Spring 2019 Letter from the Editor

Welcome to the Spring 2019 Issue of New Orleans Canvas Magazine, and with it two new “blooms” which will fully flower in the upcoming year.

First, you’ll notice a more organic interview format, with featured artists leading the conversation. In this new more relaxed setting, subjects feel free to take us to some very interesting places! Photographer Pamela Reed once again contributes her amazing talents in capturing images used in these articles. We wouldn’t be able to produce our magazine without her.

Secondly, New Orleans Canvas Magazine is rolling out its NOCM Creative Database this month, a focused directory service that will provide more artists with a platform to showcase their work on our site. Readers will soon see a new page appear in the NOCM site menu which will take them to the directory where they’ll be able to input contact information, images, and links to their portfolio for a very “user-friendly” annual fee (only $30!).


Our cover artist for this sprawling Spring issue is famous New Orleans artist Willie Birch, who graciously shared several hours with us in his studio in the 7th Ward. His enlightening interview is also infused with some great advice!

Also featured: Acclaimed environmental photographer Michel Varisco (along with her pet Chihuahua, Rocket) in a delightful interview; Thomas Randolph Morrison, who spoke with us one unforgettable afternoon in the attic of St. Vincent’s Guest House;  David Shiflett, the first actor interviewed for the magazine; Alex and Cindy Williams from their Magazine Street studio/shop Potsalot (a must-see); and finally, Pamela Marquis contributes a great article about Jacqueline Englefield’s sculptures using recycled plastic materials.

Thanks as always to our loyal readers and social media fans. We look forward to bringing you more interesting content about artists creating amazing art in the beautiful city of New Orleans!

With warmest regards,

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Firing Up With Alex and Cindy Williams

Alex and Cindy Williams are a husband and wife team who founded Potsalot, their inviting pottery studio and store located on Magazine Street, in 1993. Alex, a Tennessee transplant,  first met native New Orleanian Cindy in Carole Leak’s painting class at Loyola University in the late 1980s.  Both were sculpture majors and neither anticipated that ceramic pottery would end up being the thing they’d be known for.

The original focus of their business was bronze casting, as well as clay pottery. They would soon find it easier and more profitable to produce and sell the pottery. This presented a more profound learning curve for Cindy who had focused on sculpting wood, concrete and metal at Loyola.

Alex and Cindy have learned how to work together as a team while  maintaining their own individual styles. Alex is very prolific, a fast worker, while Cindy specializes in the more intricate textured pieces on display. Over the years they have also developed their own glazes that give their pottery it’s own distinct look.

As a young potter, Alex was inspired by an English potter named Mick Cason. “I felt that the strength of his work was really something to aspire to. And we were really fortunate that to actually meet him in 1996. He passed away in 1998.”

Cindy has drawn inspiration from Kristen Kieffer, who also creates textured pieces as well as another contemporary potter named Sarah Pike.

Textured Camelia Vase

Alex and Cindy wisely purchased the building at 3818 Magazine Street in 2008, just before a recent boom in rental costs along this iconic New Orleans arts & retail artery. Their bedrock local business has since become an enduring favorite of visitors and locals.

Not long after Alex and Cindy completed the purchase of their building, Potsalot received a large corporate order from Anthropologie. This order for thousands of pots came with a January 5th deadline – especially difficult considering the Christmas holiday season is normally their busiest time of the year anyway.

“We wanted to negotiate the deal to have it done in the summer, but it was taking too long to negotiate everything. Eventually, we had to hire a person just to deal with the administrative tasks associated with Anthropologie! We were making thousands of pieces, a monumental undertaking, but it was worth it in the end monetarily. We also learned a great deal from the experience.”

When asked about negative feedback about their work, Alex and Cindy agreed that any negative comments have usually been focused on how the piece functions (“the edges are too short”) rather than the aesthetics.  Situations like these cause them to take a second look at each piece and figure out how to adjust and modify it to improve functionality for users.

Cindy pointed out, “Our work touches customers in a more personal way. They use our cups in the morning to drink their coffee. They prepare their food in our bowls and eat off of our plates. Our art is meant to be used in a functional way rather than just to be looked at and admired.”


