A Conversation with Horrible Adorables Artists Jordan Elise Perme and Christopher Lees

Interview conducted by Alison Caplan, Akron Art Museum Director of Education

Jordan Elise Perme and Christopher Lees create mounted animal sculptures they call Horrible Adorables and design patterns for fabric and wallpaper as well as plastic toys for Kid Robot.

Jordan Elise Perme and Christopher Lees (Horrible Adorables), Hiding in the Hollow (detail), 2017, mixed media, courtesy of the artists.

Jordan Elise Perme and Christopher Lees (Horrible Adorables), Hiding in the Hollow (detail), 2017, mixed media, courtesy of the artists.

Can you talk about your Horrible Adorable characters?

Horrible Adorables are strange creatures from a fantastical land. They are hybrids of selected animals, and have qualities that are both sinister and sweet (horrible and adorable, if you will). We bring the imaginary critters to life by hand carving foam forms, covering them with wool felt scales, and topping them off with eerily realistic glass eyes. We explore relationships that exist between our beasts as well as how they interact with their environment to reveal recognizably human emotions. Horrible Adorables have taken many different forms over the years; as fine art pieces, home decor, and even vinyl toys.

Jordan Elise Perme and Christopher Lees (Horrible Adorables)

Jordan Elise Perme and Christopher Lees (Horrible Adorables)

How did you come up with the idea for this work?

We often dream up many new styles of creatures and narratives for them. Our work is very character driven and is often displayed as solitary pieces removed from their natural environment. In keeping with the theme of the interactive exhibit, as well as our playful style of art, we imagined a page out of a lift-the-flap-book that the viewer could interact with. Behind the doors are detailed dioramas and descriptions about each creature; including some of their more quirky attributes. Creating this interactive mural for the Akron Art Museum gives us the opportunity to place our characters in context which provides a complete story for each of our pieces.

Please Touch, installation view of Jay Croft's artwork (left) and Horrible Adorables (right) Photography by Joe Levack/Studio Akron

Please Touch, installation view of Jay Croft’s artwork (left) and Horrible Adorables (right), Photography by Joe Levack/Studio Akron

Jordan Elise Perme & Christopher Lees (Horrible Adorables) artwork is on view and accessible along with artwork by Erin Guido & John Paul Costello, and Jay Croft in Please Touch at the Akron Art Museum through July 16, 2017. Look for interviews with Erin Guido & John Paul Costello coming soon!

Please Touch shakes off all of the traditional museum-goer behavior and asks visitors to use their sense of touch to experience the exhibition.

For Please Touch, the museum commissioned a group of regional artists to create new works that actively engage audiences of all ages. Erin Guido creates brightly colored dynamic shape and text murals often found in surprising places, like abandoned buildings, offering friendly encouragement as they declare “come over all the time” or “hi.” Jordan Elise and Christopher Lees create mounted animal sculptures they call Horrible Adorables and design patterns for fabric and wallpaper, as well as plastic toys for Kid Robot. Inspired by skateboarding and D.I.Y. culture, Jay Croft’s illustrations have donned skateboard decks, his zine Street Canoe, and most recently, a mural at Chill Ice Cream in downtown Akron.

Read our interview with Jay Croft.

For Please Touch, each artist has created an interactive work that visitors can touch and manipulate as they make meaning of it in their own ways.

Please Touch is organized by the Akron Art Museum and supported by a generous gift from The Mary S. and David C. Corbin Foundation.

A Conversation with Please Touch Artist Jay Croft

Interview conducted by Alison Caplan, Akron Art Museum Director of Education

Inspired by skateboarding and D.I.Y. culture, Jay Croft’s illustrations have donned skateboard decks, his zine Street Canoe, and most recently, a mural at Chill Ice Cream.

Can you talk about being a parent and an artist?

It’s the best thing ever! I love it. My kids are always drawing and making stuff. We definitely encourage them to create. Our house is filled with all types of markers, paint, papers, and glue. I encourage them to help me with some of my projects too. It’s pretty cool that they are so receptive to it.

Jay Croft, Friends, digital rendering, 2016

Jay Croft, Friends, digital rendering, 2016

Do you bring your kids to the museum?

Yes, we bring our kids to the museum for sure. We try to bring our kids to everything that we do. We want them to experience everything that they can growing up. Going to an art museum is something that I didn’t experience until I was much older than they are now. Not that my parents wouldn’t do it. The opportunity never really presented itself. I think the world is way more kid friendly than when I was growing up.

We are always trying to come up with cool things to do with the kids and what better thing to do than go to the art museum.

Jay Croft, Friends, installation view in Please Touch 2017

How did you come up with the idea for this work?

The inspiration actually came from a puzzle that the kids own. I just wanted it to be as fun and hands on as possible. Plus, I always liked the idea of mashing things up and putting things where they might not actually belong.

Jay Croft, installation view, Please Touch 2017

Jay Croft, installation view, Please Touch 2017

How does/has DIY culture influence/d your artmaking?

