Monthly Archives: June 2015

Leslie Graff: Domestics


Leslie Graff works in acrylics and mixed media to explore, in a variety of projects, a shared theme—the complexity of human experience. Her series Domestics is expansive, bold, and mildly mysterious. Her work has been exhibited in group and solo shows across the country in various museums, universities, and galleries and is held in many personal collections. She lives outside of Boston with her husband and three sons.

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Talk about DomesticsOur experiences in life are for the most part intensely personal and private, we share some of our thoughts with others but for the most part the majority remains known only to us. My work primarily focuses on themes of identity, connection, relationships, and personal power. Things like chemistry, love, connection, and influence can’t be easily explained or measured but are such a part of our most meaningful experiences. The resonance of life is constantly on my mind. I am so intrigued by how unique our lives and experiences are and the ways we connect. The only way I can think to try to capture that is with art. I like my art to have a level of ambiguity and space for multiple interpretations and personal meaning because I think that echoes life. I have deep respect for the individual. We all see things a bit differently. Life is far more complicated and often involves a lot of overlapping dynamics, and tensions, that we are struggling through in life. Sometimes we live life too surfacey, afraid to spend much time in those complex spaces where its not all neat nice tidy answers.

My domestic series is primarily depictions of women (sometimes men- cause I do adore men) in domestic settings. It was first inspired by some aprons my great grandmother embroidered that were passed down to me. So it began as a self portrait exploration, the pieces are set in my home or locations with a lot of personal meaning for me, as it adds a reality and authenticity to the pieces. I saw these parallels between the tasks I did in my contemporary life, with the tasks my great grandmother did many decades prior. I had questions for myself about how family life has changed, what we outsource, and what creates meaning. I also saw how many deeper metaphors and tensions are found within domestic work or behaviors we do all the time. Each piece has a sub metaphor buried in it.

Like “she wanted to get out” is mostly about being trapped by self limiting behaviors, beliefs, and patterns that keep people from becoming what they want to be, most people view it at first glance thinking its about the confinement of domestic life that’s actually not my primary motivation in the piece. I think women today are still trying to negotiate their own relationship with their domestic roles . Other pieces like “want a slice” is about resource allocation, things that are finite like only having 24 hours a day. There is no way to change that, its all you get to work with, and it questions the deliberateness with which we allocate.  “Tuning in” is about connecting and refining relationships, developing deep, committed emotional presence. I used domestic artifacts to blur the context and historical settings so the pieces can say multiple things.

I love that these pieces connect with different people in different ways. Some women have shared how it makes them feel great purpose in domestic life, or increases their deliberateness. Others say it reminds them of their mothers or grandmothers. Some women say they relate because as working mothers they find themselves still dressed from work but jumping right into their family lives. I like that people can find their own connections. I do like that they draw attention to women and homes life. But I like to leave people their to think more on their own relationships as I don’t belief life is a one size fits all experience.

Women are a major part of this series. What is the status of women in the Church today? Where my graduate studies revolved around human development, identity, domestic life, roles, emotions, relationships, sexuality these are the subjects I am fascinated by and deep passionate about. I think as a religious culture, we are still leery of feminism, people have such strong reactions to the mere word. Not realizing what it has brought to the table and all we gain from it. I love that feminism taught us to speak up more and with first person voice, to me that is in such harmony with view of individual worth and personal revelation. It has taught me to use my voice as a woman, as a mother to speak to what I believe. My domestic series speaks to a lot of things but focuses on complexity of women’s experiences, many of the cultural shifts women have had to navigate especially since the 1950s and 60s (hence the domestic artifacts from those periods). I think we are still navigating a lot in the world today and in our religious culture. I think women have not necessarily been utilized in the church to their full potential in the past. I think there have been a lot of cultural beliefs or patterns that are perpetuated that are unhelpful.