Alex and Cindy have also had success making with pots used on sets of locally produced films. 200 of their pots appeared in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes! They enjoy that type of work even though it sometimes puts them in a time crunch.

When asked if there was anything that they wished they knew back in 1993 when they started this business, Alex said, “I had to learn to manage my creativity within very specific blocks of time. This especially became true once we had kids. Creativity, managing a retail shop, and raising children all have to be managed within a 24 hour day.”


Another thing they’ve learned through 26 years of business is how to price their pieces to sell. Alex stated, “We’ve learned how to evaluate whether or not there is enough demand for a piece and weigh it against the time it takes to create each piece.”

Cindy added, “We were also lucky when we first started out to have other potters willing to share their knowledge. They showed us how to build a pricing structure starting with wholesale prices. We’re totally open and share with people all the time because it’s a tough thing when trying to start a career as an artist.”

You can see more of Alex and Cindy William’s work at Potsalot Pottery located at 3818 Magazine Street in New Orleans, Louisiana. Also visit their website at www.potsalot.com or their Instagram page at https://www.instagram.com/potsalot/















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Michel Varisco Uses Magical Realism to Address Environmental Issues

Michel Varisco lives in a charming little cottage in Faubourg St. John along with her protective chihuahua, Rocket. Her home, as well as the vibrant garden surrounding it, succinctly reflects her broad interest in horticulture and the environment. One gets the sense that each object within her picket fence is an assemblage, not unlike the assembled pieces of art for which she is famous.

Marsh Seedbox

Michel has been very successful, earning prestigious art grants which have enabled her to bring ideas to life. The challenge for most artists is how to balance the tasks of creating work that is meaningful while maintaining a reasonable level of financial support. Income must be sustained during the production and after the completion of an artist’s work. Michel has realized enough success to have curators who are also willing to help write grants. “The Ogden helped me with some grant writing. I also received support from the Joan Mitchell Foundation and The Louisiana Division of the Arts.”

Traveler by Michel Varisco

Michel’s cottage is filled with examples of her assemblage pieces and her photography. One assemblage piece consists of two resin hammers, which she cast from a broken hammer inherited from her deceased father.

“I brought this little broken hammer with me to Captiva, Florida. I’d received an invitation from the Rauschenberg Foundation to spend six weeks at his studio. An assistant helped me cast four hammers from the original. That started me on this trail where I decided to use them in an assemblage along with brick dust.

“I took bricks that were made by slaves. You can find these bricks pretty easily in a brick yard – old New Orleans bricks. I’ve read that the mud came from Lake Ponchartrain and the sand and mortar came from the Mississippi River. Those are two things that are the nearest and dearest to my heart, the waters around us. I am also concerned with the land around that water. A lot of the work from the Shifting series is my way of asking ‘why are we losing land at such a rapid rate?’ How do I describe that as an artist? I want to confront those demons of Louisiana and the Gulf Coast.

Brick Dust

“This brick is tied back to the earth and it also represents an illicit energy source because of the slaves who were forced to make them. Not unlike the illicit energy source of fossil fuels which are ruining our environment. Then I started playing with the bricks and broke them down to dust with my dad’s hammer. Then I learned that the slaves and their descendants would use the dust by sprinkling it in their doorways to ward off evil spirits. So I just fell in love with bricks. I love to tie things together.

The game board that is holding the bricks is Mancala game board. It’s an African game that many of the slaves brought with them to Louisiana. Archeologist have found many of these game boards during their excavations near slave homes.”

Michel Varisco and Rocket photographed by Pamela Reed

Michel has an unusual way of bringing pieces together. It’s something she acknowledges can be spiritual, but usually requires a lot of thought and introspection. Michel’s latest collection is called Below Sea Level, which is mostly composed of photographic images, which are sometimes assembled with found objects.

Wrestling Rope by Michel Varisco

Michel’s environmental imagery isn’t as direct and confrontational as it has been in the past, yet she remains every bit as concerned about the  environment as ever. Michel is using a different approach these days, incorporating more “magical realism” into her work.

“Louisiana’s precarious balance of being the newest land in the country yet the fastest deteriorating land is something I’ve focused on for years in my artwork and photography.

