A rant and then some pictures

Blogging about my work is weird for me. You can see this by my personal art blog (which has an inch of dust on it), and my community garden blog (which I frequently post to because it’s not about my work). These processes are internal and when they are written and broadcast, they become real in a way that is scary for me. The same is true of the “in process” photo and the studio visit. I jealously guard my studio time and place. It is a place where I can fail with reckless abandon, make mistakes and decide for myself whether or not I have even made a mistake. I can leave my work on the floor, trip over it and break it without anyone acting as though I’ve dropped a Fabergé egg. As soon as another person comes in, that un-precious decision making process is interrupted. The visitor registers their opinion. That opinion floats around the room for days or weeks and I am unable to catch it and set it free outside of the studio door. It affects everything I do with that piece from then on.  A comment as simple as “the arms look long” stings for weeks because I hadn’t decided if that was a mistake or not before the opinion was registered.

This rant is not directed at the GLEAN visitors! I have had this feeling since Grad school and I feel like voicing it releases my tension a bit. I used to be so gracious about studio visits and it may seem to visitors that I still am. I am, at heart, a people pleaser and I am not being disingenuous to my visitors. But when the studio is mine alone, I don’t have to please anyone but myself.  When the visitors come, work has to stop, footpaths have to be cleared and I have to make some sense of something that is still insensible. I have waited all my professional life to feel like I don’t want input. It’s uncomfortable to admit that, but it feels like a milestone for me. I think the impetus for wanting to talk about this is more related to having an assistant in my studio. I’ve brought in an assistant for a few weeks to help with some of the more tedious tasks. I’ve had assistants before and it has been uncomfortable for me. When I was a studio assistant I never gave my opinion unless asked, but since my assistants are usually students, and they feel inclined to share as if we are in class and my work is up for critique. This time, however, I made the law of my studio clear and I feel liberated. It’s going quite well.

The thing that is even stranger than my reclusive feelings is that I always take a ton of process photos. For who, right? Well, I guess for you:

First there were two clay models. I recycle my clay so this was a zero waste process. Then there were the molds. I did some tests with gleaned supplies but was unable to glean the entire mold material. This is a mold I can use for years to come and it will not be in the show. There is a flexible silicone interior mold (some of the silicone is gleaned silicone caulk and I did learn a new technique which allows the use of different types of silicone together) and a cement exterior mold or mother mold. The cement was gleaned but there is a good reason mother molds are not usually made of cement. When there is a piece inside the mold, it’s too heavy for me to lift by myself. The cement is also very brittle and often times the shell will crack when I am removing a piece but that is probably just user error.

                          I just love pictures like this last one. Then there was the casting… brick and cement, broken auto glass and epoxy (not gleaned but used very sparingly)

Below is mosaic tiles and grout backed with spray foam sealant and a steel rod armature If the spray foam were more reliable, I’d like to try making a cast figure out of just the foam squiggles. There seems to be good reasons that I am finding so much discarded spray foam. 2 out of 6 cans have worked. It is, however, possible to use that stuff more than once. Most people discard it once the tip becomes clogged with set foam. Just pulling the clog out with a thin piece of wire (or a bicycle spoke) will often get it flowing again.

Then there are the hand built pieces: chicken wire and aluminum rod armatures, carved Styrofoam, canceled check papier mache, multilingual textbook papier mache, and the pattern drafting process to create flat patterns for sewing and building with planar materials like cardboard, felt, Velour and plastic. These pieces are flowing a little more smoothly because I am more at ease with the materials. It may even come across in their personalities.

I feel at this point, that I could continue working on this project for years to come, with gleaned material and in the same spirit of reuse. There could be a hundred of these figures.


Some notes about what I’m doing

There are some things I can say about my concept. I began with two figures, male and female, but the work is not about gender. It appeared to me that the figures were being made in couples so I am working to uncouple them. The work is only about humanity and beings. All of the figures are posed in the Mountain Pose (tadasana). For a few years I have been working with half scale figures, using a simple pose to tell a story. I appreciate the metaphorical narrative found in yoga and tai chi poses. Having practiced these poses, I recall my favorite ways of being. I wanted this body of work to feel like strength, power and connected to the earth and to all others. I envision that I am the mountain and that the earth’s energy flows up into my feet and through my body. The same energy flows up into the feet of all others. The uplifted shape of the body is an upward conduit for the energy. In my case, the energy flows out the top of the head, like a volcano. For some, I image, the energy may become stuck, and their posture may be blocking the energy transmission. Some of those figures are represented, too.

1 ton

I’ve had some good gleaning days. Over two days in June I removed nearly a ton of material (as my little Toyota pick-up groaned and panted). Among the haul were some excellent wooden planter boxes. The wood was in great condition and I could see the longing looks of the transfer station customers as I pulled them from the pile. I know I took pictures of my truck laden with wood red pickets and rails but I can’t find the pictures now. I’m pretty sure they were captured on video as well.

SFO Recology Retrospective

I had an opportunity to go through the San Francisco airport-SFO recently (before the plane crash), and I got to see the retrospective show of the Recology  project which inspires and mentors (I hope that is the right word) our Portland based GLEAN project. I really enjoyed seeing the work in person. I think my favorite piece was the full sized Styrofoam SUV but I was also very attracted to Beau Buck’s jackrabbits. Hares have always been a part of my artistic language and the way he was working with the same form and different materials reminded me of my own process. All of the work was of such high quality. It really made my perfection gland tingle. Here are some of my pics: … adored this work. Very inspiring.