Besides my grandpa, it’s the one thing that has pushed it the most. As a kid growing up in Ohio, skateboarding and listening to punk rock music was the one thing that made me feel like I was a part of something bigger than myself. Even though I probably didn’t understand it like I do now. I just couldn’t get enough of it. From looking at skateboard magazines, to the liner notes in punk rock records, it made me feel like I could do it too. It made me realize that there wasn’t much separating me from the people I was checking out. I have always tried to go against the grain. Not in a rebellious way, but in a way that I could make it my own. I never wanted to be like anyone else. Not for the sake of being different, but for the sake of being true to myself.

It seems like all of the artist in show have some connection to childhood games or picture books in their work. Do you have a favorite childhood game or book?

It’s funny, I don’t think I actually do have a favorite book as a child. But, I have always wanted to make my own kids book ever since I can remember. Maybe someday it will happen…

Jay Croft’s artwork is on view and accessible along with artwork by Erin Guido & John Paul Costello and Jordan Elise & Christopher Lees (Horrible Adorables) in Please Touch at the Akron Art Museum through July 16, 2017. Look for interviews with Erin Guido, John Paul Costello, Jordan Elise and Christopher Lees coming soon!

Please Touch shakes off all of the traditional museum-goer behavior and asks visitors to use their sense of touch to experience the exhibition.

For Please Touch, the museum commissioned a group of regional artists to create new works that actively engage audiences of all ages. Erin Guido creates brightly colored dynamic shape and text murals often found in surprising places, like abandoned buildings, offering friendly encouragement as they declare “come over all the time” or “hi.” Jordan Elise and Christopher Lees create mounted animal sculptures they call Horrible Adorables and design patterns for fabric and wallpaper, as well as plastic toys for Kid Robot. Inspired by skateboarding and D.I.Y. culture, Jay Croft’s illustrations have donned skateboard decks, his zine Street Canoe, and most recently, a mural at Chill Ice Cream in downtown Akron.

For Please Touch, each artist has created an interactive work that visitors can touch and manipulate as they make meaning of it in their own ways.

Please Touch is organized by the Akron Art Museum and supported by a generous gift from The Mary S. and David C. Corbin Foundation.

A Conversation with Wiggle, Giggle, Jiggle Artist Jimmy Kuehnle

Interview conducted by Alison Caplan, Akron Art Museum Director of Education

Jimmy Kuehnle: Wiggle, Giggle, Jiggle, 2016, Akron Art Museum installation view. Photography by Shane Wynn

Jimmy Kuehnle: Wiggle, Giggle, Jiggle, 2016, Akron Art Museum installation view (exterior). Photography by Shane Wynn

You develop your works on a computer. What is it like to not fully experience them until they reach a gallery or museum?

When I come to the gallery to install, it really feels like I have been walking around the space for a long time virtually in the computer. I know the places and can recall them. It is a strange sensation in the beginning to have most of my memories of the place be digital memories. As I work on the installation actual memories of the physical place replace former digital memories. At first, designing with the computer made it difficult for me to realize form. Now when I look at photos taken from site visits I get frustrated that I cannot spin the photo around to see behind objects in the way I can when I am modeling in a 3-D program. The main downside of not seeing the work before installing is I can never be really sure if it absolutely fits or if everything will work as designed. A really fun yet challenging aspect of one off site-specific work is that every time is the first time for all projects. This challenge adds to the potential joy I receive from installing the work since I see the work for the first time just like the audience.

What’s your studio like and what are the main tools you use to create your work?

I use a double needle industrial sewing machine set up in my attic. I can roll out the fabric and make simple pattern pieces ready to sew. When deflated the fabric does not take up a lot of space so I can store large-scale work. When I need lots of extra space I collaborate with local institutions to use available space and facilities on a temporary basis. For more complex shapes I use a digital projector to project the pattern shapes directly onto the fabric pinned on the wall. Then I draw the pattern pieces directly on the fabric with a sharpie and label it for later sewing in my studio.

Jimmy Kuehnle lowers fabric for Wiggle, Giggle, Jiggle from his second-storey studio in Cleveland, Ohio. Photo: courtesy of the artist.

Jimmy Kuehnle lowers fabric for Wiggle, Giggle, Jiggle from his second-storey studio in Cleveland, Ohio. Photo: courtesy of the artist.

Why did you choose red for the color of Wiggle, Giggle, Jiggle?

Red makes a very bright environmental ambiance that attracts viewers’ attention and it is warm and pleasant to be around. Museums often have stark whites, grays and cool colors and the red provides a nice contrast to potentially sterile environments.

Artist Jimmy Kuehnle visits Wiggle, Giggle, Jiggle, 2016, Akron Art Museum installation view (interior). Photography by Shane Wynn

Artist Jimmy Kuehnle visits Wiggle, Giggle, Jiggle, 2016, Akron Art Museum installation view (interior). Photography by Shane Wynn

How did the Akron Art Museum’s architecture and collection influence the work?

The Akron Art Museum has very angular and eccentric architecture without a lot of right angles. As I designed the two appendages on the lobby inflatable to go up and down I referenced the museum’s exterior cloud forms and the form of the walkway on the second level. In addition, when the up-and-down movement is at a slightly bent state it intentionally mimics the Claes Oldenburg sculpture installed in the lobby.

Jimmy Kuehnle: Wiggle, Giggle, Jiggle, 2016, Akron Art Museum installation view (interior). Photography by Shane Wynn

Jimmy Kuehnle: Wiggle, Giggle, Jiggle, 2016, Akron Art Museum installation view (interior). Photography by Shane Wynn

What role does humor play in your artwork?