Causeway by Michel Varisco

“But the fact that we are sinking while sea levels are rising is another major area of concern, especially since we are below sea level in NOLA and living in a bowl that’s just waiting to be filled through either human engineering errors, or climate change, or both.

“This anxiety lies just below the surface, and to a great extent we cope with this fact through denying it in everyday life…and denying its causes. My concerns around human’s effect on climate prompted me to respond through my artwork and in my own way.


” As an artist, I direct my attention to exactly where a lot of people don’t necessarily want to look. I have decided to kindly, gently lead my audience to hell, and then lift them out of the hell realm by showing them alternatives. Even though we are certainly leading to our own destruction, it’s possible for good things to happen. There are some people still fighting for us to survive and this is what they’re doing.”

Michel develops friendships with many of her models and they end up collaborating on many of the pieces.

“I ask all of my models to bring a totem under water. I photographed one young woman, named Corrina Bohren, who brought knitting needles underwater. She also happens to be an opera designer and has this really long hair. She brought brown yarn and went underwater for this amazing shoot.”

Water Weaver by Michel Varisco

Michel also talked former inmate Gregory Bright into posing for several images underwater. Gregory was wrongly convicted of second degree murder in 1974. After serving 27 years, he was released thanks to the work of the innocence project. Gregory has become a friend and model for Michel’s series Below Sea Level.



“I think though that we have to get back to the garden. We have to get back to working with nature. A lot of my work is around that idea. How do we live with nature? What if we are living in a modern day Atlantis because we are not making the changes that we need to make for South Louisiana to survive. Will New Orleans end up underwater?”

Trawling by Michel Varisco

Much of Michel’s work is simply breathtaking. During the interview she had a large print of Trawling displayed against the wall. It has an otherworld quality about it, reminiscent perhaps of a mermaid, or maybe a bride, swept into an underwater net. The model in the photo brought the net as a totem because it was handmade by her grandfather

Glass Ceiling by Michel Varisco

Why does Michel devote so much attention to water, over the many other environmental and social issues we face as community?

“I like to think of water as a literal and metaphorical reflecting pond of our behavior and concerns as a species. It’s a kind of moral barometer regarding pollutants and hydrological changes that affect the ecosystem dramatically.

After photographing the BP oil spill and living through a flooded New Orleans, I’ve seen so many aspects of water that concern me deeply, environmentally and socially.”

You can see more of Michel’s body of work at www.michelvarisco.com





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The Accidental Actor

Photographer Curtis Knapp, featured in the Fall 2018 issue of NOCM, was gracious enough to introduce me to David Shiflett at Café Envie in the French Quarter. Curtis explained that David was a famous actor, intriguing since the man I saw drinking coffee that day was dressed more like a hobo. It turned out that this attire was not accidental, as David is a character actor in the Horror genre.

David’s career however began accidentally, in the years following Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. He originally moved to here as a retiree, seeking to help the city recover by volunteering in the clean up efforts. He ended up being discovered by Hollywood South.

“I’m originally from South Carolina where I started out in the 1970’s as an Industrial Photographer for a large textile company called  J.P Stevens. I’ve raised five children and I am a grandfather.

I had several careers before acting. In fact, I didn’t start acting until I was officially retired.

I was living in the French Quarter when I befriended an actor named Steve Zahn. I drink coffee every day at Café Envie and he was renting an apartment upstairs from the coffee shop while filming Treme for HBO. He talked me into becoming an extra.

Originally, I told Steve that I was retired and didn’t really need the money. But he persuaded me by arguing that it would be a good legacy to leave my family, because they could always watch my work in films and television shows long after I’m gone. I started doing extra work on Treme and then True Detective. I enjoyed making friends on the sets.”

David appeared in twelve of the thirteen episodes of American Horror Story’s Freak Show. Within each of those episodes he can be seen four or five times. He is cast primarily because of his looks and he’s become a favorite in the Horror genre.

Carnie from American Horror Story’s Freak Show

“This is my character in American Horror Story. I wore that outfit every day for 5 1/2 months. We would only wash it every two days. The dirt on it is imbedded so that it doesn’t wash out. That same costume, except for the shirt, was worn in Petticoat Junction. There’s a company in Los Angeles that owns several warehouses of costumes, which it rents out to different film and television productions. Each costume has a barcode inside it that, when scanned, lists every production that the costume has been used in and which actor wore it.”

