June 2012: Hello Hibiscus, watercolor by Grace Dubow
Hello Hibiscus, watercolor by Grace Dubow

Featured Artist: Alice Gadzinski

Last updated: June 4, 2012

LSSU's Shouldice Library art gallery featured Alice Gadzinski's photos in her 2008 show Miss Interpretation: A Colorful Look at Feminism. Photo courtesy of John Shibley
LSSU's Shouldice Library art gallery featured Alice Gadzinski's photos in her 2008 show Miss Interpretation: A Colorful Look at Feminism. Photo courtesy of John Shibley

Alice Gadzinski came to our attention a number of years ago when she was an outstanding art student at Sault Area High School. She went on to graduate in 2010 from Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapids, with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography and a minor in Sculpture, focused in Ceramics. She won a Michigan Competitive Scholarship and a Kendall Merit Scholarship in 2005, and Kendall’s Studio Excellence Award in 2010. Work along the way included a wide variety of jobs from selling pizza and furniture and instructing dance students, to taking photographs. She also worked as a volunteer—recycling bicycles, helping at festivals, managing a farmers’ market and more. Since her graduation from Kendall in 2010, she has continued her photography and other art pursuits and worked as a substitute teacher, a photographer and, this last semester, as a photography teacher at Lake State.

Alice has exhibited widely over the years. Recent exhibitions include Fancy That, her Solo Thesis Exhibition in photography and mixed media at the Kendall College of Art and Design in May of 2010. This exhibition, which was shown again at Lake State the next year, was the thesis exhibition for which she won "Kendall’s Annual Studio Excellence Award” (photo at right by John Shibley). The Kendall Awards Exhibition is a “celebration of the student work that best represents Kendall’s studio programs." Alice says that this “Fancy That” exhibition “was my breakout into the mixed media way I work now . . . my very first body of work that touched on the ideas and methods I work with now.”

Poster for Meaningless and Disgusting, a collaborative group show by Alice Gadzinski and friendsIn August 2010, shortly after graduation, Alice displayed a wide variety of art work in the Sault Summer Arts Festival. In April 2011, she displayed both mixed media and 3-D work in Meaningless and Disgusting, a small group show in Grand Rapids. (See poster at right.)

The photographs Alice sent us are from her award-winning thesis photography exhibit, Fancy That, but while they are, technically, indeed photographs, the emphasis is on the collages within the photographs, and the collages themselves are basically wry commentaries on social issues—wheels within wheels within wheels. The collages themselves contain multiple themes—it’s enough to make one’s head spin.

Like much of her art, Alice Gadzinski is a work in progress. Art isn’t static—and when artists produce purely for sales and consumption, they are practicing craftsmanship, but not necessarily artistry. Still, not every artist is independently wealthy. There is the nitty-gritty of earning a living . . . so many imponderables for a young, creative person. With ideas percolating on a steady basis, which does one pursue first? Is this outlet something one wants to go into deeply, investing time and study into learning to do it well, or are there other temptations with a stronger pull? How much energy should go strictly into earning a living? If the ratio is too high, will the task of cranking out dollars dull the creative instinct? What about the undeniable fact that one needs a minimum degree of good craftsmanship in order to translate one’s idea into a reasonable, tangible form? This entails an investment in time and energy—in what area does one want to invest? Even if the choice can be made, will the results be capable of producing a living wage? It’s not easy to be an artist! It is instructive to note the number of artists who earn their living by other means and then burst upon the art scene like a rocket when they retire.

Alice Gadzinski was born an artist—it was not a calculated choice. Like many artists, she just was. She has been creative from childhood and says “I have always been an artist. We have boxes of my artwork from when I was a kid, and it was very apparent that I was either going to be a ballerina/princess or an artist. There really isn't any university program for the former. I've realized that I'm pretty addicted to creating and everything else doesn't take up too much of my brain.” She adds, “I am basically addicted to making things”.

We tried to pin her down as to a favorite medium and it was impossible. After studying photography extensively she says she is “having a mixed relationship with photography at the moment. Studying anything for so long (in my case five years) makes you feel a little jaded towards the subject. In my personal work I am taking a break from creating photographs. Lately the only photography I have done is for profit or for personal reasons—family events, etc. I do think photography is fairly limitless as to what it will allow the artist to do and say. I find, though, it is missing the ‘hands-on’ feel that I long for.  Photographs I did in the past were hand-colored a lot of the time. I was always looking for some sort of "original" with a photograph, as photography's duplicability always bothered me—which is what led me to mixed media work. I do think photography is a great place to start for most artists and is a great way to help one figure out what it is that they enjoy looking at—therefore figuring out what they would like to create.”

