Jay White: Open Source Creations

“Inspiration is when you see that something is possible.” Jay White says this with a smile as we chat casually on his couch about his passions. “It comes and goes in these huge waves. Let it go when it goes. You go through dry spells. Go with inspiration. Don’t worry about money. Buy the tools!”
Jay’s inspiration has led him down a path that involves a lot of research and learning. Which is why he loves the whole “open-source” idea. It’s how he says he’s learned so much. People are out there looking to help each other by sharing what they’ve learned and discovered. “There’s so much information out there,” he said. “We’re all in this together and we’re all gonna benefit if we help each other out.” He loves sharing his talents. He thinks spreading inspiration is one of the most important things. He actually lets people he knows use his workshop to bring their ideas to fruition, and even teaches them how to use the necessary tools.
Within his workshop and home there were several majestic handbuilt tools and projects to see. When I entered, the sculptures instantly drew my eyes to them. Carved from stone, these statues are stunning. Every piece of stone, chosen as a starting canvas, was handpicked for its unique qualities. The images carved vary, but there are many of women in different poses. The stone makes them appear eternally innocent, with gentle curves-stiff and cold like ice, yet eminating soft warmth. Magical! His day job is in stone as well. He is a stone mason by trade-same materials, different art form.

As Jay’s interests and talents are widespread, I also had the chance to see his work with metal. To do such work, he built his own forge out of firebricks and barbeque chips, (hey that rhymed. Am I good or what?….I cheated, those are the actual materials).
He uses another tool for cutting the metal, called a plasma cutter, or, as Jay described it, “a tiny light saber.” May the force be with you. And the force is strong with this one.

Metal rose

He seems to use a lot of recycled and non-traditional materials in his tools and art. Ingenuity! One of the first I got to see, that birthed from his metal work and innate abilities in engineering, was a Sterling Engine, or a heat engine. It is run off of alcohol burning flames, which heat the pistons. (There was a lot more to it, but the circus music in my brain blocked a lot of it out as science leaves my head swimming and my ego diminishing.) This machine was made with recycled materials, and he forged the gears himself. Jay told me amusedly that the first time he made one of these engines, he built it out of tuna cans (I hope he scrubbed them out well, I don’t think rotten tuna roasting over and open flame would add to the effect at all…).

Youtube video of Jay’s precision top in action

Let’s just keep mentioning more talents like it ‘ain’t no thang’-Jay also does woodworking. His pieces are beautiful and rich in appearance. He especially enjoys working in the unique and seemingly difficult craft of joinery. This is when notches are cut at the end of two boards that fit them perfectly together at the corner of a box or such that holds without use of nails, screws, or the like.

Toy chest with dovetail style joinery, built by commission

Because of his obvious talents, Jay gets commissioned to do work. He presents designs of the item being requested. The thing that worries him here is trying to have his imagination line up with the customer’s. He, of course, wants to please the customer, but he also wants to be happy with the work himself. Though, from what I can tell, everyone who has commissioned him was, indeed, also happy with the results.
Despite his abilities, Jay says he would not always classify that end result of his work as ‘fine art.’ “With music and handmade work, people don’t want the best musician or craftsman, they want to see something you poured yourself into.”
As you may have caught drift of in the last paragraph, this towering pile of talents is going have to sustain one more-Music. Jay is a musician as well, and was actually known for this art form first. His main instrument is the Chapman Stick, a variety of tap guitar (did you almost think I knew what I was talking about for a second? I Googled it). I looked and listened to this instrument online, including some Youtube videos of Mr. White himself tearing up the stick at a couple of live shows. Wicked instrument! Great musician!
“If you ain’t working on accomplishing your own dreams, you are working on accomplishing someone else’s,” Jay states. He definitely goes after his own. And following your passion really always brings you success. As Jay said, “just trying is success in itself.”
Check out Jay’s work on facebook: Jay White Creations. Neat stuff!

Jay White Creations Facebook page

Jay White Creations Website

Thanks to Jay White for meeting with me.
And thanks to Nicholas Lafferty for filling in the blanks when I felt awkward, which is my superpower-able to make everyone in the room feel uncomfortable in a single bound! I demand tights….and a cape.