This year David acted in three productions where he had principal parts: The Purge, Voices, and Easy Does It.  The Purge, a TV Series, premiered in September 2018 and has since been renewed for another 10 episode season. Voices and Easy Does It  are still in post-production.

Voices is a Horror movie filmed in Mobile, Alabama for Netflix. Without spoiling the plot, we can tell you that David’s key scene is part of the finale. It involved a lot of physical work on his part where he received compensation for stunt work in addition to acting. He’s understandably very proud of it.

David can be seen on five shows currently on Netflix, and is perfectly okay with the fact that he’s been typecast.

“I’m always cast as either a homeless guy, a drunk, or some kind of a weird creepy character. I’m definitely typecast. And I love it!

In fact, I was offered a part on the new Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson movie on Netflix called Highwaymen, but I had to turn it down because they wanted me to cut my hair and shave. I really wanted to work on that production because I respect both of those actors so much. But my livelihood now depends on this creepy look I have. Besides, that part was only going to pay $1,000 and it wasn’t worth the other better paying parts I might miss out on.”

Despite his scary appearance, David has a very lovable personality. You easily forget that you’re talking to someone who’s so frequently hired to scare people on camera. Off camera, he’s talking about recipes for peach cobbler and great places to take your family on vacation.

You can see a list of David Shiflett’s filmography on IMDB at


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Thomas Randolph Morrison Discusses Sculpture, Physics, and Carnival

For our interview with Thomas Randolph Morrison, we ascended to the attic of the St. Vincent’s Guest House in the 1500 block of Magazine Street, where Thomas has lived and created beautiful bronze sculptures for the past 20 years. He’s also spent several years designing and building Carnival floats for Blaine Kern and Royal Artists. Arguably an absolute genius, when not sculpting perfect nude figures, Thomas enjoys writing Physics papers – yes, Physics papers – as well as publishing them and discussing his findings.

Float design for the Krewe of Pygmalion. The Gods of Carnival “The Glory of Adonis” 2016 by Thomas Randolph Morrison

Meanwhile in the middle of his main living room stands an amazing life size clay sculpture of Venus that he is about to cast. The walls of his apartment are alive with his beautiful watercolor designs.

“As far as I know, I’m the only one left who paints float designs in watercolor in this generation. I went to the Tulane Carnival Collection and studied those old watercolors from a hundred years ago. I wanted to see the actual techniques used.”

Chrysalis by Thomas Randolph Morrison, 1/2 life scale bronze. Edition of 24

My sculptures were just featured in a Netflix film called The Last Laugh starring Andie McDowell. She plays a sculptor and my work is presented as her character’s work in the film.”

Morrison’s enthusiasm becomes more apparent as he discusses his many projects and ideas. It’s not hard to imagine him up all night in this attic lair, working out complex problems and equations in his head. One of these mental exercises  involves creating a better home for the exquisite bronze sculptures that currently line the hallways of St. Vincent’s.

Lookout by Thomas Randolph Morrison, 8inch high clay Maquette for proposed life-scale sculpture in bronze.

“My dream is to create a living museum. I’ve been creating this inventory of work because I want to create a modern version of Rodin’s Hotel Biron here in New Orleans. Not as the Hotel Biron is today, but as it was when Rodin was alive. Back then it was filled with artists, writers, musicians, scientists and intellectuals. These people would come from all over the world to spend time with each other and see the studio.”

Triumph by Thomas Randolph Morrison, 1/6 scale bronze, Edition of 24

Though not a native of New Orleans – Thomas started his career in California as a sculptor in the film industry – he found his way here because he was intrigued by the idea of working on Carnival floats. His most fulfilling experience as a float designer came from working with Royal Artists.

“I was recruited to Royal Artists by Herb Jahnke. Herb had a true child’s love of Carnival. I went to work for him because I wanted to restore some of the old majesty and craftsmanship to Carnival floats. Herb also wanted to recreate some of that beautiful tradition he witnessed as a child. He was looking for someone who had the advanced training that I had to make that vision of 19th Century Carnival come true.