Anyone who knows me knows I have no problem voicing my opinions and feelings, confidently no matter the setting. I had parents who really championed strong women and I was never at great odds, in my personal experience. But there are things I have encountered in relation to other’s views and experiences that can be unsettling and that make me think Whoa! our mindsets are very different. I think many times women have not always taken the initiative to step up and assert themselves, to be strong, powerful, deliberate, confident, contributing voices. We have often lacked for examples of good ways to do that. It is encouraging to see more and more opportunities for women to lead and teach and be seen for all of their capacities and I look forward seeing that grow. One of my favorite pieces is called “stirring things up” showing a woman with a mixing bowl. For me this piece is about using our voices to mix it up, to break from the status quo and not be afraid to share thoughts even if it might mean some disruption—but often in ways people don’t think—we may have to agitate one way with in our religious culture and in almost the opposite direction in our larger culture. I loved my graduate program for the way it taught me to be a critical thinker, to question assumptions and not be afraid to explore and ask questions within a faithful mindset. I know God loves intelligent, purposeful, thinking, useful, skilled, passionate, loving women. I believe so strongly in developing our talents and gaining knowledge and being useful in our homes, communities, workplaces, relationships, etc.

Visit Leslie Graff’s website.

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Melanie Mauer: Kentucky Weddings


Melanie Mauer is a professional photographer with a unique talent for weddings. As Mauer says, “Photographers tend to focus on their favorite subject, whether it be vast landscapes or action-filled sporting events. I concentrate on what I find most beautiful – people and their loving relationships with one another.” Her work has been featured in Martha Stewart WeddingsSouthern Weddings, and The Washington Post. She is from my hometown of Lexington, Kentucky and manages to make one of the most beautiful cities in America even more picturesque with her camera.

How did you get started with photography? Photography came as an answer to prayer – I’d written down what I hoped for my work to be (creative yet technical, flexible to accommodate family life) and the options as I saw them. I sought the Lord’s input and it became crystal clear. After that prayer and entering the fine art program at my college, I learned that my grandfather was a photographer and my great grandfather was also a photographer. We didn’t live close to my grandfather and I knew him as a retired business owner but it somehow feels woven on my DNA.

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As a Mormon shooting elaborate Gentile weddings in the land of tobacco and bourbon, what sorts of thoughts come to mind about marriage and weddings?  Don’t leave out the betting on race horses! I’ve had interns come from BYU-Idaho and it’s been a little startling to them! Because I photograph emotional moments, I’m looking for connection/commonality – and there’s buckets of it beneath the surface. I live in a region where love for family is exhibited through action. People stay near their families in the so many cases – also, only my immediate family is LDS so even within my family there’s a range of devotion to various religions.

Weddings (as well as births and deaths) are amplifiers – they bring emotions to the surface that stay tucked just underneath on most days. That amplified love is a rich experience to be surrounded with. I can’t remember a wedding where my own eyes didn’t well up because of a beautiful exchange. I’m also the sort that becomes transfixed by great art. Art is often in imitation of life and I see that unfolding right in front of me. Weddings are such an iconic time – it’s an intimate thing to share it beside a couple. And I see how good marriage is over and over again and love being with them again as their family grows.

How do you prepare? What do you bring? How much do you plan versus taking what comes? I love to prepare. Even if it’s for a trip, I’ll plan out stops for good food, places to visit based on recommendations from friends and even do quirky things like search hashtags on Instagram so I get a sense of what I’ll see.

Over the years, I’ve made note of all the questions I have with regard to a wedding and that goes out to a bride a few months before their day. We also formulate a schedule so everyone being photographed knows when and where we need them so it can run as smooth as silk and be super efficient. I catch up via phone a couple weeks ahead of time with my client and then let that great plan we’ve worked on play out. That said, it’s a frame work…we know we’ll create an image of the bride and her mom but within that plan I have lots of latitude.