Citizen’s Treasure-A Young Band with Old Soul

Citizen’s Treasure is a band just coming into their own, despite the fact that they play like well seasoned musicians. With two members merely 20 years old, you can hear and see the energy of youth in their performance. They play together like a well oiled machine, yet the current line up of band members has only been together for just over a year. When I saw them perform, of course the first thing that struck me as they walked up on stage, before they even played a note, was their young ages. They were the opening act for Last Daze that evening. I saw this group of what I considered “kids” (as I am beginning to feel way too old to be “hip,” or “groovy”, or whatever the kids are calling it these days) hanging out in the front rows of chairs. It struck me that the gentleman in the group who appeared youngest was wearing a The Doors tee shirt. As I thought that they were a random group of young men (and clearly hoodlums up to no good by default in my old, anti-social, crazy cat lady brain), I was just so happy to see someone so young wearing a tee shirt representing a classic band, overlooked by many their age. I recall turning to the person next to me and saying, “It renews my faith in humanity to see a kid his age wearing a Doors shirt.” Then they walked up on stage, and I grinned. Then they started playing, and my happiness turned to awe. They were face numbing, mind blowing-ly awesome! The first thing they played was a long, amazing Doors medley. One of the next things they played were some Pink Floyd songs. The young man with the tee shirt ended up being the guitarist. With a shy manner and a completely straight face, he tore that electric guitar up! No one else in the band held such a serious expression. There was enthusiasm and joy all around! The young vocalist expressed emotion and conveyed it to the audience better than most I’ve seen.

PJ Ferguson

I walked away from that performance repeating their band name in my mind, and vowing to learn more about them. And I did! Though, unfortunately I have yet to make it out to another one of their performances yet (don’t forget, I’m a tea drinking, blanket knitting, isolated cat lady who’s aged before her time). But I was lucky enough to catch up with the singer, PJ Ferguson, for a phone interview. He gave me the low-down on the band: himself, Jon Carl Smith, the bassist, Tim Irwin, the drummer, and Ben Fox, the guitarist.

Tim Irwin

As I said earlier, the current lineup of musicians in the band has been together for over a year. The band originally formed in 2013, with PJ and Jon in the beginning lineup. Prior to that, PJ had recorded a solo and a duo album. The recordings on their site, as well as the originals they perform up until now, have been from those albums. Now, however, they are currently in the studio, recording their first album as a group, with Tom Case recording and Mike Packard producing. PJ says the creation of their songs is a collaborative effort, with different members coming forward with a riff, or a beat, or a piece of a melody, and things progress from there. PJ then writes all of the melodies and lyrics.

Their sound is primarily rock, but I noted a touch of soul and funk in their playing. This aspect, according to PJ, is brought by Jon. He described him as a “funky bass player.” Jon enjoys Motown, Stevie Wonder, and other such musicians. Play that funky music, white boy!!

Jon Carl Smith

I noticed right away in their performance how into the 70’s rock music scene they seemed to be. I was curious as to how they got into this genre. PJ credits this to his father, who was a wedding DJ, getting him into this music at a young age. He mentioned how a lot of today’s music disappears after 5 years or so, but musicians and bands such as Tom Petty, The Doors, Led Zepplin, ACDC….their music is “timeless.” The members of Citizen’s Treasure share a love of this music, which is a part of the reason they came together.

As I mentioned, the band was very into their performance when I saw them, playing in a manner that reeled the audience in. One of the unique things they incorporated was the use of a megaphone. PJ used it with his singing on a couple of songs, one of which was “Another Brick in the Wall” by Pink Floyd (“you can’t have your pudding if you don’t eat your meat!”) I asked where that idea came from and PJ said from a few bands, but mainly Stone Temple Pilots (Scott Weiland, the lead singer, is his favorite musician).The use of the megaphone in their performances not only distorts the vocals and provides a visual effect, but also is a sort of representation of protest-a symbol of “rebelling against the man” that seems to be a frequent theme in rock.

As I had noted earlier, guitarist Ben Fox looked so straight faced as he played. Later I discovered that he was also the only band member that didn’t have a photo next to his name on their website. I inquired to whether or not Ben is a shy person. PJ said “we all try to tell him to smile more.” He mentioned how some guitarists really overdo the theatrics in their performing, and they would like him to do something like that just once. But, the explanation for Ben’s serious demeanor is that he’s “in the zone” when he plays. He is so focused and into the music. Totally worth it! His playing is incredible! PJ, though so very outgoing and expressive when performing, claims he is shy when they are not playing live. He says performing is like “coming into your own skin.”