Pandora’s Box “Aphrodite Blesses Pandora with Her Beauties” float design by Thomas Randolph Morrison. Krewe of Hermes 2004

Carnival was the only place in the country where I could design a float completely – sculpt the sculptures and put them on these floats and share them with everybody who came to the parade. Most companies that hire commercial sculptors these days don’t want realistic human figures. They either want architectural elements or cartoon characters.

The Chariot of Helios by Thomas Randolph Morrison, 35 ft long eps foam and steel. Commissioned in 2004 by the Krewe of Hermes Parade

Carnival floats are kind of a rolling art exhibition. We got to design this stuff from the ground up and I loved every minute of it. When Hermes hired us to do their parade that took us to the next level. Hermes gave us greater budgets. We spent all that money on making the artwork and making brand new floats – designing them from the ground up. Building them like they did in the 19th century.

New Orleans Gargoyle by Thomas Randolph Morrison, 5 ft long, clay and steel castings in polyurethane and steel, limited edition of 100

I like asymmetric contrapasto kinds of gestures because people really feel them and respond to them. I used to stand in the crowds as the parades were going by and listen to the comments and feedback. It was very satisfying.

Ulysses and the Sirens by Thomas Randolph Morrison, 1/3 life scale bronze. Edition of 24

I tried to put that knowledge into the models for my bronze sculptures. I use clay models, which is the exact same process that you use when you’re creating life scale fine artwork. You use the same concepts.”

Thomas’s latest sculpture created in his attic apartment, almost ready for the first cast, has been a true labor of love.

“I created a marble process that looks exactly like marble. I want to cast a prototype of Venus using this process. It’s a translucent-like marble and I’m using real incredibly fine marble powder. So, it’s almost pure marble and has this light penetration quality.

A foundry in San Francisco does all of my editions. They’ve got a dedicated wax team. They’ve got a dedicated vestment team. They’ve got the foundry guys who do the pouring,  and the metal workers that do all the refining. They’re all specialists.”

Athena by Thomas Randolph Morrison, 13 ft tall, eps foam and steel. Commissioned for the 2004 Krewe of Hermes parade

Thomas probably wouldn’t be able to achieve such amazing results with his sculptures without his advanced understanding of the laws of Physics. He understands that the weight of each piece much be properly distributed or the pieces won’t be able to stand on their own.

Romeo and Juliet, by Thomas Randolph Morrison. 10 inch long clay Maquette for proposed life-scale sculpture in bronze.

As a visitor to Thomas’s studio, it can be hard to make sense of all of the ideas and information he throws at you. The complex problems he addressed in our interview would overwhelm the average person. Luckily I made an audio recording so that I could go back and listen to everything to make sure that there was nothing I missed. However, it’s hard to funnel all of the information into one magazine article. Thomas Randolph Morrison is a subject worthy of several books.

You can see more of Thomas’s work at www.morrisonsculpture.com


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Willie Birch Creates Art Rooted in Personal Experience

Pamela Reed and I met with Willie Birch in early 2019. His studio is a small green shotgun cottage in the 7th Ward of New Orleans packed with beautiful artwork. Willie is a master at his craft and his studio is the place where he diligently brings all of his ideas to fruition. It was an honor for us to be able to spend a morning discussing art with him in his studio.

The driving passion that Willie Birch uses to create art is rooted in his experience growing up within the Magnolia Housing Project in heavily segregated New Orleans. Much of Willie’s youth focused on activism for African Americans in the Civil Rights era. As a young artist he was denied access to public art museums based on the color of his skin. In spite of this, he managed to find ways to beat the system and move forward in his quest to forge an art career that mattered.

Willie’s activism in the era of segregation made him and his family a target for police. At one point his mother even lost her job because of his reputation as an activist. Willie began looking for a way out of the dire situation he was in and found it through service in the military.

“I scored very well on my tests, so I was given the choice of where I wanted to be stationed. I chose Holland because I wanted to see all of the art that I’d read about in books.”

In 1965, Willie returned to the United States. He enrolled in Southern University of New Orleans where he completed his Bachelor of Arts degree. He received his MFA from Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, Maryland.