Random Observations of My World

It has been in the back of my mind for a few weeks now that I really need to write a new blog post.  I’ve been waiting for something interesting to actually happen or for the bolt of inspiration to strike but since neither of that has occurred I will simply share pictures of my studio at this particular moment. I will also point out some random info about what you are looking at in order to give text to the images. In the first image you see how messy my studio is and randomly my rock rings at the top of frame.  FYI, I love rock climbing and every few hours I do a few pull ups on them providing a brief break.  The second shot is of my “desk” which is simply a continuation of my work bench.  The book is open to a page with an image of Napoleon’s death mask. The skull on the shelf isn’t real but it is a very good cast.  My anatomy chart on the wall is actually one my mother used in Occupational Therapy School. I’ve loved looking at it since I was a wee artist.  You can also see my Foredom Flex shaft. I prefer using hand tools but that sucker certainly comes in handy!!

This is my raised carving platform.  I will carve kneeling on it many days Japanese style.  It was made from an old pallet.  My kneeling bench is made form a reclaimed board and is great for keeping my circulation going while carving in this position.  I also have a wonderful Styrofoam head I got at the transfer station a few weeks ago. I don’t think it will ever make it’s way into a piece but it is a great reference to have on hand.

This image is of my actual work bench. Usually very little work happens on it. Instead it serves as a great place for clutter to gather.  The blue bust hanging out is carved from an old banister.  You can see five bottles of glue.  One of which is currently being consolidated into another container.  Wood glue is surprisingly hard to come by at the Transfer station so I end up with a bunch of small bottles that are half filled.

This last image captures the figure I am currently working on.  He is laminated wood like most of the pieces for Glean and he will be wearing a hoodie.   Over his right shoulder you can see my beloved band saw along with a bunch of reclaimed lumber waiting around for me to tell them what they are going to become.  You can also see some of the posts I have found which will serve as stands for the series of busts I am carving.  Now that I have shared these snapshots with you I am going to go see if I can dirty my studio further!

How to Remove Hot Glue and Cardboard from Foam!

Processing used materials sometimes leads to creative tool use. Don’t try this at home kids!

What am I looking at?  a reciprocating saw with the longest blade i could find, clamped to a workbench with a piece of plywood as a spacer.  A little guide block at the end of the blade gives support.  I applied paraffin wax to the  plywood in order to keep the hot glue from dragging while pushing it through the blade.

…about an hour later…

Glue free foam!

That’s a lot of refinished foam!

“Success equals Boredom”

Thank you, Tibor Kalman, for that refreshing thought. Luckily, I detest boredom. Some things come to mind today: a white whale, a guy pushing a big rock up a hill, my puppy chasing her tail only to catch it and find that biting it hurts for some reason. Kalman also said “We don’t talk about planes flying; we talk about them crashing”. Well, Mayday, people! This project has mountainside in the cross-hairs but I’m trying hard to pull up. No pictures today, for obvious reasons :0

It’s not the whole thing that is in ruins, just this one set of pieces that I’m determined to see happen. I guess it’s back to the GLEANing floor (drawing table) for me.

I guess this is what I really love about this project, and residencies in general. I feel like it’s a time to experiment or work out some problem that has been plaguing me. It is definitely a material problem and I just don’t have it worked out yet.

Junk Food

pile of cans

GLEANing is such junkfood, feeding my scrappy sweet tooth. I look forward to it very much; I can taste it. Getting lost in the act of artistic creation on this project has been so enjoyable, but it doesn’t compare to gleaning, even on a slow day. Each item I find has a potential that I can only just begin to unlock while at the transfer station. Some things, have been too good to leave behind, even without knowing what I’ll make of them.

As my mountain of junk has grown, I got a tummy ache and have had to cut back — not enough room and not enough time to make art out of it all! I’ve really had to refine my palate — quickly going from a pig to a picky eater. Never, ever thought that would happen, but I never thought I’d like brussels sprouts either. Lately, I’ve been gleaning just for specific items to complete pieces and am really trying to avoid binging.

What is art?

During the Grand Studio Tour, the artists got involved in the inevitable, ages-old, provocative question What is Art?  At the risk of making them all roll their weary eyes (as well as anyone else who would like to chime in) I posit the following:

What is the difference between this

and this?

Life is a Nail Hole I’m Trying to Fill.

You would be amazed at the amount of nails a person can put into a board.  To be fair it probably was multiple people over numerous generations.  I’ve mentioned in the past how much I like the really well aged old growth Douglas Fir which was harvested probably well over a hundred years ago. A board that has been functional for that long usually picks up a lot of scars. This stack of wood is made up of 7- 2 x 6 ranging from 4ft to 8ft and 3 – 4 x 4 also ranging from 4ft to 8ft.  I was about half way done before I thought, “I should be counting all the nails I removed.”  So the next board I counted 35 nails, which seemed about average.  So for this particular pile I can guesstimate I removed 350 nails but it seemed like a lot more than that.  A few observations about nails.  This is completely objective but I think people have lost the ability to drive a nail straight.  The older the nail is the straighter it seems to me.  Perhaps it has something to do with the quality or style of the nails but I could also imagine people a hundred years ago being more care full with their nails and handling them more skillfully.  I have encountered numerous times a cluster of 5 almost brand new nails bent every which way.  Obviously someone recently was trying to hang something up and it took them multiple tries to get a nail in straight.  You don’t see this incompetence with old nails.  I know my argument has more holes in it than the boards I’m describing but it is my interpretation of the evidence before me.