Life is a pretty absurd thing if you stop and think about it. It can be overwhelming and depressing to consider the inconsequential nature of all the things that you or anybody that you know may do. Therefore concentrating on the more pleasurable aspects of life including joy and humor is a better use of resources in my opinion. Also, museums can be places where most people whisper and don’t scream and shout. I really like that aspect of museums since it provides a great place to contemplate and really study a wonderful work of art. At the same time I like to question traditions by making something more playful that allows for audiences to laugh and giggle together. Hopefully the humor in the work will make human connections between each of the audience members and the piece.

Artist Jimmy Kuehnle visits Wiggle, Giggle, Jiggle, 2016, Akron Art Museum installation view (interior). Photography by Shane Wynn

Artist Jimmy Kuehnle visits Wiggle, Giggle, Jiggle, 2016, Akron Art Museum installation view (interior). Photography by Shane Wynn

Can you tell us about the polyester material your sculpture is made out of? How did you ended up working with that material?

The inflatable is made with a lightweight polyester material that has a coating on it. I began working with nylon when I first made Inflatables. As I started to put work outdoors for long periods of time, I needed to use fabric that would stand up in ultraviolet light. The polyester fabric is very similar to the nylon but the main difference is that it does not absorb moisture and has more UV resistance.

Some of your work incorporates performance and even this piece has time based elements—light and movement. Do you feel like your performative practice and sculptures are closely related?

I really enjoy performance-based work because of the spontaneity and the action involved. I can interact directly with the audience and change things on the fly based on the situation. Conversely working with a sculpture can be rather static compared to the performances. When I first started making installation work I wanted it to be interactive so the audience would still have a new novel experience even if it did not have a performance component. The recent Inflatable installations have intentional kinetic actions so people can see the work change over time and relate to it as a living creature that changes just like they do. Blinking lights give even more sensory experience and show the viewer that things do not exist just in a static place or moment in time but everything exists on a continuum.

Jimmy Kuehnle, You Wear What I Wear, inflatable suit, 2009

Jimmy Kuehnle, You Wear What I Wear, inflatable suit, 2009, photo: courtesy of the artist

Any surprises when creating or installing the work? There was one point when you were lost inside a sea of fabric and you stayed pretty cool and calm. Is that a usual occurrence? Our installation crew was struck by how visually appealing the works are on the inside.

The inside of inflatables is visually captivating and aside from the inflation process is my favorite part of inflatable sculpture. It can be difficult to safely allow the audience to go inside inflatables to experience the surreal environment so I design installations to simulate that experience. The inflatable in the Corbin gallery changes the viewer’s experience of a normally simply shaped exhibition space. Since the work is thoroughly planned out prior to fabrication there are not many surprises. The site-specific nature of the work means that unknowns always exist until the piece is fully installed. In the Akron installation we added sandbags to keep portions of the installation in place and I sewed more internal structure into the lobby piece after doing a test fit. During those sewing adjustments I left a pair of scissors in the inflatable that I had to fish out later and temporarily got lost in the pile of fabric. The crew in Akron helped me overcome any and all unexpected situations that came up during installation.

Jimmy Kuehnle: Wiggle, Giggle, Jiggle  in the process of being installed at the Akron Art Museum in August 2016. Photo: courtesy of the Akron Art Museum

Jimmy Kuehnle: Wiggle, Giggle, Jiggle in the process of being installed at the Akron Art Museum in August 2016. Photo: courtesy of the Akron Art Museum

Jimmy Kuehnle: Wiggle, Giggle, Jiggle is on view at the Akron Art Museum through February 19, 2017.

An Interview With Our Land Artist, Bob Herbst

Bob Herbst, Green River Overlook, After the Storm, 2006, platinum/palladium print, 12 x 20 in., courtesy of the artist

Bob Herbst, Green River Overlook, After the Storm, 2006, platinum/palladium print, 12 x 20 in., courtesy of the artist

Interview conducted by Theresa Bembnister, Akron Art Museum Associate Curator

Akron Art Museum: Can you explain to me your interest in photographing the American West, specifically the national parks?

Bob Herbst: In 1993 I decided to take a photography workshop in southern Utah which involved camping out in the desert and photographing for a week. My wife and I were raised in camping-oriented families and had done canoeing expeditions for the 10 years prior in Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario, so it sounded like something I would enjoy. I added a few extra days on the front end of the trip and stopped at Zion and Bryce National Parks on my way from Las Vegas to the location of the workshop in what is now known as the Escalante Grand Staircase National Monument. I was hooked immediately. I had seen the Smoky Mountains and Yosemite, but nothing like the canyon country of southern Utah and northern Arizona. It was grand, peaceful, unlike anything I had ever seen, and like another planet in some cases. It was a beautiful place to photograph but just being there was enough for me. I camped out in the desert in a small tent under the stars, occasionally staying at a motel for a break, a soft bed, and a good hearty meal.

Jane went with me in 1994. I did solo trips in 1995 and 1996, and two trips with my best friend in 1997 and 1999. I returned in 2005 and 2006 with a different friend who had also explored some of the same areas himself for a number of years. With two four-wheel-drive vehicles, we could go places where it wouldn’t be safe for just one…and we did. Health and day job issues kept me away for a while but I returned in 2012 for what I considered my last “hurrah!” It was time to move on. I have years of printing ahead.