Ben Fox

With such talent, I suspected some formal training in their pasts, but apparently the band members are pretty much self taught. I told him how I find people who have the discipline to do that inspiring. I know personally there’s things I’d really like to learn, but now that there’s no teachers to answer to, the couch is just too damn comfy… PJ says “You gotta have drive. You may go even months without touching it because you feel you’re not progressing fast enough.” Yeah, that latter part sounds more like me.

As for the future of the band, they want to see how their first album appeals to their audience. They will also be making a music video for one of the songs. They’re finishing up recording in February, so keep an eye out for it in the near future! Their next performance is at GUG’s in Glens Falls on February 4th of 2017.

So, in the opinion of this old lady, with old taste in music, these guys are on the fast track to joining the ranks of “timeless” music. Check them out! And, if I ever decide to leave my house again, maybe I’ll see you at one of their upcoming shows. Who knows… It’d definitely be worth it!


Georgia O’Keeffe

Georgia O’Keeffe is considered not only an honored artist, but a symbol and idol of the feminist movement. While she never proclaimed these ideals, people considered her thus because she became such a proclaimed and often exhibited female artist in a male dominated art scene. It may also have something to do with the fact that, to anyone who has ever gotten a peek up a skirt can tell you, her close up paintings of flowers look uncannily like a woman’s….private parts. Though, she denied these perceived attributes of her art.

She was born in Wisconsin in 1887, the second of seven children, to a mother who had once aspired to be a doctor and thus encouraged her children to become well educated. So, O’Keeffe had a built in cheering squad for her success.

O’Keeffe attended the Art Institute of Chicago after high school. While she was at the top of her class, she contracted typhoid fever and was forced to take a year off. In 1907 she got back into the flow when she went to New York City to take classes at the Art Students League, learning realist painting. When her mother fell ill in 1908, she was forced to stop attending classes due to finances, and returned to Chicago to work as a commercial artist. In 1910 she went to live with her family in Virginia. She did not let circumstances keep her work at bay, however, and in 1912 she attended summer school at the University of Virginia.

Through her classes, her interactions with other artists, such as Columbia professor Arthur Wesley Dow, and later her teaching, especially at Columbia College in South Carolina, the exposure to different perspectives in art she gained lended itself to her transition from realism to more abstract art. Some of her most famous works with this new perspective were her “zoomed in” paintings of flowers. She wanted people to take notice of their beauty, so she said, “I’ll paint what I see…but I’ll paint it big and they will be surprised into taking time to look at it.” But clearly, from their undeniable resemblance to lady parts, her vision seemed to be of more than just petals and stems. One of these pieces, Pansy, done in 1926, has been in my life a long time now. My sister always had it hanging in her place. It is one of her favorite works of art. “It reminds me of a woman,” my sister said. “The small, delicate flower on top is the part of a woman that everyone wants to admire and touch. But the bigger petals at the bottom are the dark parts beneath that no one wants to see or deal with.” O’Keeffe at one point said, “I feel there is something unexplored about woman that only a woman can explore.” And boy, did she explore it. She got all up in there and explored it hard!

Pansy, 1926
Pansy, 1926

O’Keeffe had an affair with a married man who later left his wife for her. The man who became her husband in 1924, Alfred Stieglitz, gave her her first solo exhibit in a studio in New York City in 1917. The very non-feminist aspect of this whole relationship was that it may have looked like, since he was 23 years older than her, a sort of “sugar daddy” scenario. I mean, what ever happened to that strong female line, “I don’t need a man.” However, despite his age, and the fact that he moved her to New York, paid her rent, and had her art shown, it would seem that they were also genuinely enamoured of each other. Stieglitz was a photographer. He considered his young bride his “muse” and took over 300 photos of her, many of them nudes. They were racy and modern for the time, though none of them were as close up or in as great detail as her flower paintings. Good thing….that would have been incredibly awkward. Thanks to these photos, her face became as iconic as her art. The couple lived in New York City, where O’Keeffe took a liking to painting city skylines in works such as, American Radiator Building {1927}. They lived their summers in Lake George, NY (local shoutout!).

Radiator Building, 1927
Radiator Building, 1927

Before Stieglitz passed away, he had an affair with a female photographer he was mentoring. I guess he decided he wanted someone even younger. Though, judging by the timing of his death, perhaps his heart couldn’t handle it….if you catch my drift.

After Stieglitz’s death, O’Keeffe moved to New Mexico, a location to which she had taken a liking before his death, to paint landscapes, architecture, and Navajo culture, in works such as, Cow’s Skull: Red, White, and Blue {1931}.

