Even though his rose above the competition, had the Sonoma Community Center been looking for a dynamo with a background as different and exciting as his art, Schwiesow would have been hard to beat.
“On his first night in town,” says Kala Stein, head of the SCC ceramics department, “he was at the Valley of the Moon Certified Farmer’s Market, elbow-deep in clay helping swarms of children sculpt whatever their imaginations could come up with.”
Schwiesow is the new Artist-in-Residence. His tenure at the Center began July 31 and will conclude with a solo exhibition at the end of his residency In Gallery 212 in early December.
Schwiesow was chosen from an impressively competitive field of 25 applicants from across the nation. A man of many materials, including concrete, wood, steel, cloth, and clay, Schwiesow earned his BFA from Sierra Nevada College and his MFA degree from University of Montana.
But that hardly tells the story, Stein says,
Schwiesow was born and raised between mountains and sea at the very end of Highway 1 in Homer, Alaska, a town about as big as Sonoma. As a kid, She worked on his dad’s fishing fleet. “So he really knows the product of hard work,” says John Gurney, the center’s executive director.
Schwiesow’s interest in art and especially in metal as a medium started in his father’s marine fabrication shop. But, before beginning his practice of three-dimensional sculpture, he poured all of his energy into being a ski bum.
“I loved skiing,” Schwiesow said. “I really worked at it.” He became a decorated cross-country racer. “But”, he goes on, “I felt like I needed something a little more lucrative and sustainable.” He quickly adds with a laugh, “I chose art as a career anyway.”
It was skiing that eventually brought him down to California and the Tahoe Basin. There he skied, of course, but also started taking classes at the local JC. Classes soon prevailed over snow and, applying himself as he does, he won a full scholarship to the prestigious Sierra Nevada College — a private, liberal arts university known for its programs in fine arts, entrepreneurship, environmental science and teacher education. That led to a scholarship at the University of Montana in Missoula where he claimed his MFA in two years.
“Karl’s sculptures combine a variety of found, manipulated, and hand-formed clay objects,” Stein says. “The work is postured as playful, surrealist compositions of a proletariat’s dream world.”
The intent, says Schwiesow, “is to get people to look at the things they have in new, thought-provoking ways.”
Schwiesow will share images of his work and talk about his process and artistic background at the center’s Second Friday Series: Ceramics Presentations & Potluck on Friday, August 11, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
“You’re going to love this guy,” says Annie Bauer, SCC board president.
The Second Friday Presentations are free and open to the public with a suggested donation of $10, to benefit the ceramics program.
“If you can’t make the August 11 event, the public is welcome to visit the studio anytime to meet Karl and to see our impressive, well-appointed ceramics facilities that are open for public use through open studio and classes,” Bauer says.
He will teach the class “Modular Hand-Building & Sculptural Surfaces!” This is an all-level class open to beginners all the way up to advanced. The class will begin September 1 and run for eight consecutive Fridays, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Says Stein, “If you are interested in clay and have not had the chance to take a class yet, the Center has all types of classes for all types of people,”
To learn more about the Center’s ceramics program, and the Community Kiln, visit Sonomacommunitycenter.org/ceramics-scc. To see more of Schwiesow’s work visit his website Artisfine.com.