Your question caused me to reminisce a little and I found a picture that another workshop student took of me on the canyon country exploratory in 1993. I could carry that camera pack and tripod all day back then. This is where the 20-year odyssey started. The canyon country of southern Utah and northern Arizona is a very special place for me. Many of the national parks and national monuments are not well known which made exploring them all the more special over 20 years.

Herbst poses in canyon country in 1993, courtesy of the artist

Herbst poses in canyon country in 1993, courtesy of the artist

At least one of the scenes you captured in your photographs in Our Land is no longer accessible to the general public, correct? How did you reach that overlook and why is it no longer available to park visitors?

Actually, both images are taken at standard viewpoints in the parks easily accessible by car. The image at Bryce Point is gone because split rail fences have been erected in the foreground in an attempt to restrict tourists from getting too close to the edge. The areas I mentioned that are no longer accessible are typically land managed by the Bureau of Land Management, a federal government branch. They have fewer resources than the National Park Service and manage far more land so they sometimes have to close areas due to funding issues. The National Park Service does an absolutely wonderful job of keeping the parks in southern Utah and northern Arizona accessible. In this country, it is not unusual for numerous dirt and gravel roads to be washed out completely several times a year. A single thunderstorm in Canyonlands National Park can change everybody’s plans on the White Rim Road. I have had that experience. Our trip out from Toroweep in the Grand Canyon National Park was similar after a major thunderstorm that wiped out roads all over the area. We made it out with a National Forest Service fire truck behind us if we got stuck – an angel on our shoulders! The park service has regular ranger patrols to help broken down or stuck visitors and to report road conditions. They repair the roads as quickly as conditions allow. I have been very impressed during my travels throughout the parks and have nothing but praise for the National Park Service.

Bob Herbst, Bryce Point, Snowy October Morning, 1994, platinum/palladium print, 16 x 12 in., courtesy of the artist

Bob Herbst, Bryce Point, Snowy October Morning, 1994, platinum/palladium print, 16 x 12 in., courtesy of the artist

Your photographs of the American West are remarkable, but you’ve also taken pictures of national park scenery closer to home. What can you tell me about your photographs of the Ohio Turnpike bridges in Cuyahoga Valley National Park?

Bob Herbst, Old Bridge Rubble, 2002, platinum/palladium print, 12 x 20 in., courtesy of the artist

Bob Herbst, Old Bridge Rubble, 2002, platinum/palladium print, 12 x 20 in., courtesy of the artist

I began photographing the turnpike bridges in 2002 when I started working with a 12×20 inch view camera. Digital negatives were in their infancy at that time so you still needed a big negative for big prints. Because of the size and weight of all of the associated equipment, I needed local subjects for working with the camera. My wife and I had spent a lot of time in the Cuyahoga Valley on towpath trails walking our dog and when I was chasing the Cuyahoga Valley Line steam train up and down the valley in the late 1980s. The scale of the new bridges captivated me, especially when viewed from below. They were part way through the construction of the second bridge at the time. Some of the very first 12×20 negatives I shot were of the bridges.

Bob Herbst, Bridge Piers, 2002, platinum/palladium print, 20 x 12 in., courtesy of the artist

Bob Herbst, Bridge Piers, 2002, platinum/palladium print, 20 x 12 in., courtesy of the artist

A 12×20 camera made from brass and mahogany with a red bellows tends to attract attention where ever you are. One Saturday I was shooting the bridges from Riverview Road and a man stopped by out of curiosity. He saw the camera and we chatted for a while. He turned out to be the supervisor of the entire turnpike bridge construction project for the main contractor. He gave me permission to photograph on the construction site on the weekends when they weren’t working and gave me one of his business cards for any questions I might get from others. I returned periodically until both bridges were complete and the last of the old bridges was dynamited and demolished.

Bob Herbst, Finished Bridges, 2002, platinum/palladium print, 20 x 12 in., courtesy of the artist

Bob Herbst, Finished Bridges, 2002, platinum/palladium print, 20 x 12 in., courtesy of the artist

I would also like for you to see an iconic image from 1989 in what was then the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area, still administered by the National Park Service. The “National Park” designation came in 2000. The train was pulled by a steam locomotive, No. 4070, and known as the Cuyahoga Valley Line. It ran between Howard Street in Akron and Cleveland. The next year I spent the winter photographing the refurbishment of the locomotive in the old B&O roundhouse in the flats of Cleveland. After chasing it up and down the river valley all summer and fall, I captured the attached image at the Ira Road crossing near Hale Farm. A catastrophic mechanical failure early the following year sidelined the locomotive forever. Diesel locomotives have pulled the CVSR excursion train ever since.

Bob Herbst, No. 4070 at Ira Rd. Crossing, 1989, platinum/palladium print, courtesy of the artist

Bob Herbst, No. 4070 at Ira Rd. Crossing, 1989, platinum/palladium print, courtesy of the artist

What type of camera do you use?

