Joyce Curvin creates paper art here of two dogs

Where the Wild & Whimsical Things Are

To better get to know your community, meet the local artists who make up its tapestry of art and design. Each month, DESTINATION TAMPA BAY introduces readers to these talented and creative ambassadors in its monthly artist spotlight. This month, meet a St. Pete native who has transformed a love of animals and a devotion to the environment and making the most of each item she crosses paths with to recycle, repurpose and reanimate it until it brings to life a whole new memorable character. The spotlight shines on Joyce Curvin.

JOYCE CURVIN, MIXED MEDIA SCULPTOR

To uncover the roots of Joyce Curvin’s talents in art, one needs only to travel back to her childhood growing up in St. Petersburg. The mixed media artist recalls her parents would often get involved with community events, and where there’s an event, there is usually… wait for it…centerpieces! “My mom and dad had us doing crafts early on. My folks were very involved in the community and so we were always making centerpieces for some event,” she says.  Curvin says ingenuity was a much-valued quality in her household while growing up. “Creativity was encouraged. We learned to sew, to do all sorts of crafts, and had access to the tools in our dad’s workshop. It was great!”

She went on to take private art lessons in acrylic painting and explored the world of clay at what is now Morean Art Center. As she headed off to college at Stetson University in DeLand, she found an opportunity to take ceramics while pursuing her marketing degree, and though her professional path led her to a successful marketing career, she was able to explore her innate talent to create captivating visuals through merchandising, window displays, backdrops and the like. But even upon retiring, the itch to create visually stimulating imagery remained and is now being channeled through her signature line of whimsical, playful and intricately designed paper mache sculptures.

Two Dogs by Joyce Curvin

Joyce Curvin creates paper art here of two dogs
Two Dogs by Joyce Curin

“I find inspiration almost everywhere – from the three cats and a dog we have at home to the pet stories people tell me or the animals I encounter on my morning walk,” Curvin says. “Dogs are generally full of innocent exuberance, cats are more calculating, and birds are tenacious.” Years ago, while living in Sarasota, she was frequently inspired by the Sandhill cranes who would stop by for a visit and became the inspiration for some of her earlier, larger bird sculptures.

Curvin refers to her lineup of colorful, quirky, and expressive creatures as Art-Official Pets© and calls them ‘the ultimate no-maintenance pet.’  Ever since she was a child, she was taught to treasure and respect nature, and it was not uncommon for her family’s backyard to welcome everything from chickens, ducks, and rabbits to turkeys, dogs, guinea pigs and parakeets.  Her parents were also huge influences on Curvin’s dedication to making full use of resources. “My mom and dad were big believers in using what you have and recycling, so that and my love of nature have been huge influences in my art,” the artist says.

Early Bird – No Worm by Joyce Curvin

Curvin considers the animals she creates “rescues” since they are mainly constructed from materials rescued from the trash or recycling can. Recycling has been the foundation for Curvin’s art for most of her career with about 95% of what she uses derived from recycled materials, whether it is from plastic bottles, cardboard, wire, paper or wood products. With her family’s guidance at an early age to make the most use out of materials, she was able to hone her ability to envision the possibilities in what others might deem unusable.

Early Bird – No Worm by Joyce Curvin
Early Bird – No Worm by Joyce Curvin

Her current focus to create paper mache animals maximizes use of these skills and thoughtful imagination. “Whatever comes my way might get included in a piece,” she says. “I like giving old things new purpose.” Recently, the artist finished a welding class hosted by Morean Art Center and found it fun and inspiring, and says she may even explore incorporating the new technique into her own work.

Curvin says she has been both moved and influenced by the styling and storytelling of talented sculptors like Jim Casey, Matteo Raciti, and Nick Park, creator of beloved Claymation characters, Wallace & Grommit. She admits it took her well over 25 years of experimenting with several art mediums before discovering her love of working with paper mache and mixed media.  “It’s the closest I can get to working with clay and not use a kiln,” she says. “I love the challenge of building the animal’s armature and delight in seeing it come to life as I layer on the paper and textures. As for color – the more, the better!”

Embracing Birds by Joyce Curvin

Embracing Birds by Joyce Curvin
Embracing Birds by Joyce Curvin

Her creative use of recognizable, everyday items to help establish her rescues’ colorful personalities might result in using guitar strings along a bird’s feathers or leather tongues and collars on her canines. Her use of bright, bold colors immediately evokes joy for those enjoying her work and a sly grin or a devilish twinkle of the eye on one of her charming animal sculptures demonstrates Curvin’s fearlessness to bring fun and humor to the art experience. “I really want them to smile – even laugh,” she says. “I always give the animal a one- or two-line description on a tag and a tent card that describes the animal’s personality, habits or traits. For example: ‘Elliot (a dog) 9 socks chewed, 2 holes dug, 1 cat chased. All in all, a productive day…’ she says.
“It’s fun to see people react to my pieces. Makes my day!”

Joyce Curvin appeared at a special workshop at Palm Harbor Public Library

Joyce Curvin appeared at a special workshop at Palm Harbor Public Library
Joyce Curvin appeared at a special workshop at Palm Harbor Public Library

Earlier this year, Curvin was one of nine local artists hand-picked to participate in Clearly Collaborative, a unique, joint art exhibition between Florida CraftArt and Duncan McClellan Gallery which will allow each artist to take part in an art residence alongside master glass artist Duncan McClellan. Final work from those collaborations will go on display in January 2023. (Click here to read more about the Clearly Collaborative multimedia art project.)  “I’m really excited about the pieces I’m doing for the Clearly Collaborative project,” Curvin says. She is also currently exploring the integration of moving parts within her art and says she likes the idea of people interacting with her work and not simply viewing it.

The artist hard at work on Clearly Collaborative (photo by David Ramsey)

In June 2022, Curvin participated in the small works art show “Cultivating Cultural Gardens” at Mulberry Cultural Center, and in July 2022, took part in the 33rd Annual Cool Art Show at the St. Petersburg Coliseum. Curvin will be a Featured Artist for Florida CraftArt’s Workbench Series scheduled September 5 through September 9.  “I’ll be creating art there in the gallery all that week, so folks can stop in to see the process.” Curvin is also a frequent guest instructor at the Dunedin Fine Art Center and will be offering a new class on four-legged, paper mache creations in October 2022.

“My goal is to capture the moments of magic that happen in everyday life – real or imagined – and to add some levity to this crazy world,” Curvin says.

American Ninja Squirrels by Joyce Curvin

American Ninja Squirrels
American Ninja Squirrels

For those interested in seeing more of Curvin’s work in person, several of her pieces are on display at Florida CraftArt in St. Pete as well as 2 Islands Gallery, in Captiva, Florida. To learn more about Joyce Curvin and her unique mixed media sculptures, visit her website by clicking here. Readers can also follow the artist at her Facebook page.

by Chris Kuhn written exclusively for Destination Tampa Bay™.  All photos courtesy of artist Joyce Curvin for editorial purposes only, unless otherwise noted–all right reserved.

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