Cow's Skull: Red, White, and Blue, 1931
Cow’s Skull: Red, White, and Blue, 1931

In the early 1970’s she developed macular degeneration and began to lose her eyesight. Despite this she painted, with assistance, till the end. At age 90 she said, “I can see what I want to paint. The thing that makes you want to create it is still alive.”

Georgia O’Keeffe was an inspiring woman, whether or not she was truly a “feminist.” She faced a male driven art scene with charisma and talent. “To create one’s world in any of the arts takes courage,” she said. “I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life, and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.”

Gustav Klimt

To a man who seemingly considered himself a Roman God, why on Earth would the opinions of others concern him? Traipsing through his house in a robe and sandals with no undergarments, Klimt embraced the sexual in every aspect of his life. Having fathered 14 children, presumably by several different women, it is clear he loved the erotic adventures of life as much as his art would indicate.
In a time full of “prudes”, as they would be called nowadays, Klimt just didn’t give two “you know whats” about their opinions on the subjects of his art. He liked sex. He liked women. He liked all things erotic. And though his beliefs and style little fit his time, Freud’s ideas and his publication “Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality” showed that Klimt was not alone in exploring this subject matter. Light was being shed upon the subjects of sex, and the base desires of man. Granted, very little light. Like a sliver. But anyway, the door was cracking open ever so slightly. So there’s that.
Klimt exclaimed “all art is erotic.” And perhaps it is. His was just a bit more obvious about it. He explored subjects such as women pleasing themselves, and completely nude women positioned unabashedly. It not only was a subject that he, as a man, of course enjoyed, but his work also showed that women, who were expected to be “ladylike” in that time, had their own sexual needs and desires. And of course, I’m sure Klimt himself would have been all too happy to fill those needs.
Klimt’s art wasn’t always criticized for its “pornographic” nature. Some of his earlier works were criticized as too radical for their extreme symbolism. One such work was his three paintings done on the ceiling of the Great Hall at the University of Vienna in 1894, titled: “Philosophy”, “Medicine”, and “Jurisprudence.” Though despite the disdain these paintings faced in their day, they are still fairly well known till this day. People could not swallow this work at first. Though in later times they became more and more palatable. And now they are considered downright tasty-like a succulent meal at a highly acclaimed restaurant.

Philosophy, 1894
Philosophy, 1894

Medicine, 1894
Medicine, 1894

Jurisprudence, 1894
Jurisprudence, 1894

But Klimt had to kick the controversy up a notch yet, and did so in 1899 when he painted “Nuda Veritas.” Despite the Austrian language, I’m pretty sure the title makes it clear what problem the audience of the time had with this piece. This painting depicted a starkly naked redheaded woman holding the “mirror of truth.” It read: “If you can not please everyone with your deeds and your art, please a few. To please many is bad.” And thus, Klimt found a politer way of saying “f**k you” to the haters without actually using foul language or sticking up his middle finger.
Nuda Veritas, 1899
Nuda Veritas, 1899

When Klimt entered his “Golden Phase” with his heavy utilization of gold leaf, most of his subject matter still turned the great majority off from his work, but generally it can be said that many were dazzled by their brilliant appearance. The works in this period were not entirely centered on the sexual, but were erotic in another sense. They held a touch of glamour and glitz that people were, and still are, so attracted to. Besides their “bling” appeal, these paintings incorporated many different and intricate designs, which were brought together from their seeming chaos into a collection that made up large parts of the overall image. One of Klimt’s works from this period, “The Kiss”, was by far the most popular and well known piece of his work. And I won’t try to be cool by proclaiming that my favorite of his pieces was a lesser known one… I’ll admit, “The Kiss” is my favorite of his work. One of my favorite paintings ever, I think. This painting veered away from the erotic and into the realm of the romantic.The magic of the piece suggests that sometimes at least, Klimt thought with his heart and not just his…….let’s say head.
The Kiss, 1908
The Kiss, 1908

In 1918 Klimt made the best career move he ever could have made. An effective move many artists before him had utilized…he died. The interest in and popularity of his art, as almost always is the case, greatly increased. He is now thought to be the most influential artist to come out of Vienna, and the biggest inspiration to artists after his time that emerged from that city. So no longer does he have to be remembered as the man who went commando that loved to paint boobies.
The Three Ages of Woman, 1905
The Three Ages of Woman, 1905