I have used a variety of camera formats over the years progressing through 35mm, 2-1/4” square, 4×5, 8×10, 12×20, and digital. Bryce Point, Snowy October Morning was shot with a 4×5 camera. The print is from a digitally enlarged negative made on an Epson ink jet printer. Green River Overlook, After the Storm was shot with a 12×20 camera, so the print is a contact print from the original 12×20 film negative. Platinum/palladium printing is a contact printing process so you need a negative the size of the print you want. Up until about 13 years ago when digital negatives became a viable option, the other options for creating large negatives was to either shoot with a large format camera, or employ a tedious multi-step wet darkroom process to create enlarged film negatives from smaller negatives. In 2002 I wrote an article in View Camera magazine about that process. I now print almost entirely from digital negatives made on an Epson ink jet printer. The source of the image can be a scan of any size of film, b&w or color negatives or color transparencies, or from direct digital capture from a phone, digital camera, or scanner.

Herbst’s 12x20 camera at Hatch Point overlooking Shafer Canyon, courtesy of the artist

Herbst’s 12×20 camera at Hatch Point overlooking Shafer Canyon, courtesy of the artist

Why do you print your work using the platinum/palladium method?

I started printing black and white silver gelatin in the camera club darkroom at Goodyear Jr. High School in Akron in 1970. I was the quintessential high school yearbook and newspaper photographer at Akron East High School from 1971-1974 and did senior pictures in college after that. In 1991, at the urging of a friend, I took an evening class on platinum/palladium printing at Kent State University. I fell in love with the process. It renders images so much more beautifully than what I could get from silver gelatin. Platinum prints have a subtle tonal rendering, a smoother scale, an inner luminescence, and ability to represent a greater scale of light than is possible in traditional silver gelatin papers or ink jet prints. The images appear to have more depth because the coating solution soaks deep into the paper. A traditional silver gelatin print has an emulsion that sits on top of the paper making the image look more two-dimensional. Ink jet prints are mostly ink on the surface of the paper.

But as much as anything, for me, platinum/palladium printing is about the handmade print…made one at a time, coated with a brush, processed in trays, and placed on screens to dry, all by my hand.

Our Land, an exhibition of photographs of areas under the management of the National Park Service, is on view through February 12, 2017 in the Fred and Laura Ruth Bidwell Gallery. The exhibition includes the photographs Bryce Point, Snowy October Morning and Green River Overlook, After the Storm by Bob Herbst, along with photographs by Richard Misrach, Ansel Adams, Masumi Hayashi, Ricky Rhodes, Marilyn Bridges and others.

This Land Is Your Land… (Finding Photographs on the Run) Part 2 of 2

Editor’s note: Akron Art Museum board member Sue Klein has visited—and photographed—every single one of the national parks. She wrote the following account of her journeys for the Garden Club of America’s Focus magazine. The GCA generously granted permission to republish Klein’s article in conjunction with Our Land, an exhibition of photographs of areas under the management of the National Park Service. Organized in celebration of the centennial anniversary of the NPS, Our Land is on display through February 12, 2017 in the Fred and Laura Ruth Bidwell Gallery.

Isle Royale National Park, photo by Sue Klein

Isle Royale National Park, photo by Sue Klein

by Sue Klein, Akron Art Museum Board Member

Visiting the national parks took us to some unimaginable places in our own magnificent country. My husband George and I had visited 28 of the national parks when we decide to go for broke and visit all the other 39 (includes three added along the way). To plan our visits, we just figure out how to get there and where to stay and do the rest when we arrive on site. Usually I take a tripod, but rarely, if ever, use it–we are moving light and flexible. I look for the non-iconic shots (but truthfully I do shoot Old Faithfuls and Half Domes). In the following journal just one or two adventures or experiences per park are mentioned. This is only a taste.

Isle Royale National Park, photo by Sue Klein

Isle Royale National Park, photo by Sue Klein

Isle Royale
Michigan, 2009

The essence of this place is wolves, moose, granite, water, prehistoric copper mining pits (1500 B.C.), a boreal forest, bogs and plant diversity. This 209-square-mile park is an international biosphere reserve, encompassing a remote and primitive wilderness archipelago on Lake Superior. It consists of one big island and several smaller ones off the Minnesota/Canadian border. A three-hour boat ride from Copper Harbor, Michigan, is our gateway to the park.

We explore only one little section of the main island and nearby Raspberry Island. Nevertheless, we get a taste of everything except for moose and wolves. But, miraculously, in the evening a professor lectures on wolves and moose and how they keep each other in check. Park talks are something we always look forward to and this one is especially interesting. Our basic lodging accommodation is the only place with beds and plumbing in the park. Otherwise it’s tents.

On our second day, we hear a big storm with big winds is headed our way. We opt to get out of Dodge before the storm hits and hop the evening boat on calm waters back to Copper Harbor. Isle Royale is a place to come back to, maybe to stay in a tent and just soak in all the goodies in this small jewel of a park. Perhaps we would even see a moose or wolf!

Pinnacles National Park, photo by Sue Klein

Pinnacles National Park, photo by Sue Klein

Pinnacles National Park, photo by Sue Klein

Pinnacles National Park, photo by Sue Klein

Pinnacles
California, 2013

This park, our second to last, is just east of Carmel and Monterey. In early January 2013, I tell the superintendent of our Cuyahoga Valley National Park that we are about to complete our quest to visit the 58 national parks. “Oh no,” says he. “As of last week there is a new one,” and off we go to Pinnacles.