I bring the expected gear (a variety of lenses, lots of batteries, a large reflector and scrim to modify light) as well as back-ups – and some less usual things like a handkerchief for the groom in case he gets hot and needs to wipe a brow, sporks for my assistant and me because we may get a plate of dinner but not get silverware until 15 minutes later and there’s not much time to eat, vintage stamps that may play well with their invitation…lots of random things that stay organized in a tiered container in my trunk.

What’s your favorite wedding story? Weddings are rife with great stories so that question is more difficult than you might imagine. Immediately, I think of so many. Four years ago, I was concerned about a particular wedding because the grooms’ mother passed away just weeks beforehand. I knew the family would still be in the throws of grieving and yet, while the air became thick with emotion when she was mentioned, the family was so ready for a happy occasion and the chance to celebrate.

The bride decided not to dance with her father in the typical father daughter dance and said she knew she’d dance with her dad many times that evening – but instead she sang to him and the entire tent was in tears because it was SO good. Her venue was their family farm that had been sold many generations ago by an uncle who wanted to travel the world and her grandfather would check in with the owners and say “If you are ever ready to sell this property, please sell it back to our family.” And they did about a year before her wedding. It’s like driving into a painting it’s so beautiful there.

Visit Melanie Mauer’s website.

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Nick Stephens: Abstract Mixed Media Collection


Nick Stephens has been creating commercial and fine art professionally for over ten years. He was born and raised in Utah and has lived and traveled throughout the western United States. His early creative mentors were Steve Egan and Scott Betz. More recently he has studied painting with professional artists John Horejs, Michael Malm, and William Whitaker. He also worked in an unofficial partnership with veteran special effects artist Clark Schaffer since 2008. He works from his in-home studio in Utah.

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You work in a host of different media. Do you jump around or have you evolved from one area to another? Both. When I started selling professionally through a gallery, I was only selling my heavily textured mixed media pieces. I focused on those for several years, while experimenting with my other mixed media pieces as a personal artistic exploration, those experiments evolved into my current “style” that I work in most of the time now. I still get several requests for the original textural pieces, but I generally don’t make them anymore unless someone really wants them, and is willing to pay for them.

You’ve worked with your brother on pieces. How does the dynamic work between brothers in the creative process? My brother Brad and I have lived together for about twelve years, so we have well established routines and patterns of living. We have this habit of analyzing and discussing pretty much everything, from church doctrine to the design on a cereal box. Impromptu unstructured creative rambling is also a routine part of everyday life at our house. Historically it was me that did all the physical labor of painting and he was the trusty consultant, only recently have I worked intensely with him on the actual physical creation of art. But now he is making his own pieces, with me teaching him how to do all things that he has watched me do for years. Brad has a keen sense of artistic propriety and has a gift for inspired ideas coming to him. He also picks up on techniques rather quickly, which is good since I don’t have a ton of patience for teaching. Yes, there are disagreements, strong opinions, impassioned speeches and frustrations. But we genuinely like each other and there are really great times with super funny experiences and really cool art that comes out of it all in the end, and that makes it worth the effort. People that visit with us in our home are usually struck with the amount of creative activity in our lives, but to us it is so ingrained as part of what we do everyday that we don’t really even notice. It is only when we get out to other places that we realize just how odd we must seem to the average person.

Visit Nick Stephens website.


Rei Hamon: Pointillism in the New Zealand Bush

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Rei Hamon is one of the most accomplished artists in Church history, but also one of the least known. He was born in 1919 the son of a white mother and a part-Maori father and grew up in Gisborne, on New Zealand’s North Island. He passed away in 2008. Hamon was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire for services to art in 1981.


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One newspaper article explained, “The former Ministry of Works roads and drains man was 46 when he found he had the power to create pictures that captivated viewers. In 1965 he began creating images from millions of dots using a ballpoint pen, and later, pen and ink. The technique is known as pointillism. And, not to put too fine a point on it, the sale of his bush, bird and animal works made him a small fortune. The prices for his work bolted. Many took hundreds of hours to complete. A work priced at $2500 in 1974 (today, $24,300) would be dwarfed within four years by a $10,000 work and a $20,000 price tag on a painting in 1975 (today, $113,000).”

