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ARMELLE BOUCHET O'NEILL Winds & Currents
November 6, 2015 - January 8, 2016
blown and sand carved glass
8 x 17 x 17 inches
Ken Saunders Gallery is thrilled to be exhibiting Armelle Bouchet-O’Neills textured, topographic objects in her first one-person show at the gallery.
Armelle Bouchet-O’Neill is an exceptional artist with a remarkable vision that couples a tendency towards simplicity with a near obsessive consideration of mark making. The artist is creating a unique visual aesthetic with objects that are subtle and sophisticated.
We extend our thanks to photographers David Fox and Duncan Smith for their services and to designer Amy Stieve for all of her efforts.
Finally, we want to express our appreciation to the Glass Art Society and writer Grace Meils for allowing us to re-print her wonderfully insightful profile of the artist.
Ken Saunders 2015
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Armelle Bouchet comes from the Black Mountains, a small range in the Southern France. The area is made up of wooded slopes, green pastures and dusty valleys from which the Pyrenees Mountains are visible in the distance. Though extremely beautiful, the terrain and the environment can be harsh and demanding, with extremely hot temperatures in the summer, bitter cold winters, and strong winds, which shape the trees and the landscape itself.
Armelle’s work considers our relationship to our environment not from the usual perspective of how we affect it, but how it affects us – both on a personal and societal level. People and
cultures are gradually shaped by the landscape that surrounds them and she suggests with time, the
subtle influence of the mountains and the sea becomes evident in our cultural identity of the
communities that form in their presence.
Surface texture and how it reflects and absorbs sunlight are important in all of her work and by providing a continuous surface area, Armelle’s new series of wall-mounted, carved panels allow her to explore in-depth how the quality of light changes across the surface of a piece in various circumstances. Most of the panels are all black, employing various textures to create different colors in the work.
The forms of Armelle’s vessels are purposely simple and traditional, highlighting the meandering lines carved into them, suggesting mountains, landscapes, or the surface of stone or water. Some patterns are reminiscent of topographic maps, while others are abstracted depictions of an
obscured landscape or landmass. The effect of light on this largely monochromatic body of work is like moonlight reflecting on water or a landscape at night, each piece conveying the impression that various places have left on her.
In talking with Armelle, it is clear that she sees community as an important part of every
environment she has inhabited. She recognizes the supportive role that community has played in her own life, and uses the words grateful, blessed and fortunate often in describing her journey.
Growing up in an extremely remote area, she had close ties with her family and community. Armelle’s parents were extremely creative and their example inspired her thinking about a lot of things. When she expressed an interest in glass at 20, a friend helped her arrange for a two-week internship at a local studio – she ended up staying two months. After a few years, she participated in a European exchange program in Denmark and after a little over a year, she enrolled in the Danish Design School on Bornholm, a small sunny island with a small town sense of community.
She received the Lino Tagliapietra Scholarship to take a class at Pilchuck Glass School in 2007, and after first working as a volunteer Poleturner executing auction centerpiece designs, she took a class with Ann Wahlstrom and Jay Macdonell. They recognized that she seemed most interested in the print shop and encouraged her to explore printing and image transfer techniques alongside her work in the hotshot that session. Armelle found the openness and willingness of the artists at Pilchuck to try new things particularly inspiring. That summer, she also met her husband, fellow artist Sean O’Neill.
While completing her final year of school in Denmark, Armelle continued in the spirit of exploration she experienced at Pilchuck. She worked more with the image transfer techniques she saw at the school and began incorporating graphics into many of her pieces. She tried out nontraditional methods of creating texture and experimented with shape. It was at that
point that natural, organic forms such as seeds, cocoons, leaves and beehives became important
elements in her work.
Armelle moved to Seattle in 2005, and she and Sean were married soon afterwards. She quickly became part of Seattle’s tight-knit glass community, and was able to create work for the first time since graduating when she received scholarships from Pratt Fine Arts Center. Pratt also provided opportunities for her to exhibit her work and make important connections. She was included in a group show at Pratt in 2010 and a Pratt exhibition at the Bellevue Art Museum in 2011. That year she also completed her first artist residency at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma.
Much of the work Armelle was doing when she first arrived in Seattle involved image transfer techniques. When she became pregnant early in 2011 while preparing for a solo exhibition at Pratt, she had to rethink her process. Since many of the materials she was using were toxic, she began to use stencils to create sandblasted textures and imagery in her work, and continued with this process once her baby was born later that year. The labor-intensive process of cutting imagery into stencils could be done while her little girl slept, without exposing her to any harsh chemicals.
The work in Armelle’s Pratt show caught the attention of local galleries and collectors. Soon after, she was included in a group show at Winston Wachter and received a Juror’s Choice Award at the Museum of Glass Red Hot event, which allowed her to purchase a sandblaster and kiln for the new studio she and Sean had recently established. When she was offered a solo exhibition at Traver Gallery in 2013, the local Seattle art collectors invested in her career by covering her living expenses while she completed the work.
Following her successful exhibition in Seattle, Armelle’s reputation as an emerging artist to watch has continued to grow. Her work has been shown in numerous group and solo shows at prestigious galleries throughout the country, and she will be featured in her first solo exhibition with the Ken Saunders Gallery this fall.
- Grace Meils -
Grace Meils is an independent writer specializing in glass. Her recent work can be found in Glass Art Society News and on the blog Glasstown, USA.
This article appeared in Glass Art Society News, Volume 25, Issue 3, Fall, 2014. It is re-printed courtesy of the Glass Art Society and the author.
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