My sister and brother-in-law join us for this adventure. Pinnacles, a combination of volcanic and sedimentary rock, is part of a 23-million-year-old volcano 195 miles to the southeast near Los Angeles. The giant San Andreas Fault split the volcano, and the western part crept north, carrying the rock pinnacles.

The Junior Canyon loop trail from the west side of the park winds up to the top and goes back down a different way. It’s like a Disney ride with every imaginable feature squeezed in along the way: huge rock formations, backlit trees, tunnels through huge rock formations, narrow boards bridging rock ravines, rickety steep metal steps with a surprise lake at the top, scenic vistas from the top and the pièce de resistance: California condors with 10-foot wingspans circling at the summit.

I could walk this 4.2-mile trail every day and never get tired of it. It’s spectacular. In fact, I recommend this as my #1 favorite hike in all the parks… really!

Yosemite National Park, photo by Sue Klein

Yosemite National Park, photo by Sue Klein

Yosemite National Park, photo by Sue Klein

Yosemite National Park, photo by Sue Klein

Yosemite
California, July 2014

“No temple made with human hands can compare with Yosemite,” wrote John Muir. For me it’s about soaring trees, high waterfalls, huge granite walls, snow, meadows, the intimate valley and my memories. This is my home stomping ground for national parks.

We have been here before with our children, but this time we include our four grandchildren. It’s our victory lap celebration, as well as our 50th wedding anniversary. We expect it to be hot and jammed, and it is. However, somehow visitors have a reverence for this place and it‘s very peaceful, like being in a magic bubble. For four days we play in the valley on the river, in the visitor centers, on the trails and on the boulders. Part of the family goes rock climbing in the high country.

For me there is a heart-stopping “Aha!” moment. Part of our three-generation group drives up to Glacier Point (elev. 7,214 ft.) overlooking the valley. As we drive around a corner we are suddenly up close and personal with the iconic Half Dome (think Ansel Adams). There it is, at eye level across the valley, it is so close. I can’t take my eyes off old Half Dome. It pulls me with an irresistible force. I am speechless! I can still conjure up that moment.

As we leave Yosemite, our oldest grandchild, Jason (then 12) names his three favorite things: the lazy inner tube float through the valley on the Merced River, rock climbing in the high country and (be still my heart) the live, one-man John Muir show. I know he gets it.

Our thirteen-year adventure took us to unimaginable places in our own country, in many cases far off the beaten track. Whether the park was one of the biggies or something like Hot Springs, Arkansas (my first time in the state), Great Basin in Nevada (a five-hour drive across the Great Salt Lake desert at night), or Theodore Roosevelt in North Dakota (a two-hour drive west from Bismarck past oil wells and sunflower fields), I can remember every one by some unique experience. That is, as we checked parks off our list, we discovered, often by accident, so much about our own glorious country that we never knew!

So, “just do it.” Make plans, but don’t schedule every minute, something better might turn up, like a California condor, a sandstorm, a yin-yang experience or an in-your-face Half Dome. If you need extra incentive, take your kids or grand kids.

Read Part 1 of Sue Klein’s National Park adventure! 

Start your own National Park Adventure by visiting Our Land at the Akron Art Museum and the nearby Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

 

This Land is Your Land… (finding photographs on the run) Part 1 of 2

Editor’s note: Akron Art Museum board member Sue Klein has visited—and photographed—every single one of the national parks. She wrote the following account of her journeys for the Garden Club of America’s Focus magazine. The GCA generously granted permission to republish Klein’s article in conjunction with Our Land, an exhibition of photographs of areas under the management of the National Park Service. Organized in celebration of the centennial anniversary of the NPS, Our Land is on display through February 12, 2017 in the Fred and Laura Ruth Bidwell Gallery.

Wrangell—St. Elias National Park, photo by Sue Klein

Wrangell—St. Elias National Park, photo by Sue Klein

by Sue Klein, Akron Art Museum Board Member

Visiting the national parks took us to some unimaginable places in our own magnificent country. My husband George and I had visited 28 of the national parks when we decide to go for broke and visit all the other 39 (includes three added along the way). To plan our visits, we just figure out how to get there and where to stay and do the rest when we arrive on site. Usually I take a tripod, but rarely, if ever, use it–we are moving light and flexible. I look for the non-iconic shots (but truthfully I do shoot Old Faithfuls and Half Domes). In the following journal just one or two adventures or experiences per park are mentioned. This is only a taste.

Guadalupe Mountains

Texas, April 2003

Way south on the New Mexico border. The mountains are actually part of an ancient marine fossil reef. We find a flat 6.8-mile loop trail (loops are the best) at McKittrick Canyon. Around each corner we discover treasures: a rattlesnake, a tree with alligator bark, squawroot, an unusual cliff and, at the end, a blinding sandstorm. I am like a kid in a candy shop. The sandstorm blows in fast and furious, 80 mph we are told. The white sand piles up along the road like snow.