In the early 1970s,  Willie moved to New York and had his first show. “Bill Fagaly (NOMA’s first curator of African Art) wrote the catalog for that show. I also received a full page in the NY Times! It was a major achievement.”

Willie was based in New York for many years. He also traveled and taught art around the world. However, the lure of New Orleans was ever present in his mind. In 1993 he received a Guggenheim Fellowship that allowed him to return to his hometown and he has lived here ever since.

“Eventually I realized that the imagery I was interested in was that of contemporary New Orleans. New Orleans is vegetative. Things are constantly overgrowing. Life and death are constantly running into each other. It’s metaphoric, when you think of the way we exist. Everything here is based on the river, which creates a natural syncopation or rhythm.”

When Willie returned to New Orleans he settled in the 7th Ward. Much of the art he creates is  inspired by that community and the scenes of daily life within his neighborhood. The themes in his work often address poverty and racial disparity within the African American community.

“I’m an antagonist! I like to force viewers to think about things. For me that’s the purpose of art. My whole existence has been challenging the system.”

“The visual artist is not thought of very highly in this city, but nothing great comes without pain and effort. My life has mostly been a fairy tale story, but there were struggles all through out.”

Willie is primarily concerned with being human and encouraging people to respect each other as human beings as well, regardless of their race or economic background.

“There’s too much sickness and greed within our society. I don’t believe that too many people have real money in our society.  We live in a country of debtors.”

Willie’s artistic style is distinctive. He’s spent many years focusing on making art out of paper and papier mache’. He favors the delicate ephemeral quality of paper and the fact that he can transform something that has very little value on its own into valuable works of art. Willie has also chosen to create his pieces primarily in Black and White.

“The artwork I make is very complicated, but each piece is intended to look very simple. I use acrylics these days rather than oil. It’s all in the glazing technique. I want to get the transparency and illumination of oil, but lessen the drying time.”

When a viewer sets out to analyze Willie’s art, it becomes apparent that there are many layers involved: the execution, it’s meaning, and the subsequent interpretation. As Willie believes, “The more layers you can create in your art – without it becoming overly complex – that’s what gives your art the energy and the emotional aspect that you need to get your message across to the viewer.”

Willie Birch next to “Looking Toward Algiers”. Photograph by Pamela Reed

“An artist’s job is to interpret the times in which we live. Once a civilization stops producing art, it goes into decline. Art is an essential part of society. Every member of society wants to express that they are here or that they have been here.”

“As human beings we’re all connected, and the art each civilization creates reflects that. For example, when I went to Egypt, I was able to see how the Greeks and the Romans took the knowledge gained in building the pyramids to start their own building projects. We have to acknowledge that we all effect each other and learn from each other as human beings.”

Willie’s long career as an artist encompasses six bodies of work. Currently, Willie is finishing his 300 Tricentennial Series on New Orleans. The two works he had displayed for us in his studio during our visit were “Looking Toward Algiers” and “The American Dream: Myth or Reality? The White Picket Fence”. 

   “Looking Toward Algiers” is an image of a ship looking across the Mississippi river towards Algiers, Louisiana where enslaved Africans were held before being ferried over to be auctioned in the city prior to the Civil War. The sky in the image is foreboding and the subject matter is reminiscent of a J.MS. Turner painting. But the image is also a contemporary moment.

“The American Dream: Myth or Reality? The White Picket Fence” by Willie Birch

   “The American Dream: Myth or Reality? The White Picket Fence” questions what we imagine as the American ideal. As Americans are we all supposed to aspire to having that perfect house with the white picket fence? Are all the people that live behind those white picket fences happy and content?

Willie has had opportunities to work as an artist in residence all over the world. A pivotal moment in his career happened when he was working in Nairobi, Kenya in 1992. The Kenyan Minister of Culture confronted him about the theme of oppression in his work. The artwork in particular had a black man with a boot on his head. Willie recalls the minister said, “If you weren’t an American, you would be in serious trouble. Do you get it?”

Willie said, ” It was at that moment I started to re-evaluate what this country does for me, regardless of how it has also oppressed me. It allows me to say what I want to say with my art. There are people here who will support me rather than put me behind bars and throw me away. That was an important moment! That was the day I realized I was an American!

