiors tried to brainwash all the new soldiers in regards to who our enemy is, why we have to obey them and so on,” Yoon says. “This training methodology and military law were very well structured and very effectively organized to control new troops.” A light and shadow trick is a key factor in this work. Yoon says it is a metaphor of the invisible power of political tricks he encountered.

Kaufman’s “Dancing with Divorced Men,” a six-and-a-half minute, single-channel looped video projection, makes a different, though equally pointed, social commentary. Basically recordings of the twentysomething artist dancing with middle-aged divorced men in their homes, Kaufman says she decided to make the video after a visit to her newly single father’s apartment for the first time. “It’s very strange to visit the home of a newly divorced parent and see what they choose to surround themselves with when they are living on their own for the first time in a long time, or possibly ever,” she says.  All of the participants in “Dancing with Divorced Men” were found through online or in-person divorce-support groups. “All strangers to me, I asked the subjects to choose a song and style of dance and, following their lead,” Kaufman says. “I create an appropriate female counterpart from their cues, recording our collaboration.” Experiencing a major change, particularly in mid-life, necessitates forming a new identity to some degree, Kaufman says. “Vulnerability, disappointment and hope, among many other things, are all part of that process and are emotions I’m fascinated with, both in my subjects and myself,” she says. The work is tender, witty and sad, raising questions of how divorced people cope in their personal spaces and in intimate situations.
“It’s ultimately about the need for human interaction, the search for it and the insecurities around it, in an increasingly cyber-connected, yet emotionally disconnected world,” Kaufman says.

Not gender issues, but gender identity is fodder for Griffin’s “Gender Portraiture Project,” on display here as four small, framed “self-portrait collaborations” between the artist and her subjects. In each, the subject is presented as stereotype—worker, student, and artist—
but also presented to convey their own “embodiment of femaleness,” says Griffin through commentary on personal and historical devices of ornament used in portraiture and home decoration. “Stories told by participants (those posing in the portraits) are about being
stereotyped,” Griffin says. “What is appropriate behavior in relation to perceived gender? What have we been taught about personal aesthetics and hygiene? What are societal expectations depending on class, ethnic heritage, and family background? Every portrait is individually negotiated and designed in collaboration with each subject.”

The remaining works on display are a bit more abstract and obtuse. Hernandez’s wall sculpture, “Mothering the Pearl,” assembled from layers of thread sandwiched between layers of silk and stacked on each other, explores the process of cultural transplantation from a feeling of dislocation to acceptance and growth in an adopted land. Atik’s piece, “Nocturne: Notes on Thoreau,” is comprised of continuous lines of
handwritten words and threaded marking tags that become a layering of words, paper and threads that allows for the interplay between text and textile, providing a wonderful warp and weft to the work that gives it a sense of rhythm. Anasazi’s “Crutches” sculpture attempts to address invisible pain—the kind you imagine when you see someone walking down the street on crutches. Although, that may not be obvious at first, given the integration of several books in the work, which the artist says is “a reference to personal history.” Nevertheless, her work contrasts nicely against Portlock’s large-scale digital print of an imaginary cityscape image generated from 3-D special-effects software. It somehow makes this show come full-circle and complete in its own right.

Kurt Shaw can be reached at

Teaching at Women's Studio Workshop

This summer I was very fortunate to teach Fabric Printing with Dye at Women’s Studio Workshop in Rosendale NY.  Initially, I was so nervous, as teaching a technique that I invented through experimentation seemed so daunting. My students were wonderful and I look forward to doing this again sometime soon – hopefully.  Teaching one’s peers is an amazingly gratifying experience!!

Here is the class summary:
Print your photographic and hand-drawn images with dye and dye resist.  In this class, artists will learn to silkscreen fine detailed photographic images and drawings by using cold process fiber reactive dye pastes. We will focus on painting and precision silkscreening these fiber reactive dyes onto canvas and other cellulose based fabrics.  The dyes penetrate into and bond with the fibers offering permanent and washable printed fabrics which can be used for upholstery, wearable art and clothing, or incorporation into artwork such as stretched over a frame and painted, waxed with encaustic, and sculpted with Paverpol.   Learn techniques for converting digital photographs into graphic images for photo stencils, and drawing directly onto the screen. Students should bring digital images and/or digital cameras as well as line art for creating artwork for printing.  It is recommended that artists have some experience with Adobe Photoshop.