Richard G. Oman wrote of Hamon, “When Queen Elizabeth II visited New Zealand as part of her royal tour in 1976, the New Zealand government presented her with a large pen-and-ink drawing by the country’s foremost landscape artist, Rei Hamon. The high compliment his country thus paid to Rei Hamon is of particular significance to Latter-day Saints, for Rei Hamon, the oldest of fourteen children and the father of fourteen more, is one of them, a lifelong member of the Church. His drawing of a New Zealand landscape, Jewels of Okarito, now hangs in the queen’s palace in England.”

He was prolific both as an artist and as a father. Richard G. Oman writes, “Shortly after his marriage a close relative died. Rei and his new bride accepted the responsibility of becoming the parents of the orphans. Some years later his wife caught typhoid and died while nursing a sick child after a disastrous flood. Eventually Rei remarried; his new wife was a shy, beautiful young Maori widow. She became a warm and loving mother to her instant family of ten children. Together, she and Rei had four more children, in addition to foster children. [T]he Hamons [were] parents to thirty-one children, many of them orphans.”

Images courtesy Hamon Arts NZ.

Colby Adams Sanford Paints in China


Colby Adams Sanford recently returned from living and painting in China. As an artist he likes to work with acrylics, wood, and all types of reclaimed materials. He and his wife now live in Provo, Utah. Sanford says of his unique style, “Reclaiming materials and making them something beautiful – a metaphor of what Christ can do for us.”

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Where in the World is Colby Adams Sanford? I am so glad that you asked this question. As of this spring I am living in Provo, Utah… But I think that you might be referring to the fact that my wife Alicia and I love to travel. We were living in China for the past couple years, so that took us around Asia. On our way home, we took a marvelous trip through Europe. We are itching to go on another adventure. Anywhere! I think our next trip is going to be the East Coast to visit some dear friends and family, but Iceland is also at the top of the list. I think that it is important to see something new. The most honest and exciting way to do that is to get out and walk around. The further from the studio the better.

You like to work with reclaimed materials. Explain why and describe some of the items. Old piles of wood. The more beat-up and gnarly, the better. My favorite so far are the 20 year old boards from the ceramic factory in China where we lived. The boards carried the ceramic products from one station in the factory to another. They have layer after layer of splatters, sprays, strokes, and stains of paint and glaze. The visual information there is really intriguing to me. While in Europe, I was able to paint on an old leather glasses case near a park bench in Rome and an inch by inch tile that had washed up on a beach in Spain.

In my studio now I have a few rocks, some rafters, and more China boards that I shipped back to the states. Oh! And a piece of floorboard from the bedroom my dad grew up in. The house has long since fallen down but my Dad and I crawled in with a saw and swiped a slab. That is going to be one emotional painting experience.

There is a deeper meaning that has me searching for found materials all the time. I take the abandoned garbage, spend time with it, polish it up, and give it life and value. I get emotional thinking about the atonement and what it does for us in our various states of garbage and despair. Through the atonement we can be polished back up and find our innate worth.

Describe your travel art kit. I use 4 colors, three (ish) brushes, a straight edge palate knife, and a little spray bottle. Titanium White, Mars or Ivory Black, Raw Sienna and Burnt Sienna. Oh! And a small tube of gold. The travel set is always acrylics because its dries quickly and I love the texture. It is all bundled up in a small orange pouch that my wife gave me. She had it while we were dating and I always coveted it. Along with that, I usually have a couple of pieces of wood in my backpack.

On all of our travels, my paints are the first thing I pack. Painting on the airplane while my wife sleeps on my shoulder is probably one of my absolute favorite things to do. The airport security is usually pretty nervous about me taking the kit on the plane. I rarely make it through security without them opening my orange pouch, but usually there are no problems. On our last trip out of Hong Kong, they took away my palate knife. Really guys? I bought a new one in Florence.

Visit Colby Adams Sanford’s website.

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