“Great art comes from challenging the status quo. An artist must have the freedom to do that. Picasso’s Guernica was a great piece of art because of how it confronts the evils of Fascism. Picasso was making a statement about Spain and the impact that Fascism was having on his home country and the rest of the world. The artist is the one who makes sense of everything.”

“I’ve made a concerted effort that I will die or live on my own merits. My work is in every major museum in America.  Now, at 76, it’s just about having fun.

“I hate that the art world has turned itself into such a profit making machine. I don’t like to make the same thing over and over again. I don’t create my art to make money, but luckily it makes money anyway.”

You can learn more about Willie Birch and his art at https://www.williebirch.com/

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Jacqueline Ehle Inglefield’s Upcycled Recycled Art


For decades I’ve worked with and written about numerous artists. From sculptors to watercolorists, I’ve seen my fair share of visual artists. To my mind they all fall somewhere between these extremes: those who talk about their art ad nauseum but produce little to no art and those who find it hard to talk about their art but eat, live and breathe their creations every minute of every day. Jacqueline Ehle Inglefield falls decidedly closer to the latter.

For many years now her supplies have consisted of snips, punches, needle nose pliers and found objects such as plastic bottles and containers, rusty nuts, bolts, washers, those old metal pop bottle lids, phone cords, and aluminum cans.

After graduating from Virginia Commonwealth University, she moved to New York City. There, while applying for a job at the Whitney Museum of American Art, she saw Calder’s “Circus” and was electrified by his use of wire and found objects.

“It was a ‘Eureka’ moment for me as an artist,” she says.

Her first recycled piece was a bear made entirely of old dry cleaning hangers, the screen out of old screen doors, and broken light bulb screw-in ends.

“Ever since, I’ve melded my love of crafts, folk art, and fine art, and nurtured my need to recycle,” she says. “My passion is turning trash into art. I am always finding and thinking of ways to increase the ‘green’ content of my work.”

Jacqueline Inglefield photographed by Pamela Reed

About a decade ago her work changed from mesh to plastics because she wanted to add color into her sculptures. She uses permanent ink pens to paint on clear plastic and also combines the colors from such things as green Mountain Dew bottles. She cuts the plastic into a variety of shapes, colorizes them and painstakingly quilts them together. Her work is akin to stained glass as light plays an important part in the finished project.

“Plastic is all too accessible,” she says. “We as a species have put convenience above our well being with plastic. So as an artist my mission has been to bring this massive problem to our attention.”

In 2016 she started working on the ying and yang of plastic and marrying that with the loss of Southeastern Louisiana coastline. During a residency at A Studio In The Woods she started making plastic shrines that actually surround you.

“That time was momentous for me,” she says. “Just having the time to sit and think and concentrate completely on the work and nothing else was wonderful.”

Her works have been exhibited from New York to San Francisco and her collectors include Wynton Marsalis, Mary Tyler Moore and Bernadette Peters.

“From the strong hands of this emerging artist come magical metal weavings,” said F. Lennox Campello, the editor of Daily Campello Art News, who chose her work for a exhibit he curated. “I picked her because I have been watching her grow artistically for a couple of years, and I am amazed at what she can deliver with creativity, strong fingers and common objects.”

Like so many artists, teaching provides income that helps sustain her work. She teaches at Upturn Arts, and DiscoveryFest, and conducts a workshop at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art.

It is through her teaching that I know her best. I’ve had the pleasure to employ her and to also work alongside her. The act of teaching is such a brilliant extension of her art. Seeing her sit criss-cross applesauce with her students as she shares her artistic vision is life affirming and thrilling.

“Teaching is strenuous but working with kids, helping them, helps me come to life and ultimately improves my life and my art.”

The following is one of her favorite quotes. It’s from Hubert Reeves: “Man is the most insane species. He worships an invisible God and destroys a visible Nature. Unaware that this Nature he’s destroying is this God he’s worshiping.”

She says: This quote explains quite simply the question I ask myself when creating for the past decade. Why is plastic in such surplus when it is also what is suffocating our planet?”

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