Alice is continually questing, experimenting and learning so we asked for a summary of her creative experiences. “I have a degree in photography with a minor in sculpture/pottery and regularly dabble in book making, embroidery, knitting, collage, culinary art, interior design/installation, landscape design/gardening, jewelry making, and clothing design/sewing. It changes almost weekly. I am basically addicted to making things. As for my primary art form, or the type of art I keep coming back to, take most seriously, and have the most fun with, I would have to say Mixed Media Sculpture.”

And we wondered, “Of all the projects you have completed, is there one you feel most happy about or most comfortable with?” Her reply: “Right away I think of my earliest work working this way. I made a big scary jump from archival ‘professional’-like photography into this sort of ‘folky-garbage art’ which is not serious Art (with a capital A). It was a strange transition for me, but I really felt like the most comfortable with art that I had been in a while. I think I am most confident of my earlier pieces though they are sort of concept-less, as I was still figuring out what I wanted to say. As far as feeling happy about a certain piece—if I haven't worked on something for a while and then go back to it, I always find myself 'impressed' with decisions I had made about it before. I think that gives me the most happiness.”

Alice gives a lot of credit to her teachers: “My entire college career was full of people who were very supportive and influential. I took a course from well-known photographer Thomas Allen and he really helped me in learning that art does not always have to be serious—and can even be funny. He also helped me to break out of the box of the archival 'professional-quality' art realm and really opened my eyes to a HUGE variety of materials and possibilities. My two main other photo teachers in school were both always very supportive of my work and could both relate to the struggles I had. I think one of my biggest mentors was art school in general.”

Is there anything you've completed that you absolutely wouldn't want to give away or sell? “Yes, unfortunately, most of it—which I really need to work on getting over. I know art-making for most people is sort of a quiet personal activity, one in which you do alone, and that is the same for me. It is sort of a meditation and a personal 'figuring out' of a lot of things that happen. The art I have been making lately really talks a lot about problems I have faced and feelings I have that I can't really explain otherwise. I started working the way I do now as an opposition to photography. I was disturbed my photography's uniqueness-less and its mass-produced quality and I really ached to make something one of a kind. I am not over that one of a kind idea yet--but I'm working on it.”

Anything you've absolutely hated doing--or hated when you finished it? “I think everything that would fall in this category would be any photographic work I did for money. Senior pictures, etc. Though I'm not too bad at this, it is really not my favorite way to work and I tend to be pretty bored with the standard expected images created. I started art school in a design field and learned quickly I am not very good at bending my creativity to work with someone else's vision.”

Any medium you absolutely won't work with again? “I think I would have to say . . . printmaking. This is funny because my sister is getting a BFA in printmaking at Western as we speak. I wasn't able to control it as much as I wanted to—and it didn't really lend itself too much to my aesthetic. I am a big print-viewing fan, just not a big print-making fan.”

And what is she doing now?  “I have probably 20+ unfinished projects I am currently working on. I always have something I can be doing or finishing. It takes me a very long time to consider my pieces complete. My process is influenced by found objects, so finding one small thing could change how I look at an already started piece entirely. I have a few mixed media sculpture pieces I have been continuously working on for over a year. My work, though it all explores similar aesthetics, keeps changing concept-wise. So I suppose my REAL current project is being able to articulate exactly what my art is about.”

Alice just finished teaching a photography class at Lake State.  She tells her students that “ I TRUELY do not believe equipment is important in creating art/photography. I do think it important to know what is available equipment-wise and altering your equipment on your desired outcome and aesthetic. . . . I think the main thing an art student needs is curiosity and something to say.”

Alice has had experience teaching in other venues and is currently considering “applying for graduate schools sometime within the next few years. . . . I have found that I really enjoy working with mature art students. I'm thinking teaching at a college level is in my future. I am really interested in conceptual thinking and visual literacy.”  

Works by Alice Gadzinski
Click to see a larger version.

Work from Fancy That Thesis exhibit, number 1, by Alice Gadzinski

Work from Fancy That Thesis exhibit

Work from Fancy That Thesis exhibit, number 2, by Alice Gadzinski

Work from Fancy That Thesis exhibit

Work from Fancy That Thesis exhibit, number 5, by Alice Gadzinski

Work from Fancy That Thesis exhibit

Work by Alice Gadzinsi, Untitled mixed media sculpture

Mixed media sculpture

Work by Alice Gadzinsi, Untitled mixed media sculpture

Mixed media sculpture

Work from Miss Interpretation show by Alice Gadzinski

Work from 2008 Miss Interpretation show

Sault Area Arts Council Home Page 217 Ferris Street, Sault Ste. Marie, MI 49783
e-mail: saac@saultarts.org Phone: (906) 635-1312