The following article is reproduced from The King Weekly, July 22, 2009, page 9.
ARTIST SHARES INSPIRATION FOR KING BLOOMS BANNER
Schomberg resident and glass artist Greg Locke created the image seen on King Blooms banners around town. The Weekly conducted an interview with the artist this past Friday.
How do you feel about the stained glass piece “River Flows Through It” being selected by ASK as the 2009 King Blooms banner artwork?
I feel many great things! But above all, I feel a large sense of pride but also, humility. My work follows Helen Lucas and Garry Conway in the previous two years – I possess a strong respect for these fine individuals not only as artists, but as members of our community. Both have contributed so much to King and to so much of what King Blooms and ASK stands for (art, nature, heritage, civic pride, community involvement). I can only feel pride that a work I have produced could be considered in this “league” that it would merit consideration. But also, humility that I am one of a community not only of artists, but a broad range of King residents who have decided their time is worth investing in our community to make it better.
Isn’t the banner a mere advertising logo to the township and its communities?
It is if that’s what you want it to be! It’s funny that current events are perceived through our political systems and other institutions, yet history is often perceived through the lense of art and artistic expression. Isn’t it lovely that here, this civic pride programme requests a locally-produced artwork to encapsulate its goals and aspirations; motivates our community at large to act, feel pride in ourselves and our surroundings as a result; and most importantly, fosters permanency of both. This art tells a story, now, in the present, and helps us to perceive ourselves and our values now, rather than in hindsight. It’s in this regard that I’m happy to have helped communicate these goals and aspirations of the King Blooms campaign through this banner and the artwork it utilizes.
With regard to this goal of permanency of pride and activisim in our communities, there is a dichotomy in the prospect of King winning in its category: “winning” is such a wonderful result of our efforts, yet what follows? I do so hope we win this year, and I believe our prospects are very high in this regard. Yet if we win, King can’t apply to the programme for some years following. What happens to that energy and spirit in civic pride? The campaign aims for our efforts to produce a sustainable and positive change in our behaviour toward our community, and that means each other as a result. This is really the end-game of the whole programme, is it not?
What is it that ASK saw in this piece to select it?
I believe it was a wonderful alignment of stars. ASK’s Board was trying to find a work: by a local artist in a media not used previously in the campaign (paint or photography); that captured the values of ASK and King Blooms; and what I believe solidified this work’s relevance, that symbolized the Humber River’s 10th Anniversary of being declared a UNESCO heritage river (the Humber has tributaries that flow through King and this was celebrated at Cold Creek Conservation Area last Sunday). ASK recognized its mandates in this work by the gothic arch window shape representing the inherent history and heritage prevalent in King; the colours and texture of the various blues and greens representing the rural and natural preservation values of our community; and the clear fissure-like ribbons passing through the piece signifying not only the Humber River, but our communal energy and passion for sustainable life and enjoyment of our surroundings.
How was your work selected for this year’s banner?
Last year I became a newly appointed Board member of Arts Society King. My neighbour, good friend and fellow artist Tom Wray and I had an idea to put together a Schomberg Main Street art sale in the Fall timeframe to take advantage of the art afficinados around the GTA who like to take nice Fall drives and to find excellent art to buy (and there’s lots of both in King). It takes place this September 26th and 27th by the way, the same weekend as Doors Open King.
We organized a group of local community members who also thought it was a good idea, and it didn’t take long for Judy Craig (a fellow ASK Board member and community volunteer) to hear about our plans. On behalf of ASK she offered to bring our first-ever event under the ASK umbrella, as it would allow us greater reach and resources to make the show a success. One of us was required to be on the ASK Board and that turned out to be me.
Following this appointment I was fortunate enough to learn of their need for an appropriate work to recommend to this year’s King Blooms committee for use in the banner, as had been custom the previous two years. Judy told me, “… we’re looking especially for a piece that looks like it has a river flowing through it” and my jaw must have dropped open – I couldn’t wait to email her and the other Board members photos of my piece. It was fortunate that the Board recognized this work’s relevance to their values and mandate. I was thrilled at this opportunity as I am relatively new to King and have made a substantial investment in constructing a glass studio within a heritage barn on our property in Schomberg, yet I have scarce resources at present to promote my work. The banner is a huge opportunity for me to introduce myself and my work to our community at large and for that, I am very, very thankful to both ASK and the King Blooms Committee.
Tell me about what inspired you to produce River Flows Through It.
This stained glass art piece was the third in a series of gothic window inspired panels I produced in 2001. I didn’t set out to make a piece that looks like fields with a river flowing through it. In fact, that’s what you see. I’m often surprised by what viewers “see” in my work, whether it be a wall or window panel, lamp, fused glass decorative platter or bowl. I’m not an illustrative artist – I didn’t go to art school to learn how to draw. In fact, I’m one of those “MBA types” with a economics degree on top who happened to realize his interest in art with the support and encouragement of his wife. This means I don’t purposefully create a scene, tell a story or make a statement as much art intends – you the viewer does and I’m amazed by it! River Flows Through It is not terribly subtle in its metaphors but still, you need to see the river and the fields and their symbolism for yourself (and I believe, arguably, that this makes for the best art!).
At that time I was laid up having had spinal surgery and I was simply trying to use glass I had on hand to make something beautiful with my spare time. This said, over time I’ve been able to appreciate that in fact there is a theme to my work, and you can see it obviously here, my works of that period and in much of the fused art glass I produce now. I start with a symbol of uniformity, compliance or “order” (such the gothic window outline) and I introduce contrasting as well as complimentary shapes, colours and textures that dramatize a resistance to conform with that symbol. Not in an overt political or religious way – I don’t use my art for that. Rather, the curves challenge and shape their relationship with the symbol, and the two form a compelling stasis, which by the way is not a bad metaphor for the healthy flux and challenge to perceived norms we face over time in our community. My first fused work, a 21″ wide round vessel, is in fact titled, “Resisting Conformity” and I think your readers may similarly identify this theme yet illustrated in a different way.
Tell me how you actually make a piece like this.
Isn’t it interesting that glass can last in essence, forever – held together by its own energy and desire, each piece and the metals binding it to the next reinforcing its strength – unless some external force shatters it. We can say the same of our communities and their goals and aspirations to become something more than its parts – it’s a thing of beauty and is an asset to us all, yet inherently fragile if not maintained and nurtured.
River Flows Through It is made of “stained” glass, meaning, glass already made that I cut up and join together to make something larger than the sum of its parts, sort of speak. In contrast, most of the art I produce now utilizes glass I shape and combine by melting, or “fusing” it together in a high temperature kiln.
Traditionally, stained glass is joined together using lead came, a pre-formed and flexible channel for the glass to fit into – you’ll see this in churches virtually anywhere. Where I can, I prefer to use the more modern copper foil method, whereby copper tape is wrapped around all the edges of each glass piece, and liquid hot solder is applied to create a “bead” or elegant channel of this hardened lead/tin composite to create the bond between glass pieces.
After I have first created a vision for a piece (or in other words, “been inspired”!), I sketch out and fine-tune on paper as much as I can, as glass can’t be erased or “un-cut”. Glass isn’t a forgiving medium if you are inaccurate, disorganized or foolhardy. I this case I made a template for each individual square panel of the window, soldered them together, and then joined these together on a large board. Most panels are the joined using the same copper foil method, but to add structural integrity some panels are connected by pre-made zinc channel. The perimeter material that frames the window is also made of zinc and had to be bent in a special jig to make it conform to the shape of the window peak. Sounds easy but it was about 2-3 weeks of work it total, just to give you an idea of the time requirements here.