Everglades

Florida, December 2003

We are mountain people. We tell ourselves this is only a trip to check a park off our bucket list. However, our adventures in the Everglades are pure delight. There are so many short walks, boat rides (motor and self-propelled) and even biking opportunities through different environments: sawgrass, swamp and mangroves by boardwalks, alligator territory and others. Most can be done on our own time. The boardwalk at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is our introduction and I feel like I am squealing as we wander through this amazing swamp, hanging over railings and gawking at the birds, plants, flowers and the general landscape. (It’s actually in a national preserve contiguous to the official Everglades. National parks are often surrounded by other federal lands.) A favorite adventure in Everglades National Park is a moonlight paddle after dinner to see the roseate spoonbills. The pink birds are beautiful as they come into roost with a pink sunset and pink water reflections. On the way back in the dark, our guide shines a flashlight on the water and we see alligator eyes all around us.

Joshua Tree National Park, photo by Sue Klein

Joshua Tree National Park, photo by Sue Klein

Joshua Tree National Park, photo by Sue Klein

Joshua Tree National Park, photo by Sue Klein

Joshua Tree

California, April 2004

“Rather than be dazzled by man’s accomplishment, you’ll be bewildered by nature,” say our hosts at our desert funk motel. We aren’t particularly interested in deserts. But, then there are the amazing rocks and rock formations. It looks like a playground for kids of all ages. Cacti, succulents and other plants are everywhere. Outrageous flowering plants are in full display. The Mojave and the Colorado deserts abut here. The Colorado is known for the cholla cactus and the Mojave (higher and wetter) is recognized by the Joshua trees. This is prime time on the desert. Look at us, we are now desert people! (FYI, it’s only 157 driving miles to LAX.)

Capitol Reef National Park, photo by Sue Klein

Capitol Reef National Park, photo by Sue Klein

Capitol Reef National Park, photo by Sue Klein

Capitol Reef National Park, photo by Sue Klein

Capitol Reef

Utah, April 2008

Capital Reef is Mother Nature on steroids. The reef is actually a “giant, sinuous wrinkle in the earth’s crust stretching for 100 miles” north and south, according to the park service. At first I love the huge-sized rocks, formations and jagged shapes. There is intense color, texture, layers, energy and chaos here. But after a few hours, I long for something peaceful, softer and soothing. I want out. We follow a dirt road outside and around the park, with less drama and lots of quiet beauty. Ahh, it feels better, and I immediately relax. A friend later explained to me that this was a yin and yang experience. That is I went too far, yang (chaos and jagged) and I needed to balance this with yin (rounded and calm). Bottom line, these parks really jiggle all the things I love, over-stimulating sometimes, but a thrill.

Saguaro

Arizona, April 2008

This park is divided into two parts, separated by the city of Tucson. We spend the night here in the 1930s Arizona Inn, a classic Spanish-style place… very high class for our national park adventures that usually run more to tents, Hampton Inns, and 1930s cabins (with one double bed and a bare overhead bulb). We head for Saguaro West and this time I have an agenda. I am looking for an image to enter in the “Joy of Sex” class at a Garden Club of America show. My 105 macro and monopod are with me as I walk along the Cactus Garden Trail. Oh, my gosh! When I focus in on the ripe blooms, it is a virtual porno show. I think I’m blushing. Giggling my way around this Garden of Eden, trying not to be such a prude, I discover a whole new lustful plant world. Mission accomplished.

Measuring up to 50 feet tall and up to 16,000 pounds, the saguaro plant is the largest North American cactus. In some places they covered the landscape like a forest.

Our thirteen-year adventure took us to unimaginable places in our own country, in many cases far off the beaten track. Whether the park was one of the biggies or something like Hot Springs, Arkansas (my first time in the state), Great Basin in Nevada (a five-hour drive across the Great Salt Lake desert at night), or Theodore Roosevelt in North Dakota (a two-hour drive west from Bismarck past oil wells and sunflower fields), I can remember every one by some unique experience. That is, as we checked parks off our list, we discovered, often by accident, so much about our own glorious country that we never knew!

So, “just do it.”  Make plans, but don’t schedule every minute, something better might turn up, like a California condor, a sandstorm, a yin-yang experience or an in-your-face Half Dome. If you need extra incentive, take your kids or grand kids.

Check back in a week for Part 2 of Sue Klein’s National Park adventure! 

Start your own National Park Adventure by visiting Our Land at the Akron Art Museum and the nearby Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

Snack Recipes

by Theresa Bembnister, Associate Curator

While conducting studio visits in preparation for Snack, which runs through September 3 in the Judith Bear Isroff Gallery, conversation inevitably meandered toward the edible. Pizza, milk, tater tots and deviled eggs are just a few of the foodstuffs that came up for discussion. With those exchanges in mind, I invited participating artists to submit recipes for the museum blog. To my delight, Brandon Juhasz and Kristen Cliffel responded with lists of ingredients and instructions for foods with strong conceptual links to their works in the exhibition. Brandon sent along an over-the-top how-to video for what is perhaps best described as a meat mass. (Vegetarians and vegans: consider yourself forewarned.) Kristen, whose experience as a wife and mother inspired her sculpture The Dirty Dozen, shared a recipe for her son’s favorite birthday cake.

Epic Meal Time’s TurBacon “A bird in a bird in a bird in a bird in a bird in a pig”
Submitted by Brandon Juhasz

Brandon Juhasz, What I Want To Be When I Grow Up, 2011, Inkjet print, 24 x 16 in. Courtesy of the artist.

