artist / sheep shearer = educator

After moving through her living and work space I ask Aimee León how she sees herself – as artist or shepherd. Both, she replies. Aimee is also an educator – the community (me and you) is her target audience. I spend an afternoon speaking with her about animals, humans, sheep shearing, wool, sustainability, art making and community engagement.

Below is an earlier artwork shot and a detail. I find it elegant.

Aimee León
Follicle Series #1
wet-felted wool, steel stake
2012

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Detail

Aimee takes me through her home and introduces me to her animals – 2 dogs, a parrot named Lucy, numerous cats and 2 foster kitties. I look around and note sheep stuff. Lots of it.

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Aimee’s weaving.

There are lots of fleece: bagged, boxed, raw, hand and machine spun, balled, strung, loose, and bundled. I hold the various forms – feel, smell, admire it all.

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IMG_6130I admit to her the culture of sheep, felting and wool is foreign to me – particularly understanding where and how wool and yarn is processed. She understands. She tells about the work and intensity of shearing, it’s physical and dirty. We discuss how various communities of people are affected by our general lack of knowledge and appreciation for the material and work – in Arizona this directly affects the Navajo.

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labeled boxes and bags of fleece from all over the world

She’s traveled the state, the country and the world, and sheared many a sheep.  You’ll find bags and boxes of fleece labeled Churro Ram, Faroese 2013, Shetland 2013, Alpaca, Llama, Lamb fleece …. etc.  I’m trying to hold the information, it’s much and it’s new. Right now I wish I had more photos to share with you but the act of moving through her work space and listening to her – has my full attention. Mostly I forget the camera until I remember it. I see 3 ram horns and pick two dark, textured, brown ones up. I find them heavier than I imagine them to be. Right now I wish I’d photographed them, they’re beautiful.

Aimee León is an artist and Sheep Shearer. I call her Shepard at the beginning of this post because I think her work is about the care of sheep – in a bigger way.

Did I mention Aimee is also a graduate student in the art department at ASU,  who will be completing her thesis this Fall. Her area of emphasis is Intermedia. By now you know she works with wool. And her projects involve community engagement.

About the ART work/the project → {re}collectingtheheardbeast

I ask Aimee what the work will be – a sculpture? a weaving? She says it will be all at once a sculpture, weaving, and installation. She envisions it 10 ft high, by 50 ft long, and suspended in a clockwise spiral 2 ft off the ground. The length and the way it suspends will allow people to walk within the spiral to the center and back out, and will allow them to view the weaving as they walk through it. She finishes by explaining the weft (the horizontal yarns) will guide you as you walk through the spiral.

As I indicated the project includes and calls for participation of community. Things have already been put into motion as she placed a call for yarn and is receiving it from around the country. If you have yarn to donate, contact her.

What: {re}collectingtheheardbeast  (MFA Thesis exhibition)
When: the public weaving begins August 15th
Where: She is scouting locations in downtown Phoenix. If you know of any, contact her – it’s community engagement.

One more time, in a nut shell:
Aimee León is collecting, hand spinning, and steam setting wool, about 100 lbs of it – in preparation for her MFA Thesis show. She will start to construct/weave a sculpture that hangs in space from roof to floor on August 15 – with the help of the community (that’s you). The public activity of weaving will continue for a month and will be completed by September.

If you are interested in weaving and/or working on the sculpture or donating yarn, or you want to read more about her work and project contact her via → {re}collectingtheheard beast.

I thank Aimee for the afternoon, we exit out the back door and she shows me freshly cleaned and now drying yarn. She explains how she soaked it in a tub, in a mix of water and vinegar, and then hangs it out to dry, in the sun.

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Bye Aimee. Thanks for the afternoon. I learned so much.

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Aimee León will complete an MFA  in Intermedia at Arizona State University.
Consider contributing to her yarn gathering, to the weaving, or buy – on the needed occasion – some real wool instead of synthetic fabric. I understand the ball is in our hands.

I suggest you look at all of Aimee’s sites, the photography is absolutely wonderful and her writing is eloquent -access through Aimee León’s → artist website and her thesis website →{re}collectingtheheardbeast

sheep is life

sheep count

Drawing is the discipline by which I constantly rediscover the world. I have learned that what I have not drawn, I have never really seen, and that when I start drawing an ordinary thing, I realize how extraordinary it is, a sheer miracle.”     Frederick Franck – The Zen of Seeing


I’d gotten back to human body studies when artist Aimee León invited me to participate in her project, Into The Fold. I found the subject of sheep, and her intent to remind and reintroduce them to us – moving. So I take one more break from the human body to consider sheep, in particular, a ewe and her lamb (in utero).

Sheep are quadrupedal, ruminant mammals. Like all ruminants, sheep are members of the order Artiodactyla, the even-toed ungulates. A male sheep is called a ram and a female sheep is called a ewe, their small offspring is the lamb. I could tell you about their senses because I find the information fascinating. Aimee’s final project will include essays, poetry, 2D art, music, theory, philosophy, scientific writings and children’s work – so we can wait for that to learn more.

I know right away how I will approach the subject. Here are progression shots. If I didn’t have this record, I wouldn’t remember the layers that form the final composition. Time is key to my anatomy studies, so I never wait long to get going.

Locate Aimee’s project link at the bottom of this post.

IMG_5532 IMG_5533  I like this stage below best. But once it’s gone, I can’t bring it back. IMG_5534I wanted (bone) structure. Why didn’t I lay it in first?
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Of course, I wanted marks based on the sheep’s hair. IMG_5538  I like this stage below, it glows. I want more depth.IMG_5542Too much. Everything flattens. Though It does take on a weaving quality I enjoy.IMG_5543

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I take it back and forth a few times. I varnish and brighten when complete.

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Ewe and Her Lamb
MM on canvas
18″ x 26″

Though I never planned to exhibit the work, an opportunity arrives. I’ll show the Study of a Ewe and Her Lamb, and a few other small animal studies, next month at the Frontal Lobe Gallery and Community Space.

Did I mention Aimee León is a trained Sheep Shearer? Do take a look at Aimee’s project site, Into the Fold, the photos are spectacular.