Brandon Juhasz, What I Want To Be When I Grow Up, 2011, Inkjet print, 24 x 16 in. Courtesy of the artist.

My work is really a satire on consumption as well as a metaphor for the body and existence—the mortal coil, if you will. I hope that the viewer is both attracted to as well as repulsed by the picture. Often times those two emotions go hand in hand with the experience of desire. The overwhelming control that desire can have is also something that went into the making of this picture.

With that in mind I want to share this video.


I couldn’t find the recipe transcribed but this video has stuck with me since I first saw it 2 years ago.
Enjoy!!
—Brandon Juhasz

Chocolate Cake, Frosting and Bourbon Cocktail
Submitted by Kristen Cliffel

Kristen Cliffel, The Dirty Dozen, 2010, Low fire clay, glaze, lustre, wood and Lucite, 32 x 23 x 23 in. Collection of the Akron Art Museum, Gift of the artist in honor of Mitchell D. Kahan 2012.102 a-n.

Kristen Cliffel, The Dirty Dozen, 2010, Low fire clay, glaze, lustre, wood and Lucite, 32 x 23 x 23 in. Collection of the Akron Art Museum, Gift of the artist in honor of Mitchell D. Kahan 2012.102 a-n.

My son’s favorite birthday cake is the traditional Hershey’s chocolate cake. The recipe is from the back of the cocoa tin. I’ve been using it for years. I modify the frosting to be one that he loves and usually will do something jazzy on top, depending on where his interests are that year.

I always feel like a child’s birthday is also a celebration and a sort of congratulatory event for the parents as well—successfully bringing the child to that moment in life.

The artist’s son with his favorite birthday cake. Photo courtesy of the artist.

The artist’s son with his favorite birthday cake. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Traditional Hershey’s Chocolate Cake: From the Tin of Cocoa

First, get your oven hot. 350 F is what they recommend.

Now cut some parchment circles for your cake pans—very important. I like to use three 8” pans so my cake is nice and high when I layer it up with frosting.

Butter and cocoa the cake pans.

Mix dry ingredients together in a bowl:
2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Sift these ingredients so they are well mixed and the particles are happy together.

Another bowl. Now for the wet stuff:
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons good vanilla, like Madagascar (vanilla bean paste is good too)
1 cup boiling water… I know. Boiling water, but it works…

OK, mix all the wet ingredients except for the water… mix them and then add to the dry mix and mix for a couple minutes.

When this is all mixed well, add the boiling water and mix. It will be soupy. Don’t worry.

Pour into your prepared pans and put into your hot oven. Bake for 30 minutes or so … check with a toothpick.

Cool cakes completely. They will pop out nicely because of your diligence with the parchment and cocoa/butter in pans.

Frost when completely cool. This is the fun part!

Chocolate cake by Kristen Cliffel. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Chocolate cake by Kristen Cliffel. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Frosting: Malted Belgian Chocolate (From another cake recipe—not mine. I just hijacked it for this cake.)

One pound butter
4 cups powdered sugar
3/4 cups Ovaltine malted powder
Pinch of salt
8 ounces Belgian chocolate chopped, melted over a double boiler and cooled
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Whip your butter and sugar together for a minute or so…nice and fluffy.

Add the malt, vanilla salt and beat on low for a bit.

Now add the melted and cooled chocolate and beat until smooth … 2 minutes or so.

OK, now add the whipping cream and beat on high for a minute or two.

This is the most lovely frosting for this chocolate cake!!!! Have fun frosting and decorating it. This is really the best part. This frosting is best in winter due to the whipping cream added. If it’s a summer birthday, make sure you have air-conditioning.

Enjoy!

Kristen Cliffel, The Dirty Dozen (detail), 2010, Low fire clay, glaze, lustre, wood and Lucite, 32 x 23 x 23 in. Collection of the Akron Art Museum, Gift of the artist in honor of Mitchell D. Kahan 2012.102 a-n.

Kristen Cliffel, The Dirty Dozen (detail), 2010, Low fire clay, glaze, lustre, wood and Lucite, 32 x 23 x 23 in. Collection of the Akron Art Museum, Gift of the artist in honor of Mitchell D. Kahan 2012.102 a-n.

Winter Manhattan

I like to put some cloves and a cinnamon stick in the bourbon for at least a couple of hours before serving. Strain out the cloves and cinnamon and then mix your cocktail.

1-1/2 jiggers of bourbon. Don’t be cheap. Use something nice like Maker’s Mark.
1/2 jigger of sweet vermouth
2 nice cherries, luxardo or make your own (steep them in ginger and bourbon overnight)
Bitters of your choice. I like orange for this drink.
Orange peel for garnish and rim

Ok, so you put your ice in the glass, get ready… Mix two of these for sure, I hope you are sharing with someone.

Pour your bourbon and your vermouth into a shaker, add bitters. Stir and swirl around the glass gently.

Garnish your ice with the cherries on the toothpick. Rim your glass with the orange peel. Pour the cocktail into the glass, over the cherries.

Place your orange peel inside the glass but sticking up a bit.

Toast to the other person across from you. Enjoy!!!

—Kristen Cliffel