This morning I decided to squeeze in another day of gleaning… This is what I found… The universe has a way of telling us… “You’re Done!”
Now that I’m “done” with the work for the Glean residency, (pending installation,) I finally had some time to watch one of my favorite films of all time: Agnes Varda’s “The Gleaners and I.” It’s pretty much the only movie that I own, and it’s great to revisit it every so often. This film is a beautiful portrait of the practice of gleaning through the eyes of an aging woman. I won’t spoil the movie for you by showing some of my favorite moments–it’s truly a treat to hear Varda narrate the film and see the world through her eyes.
In France, gleaning is not just a common practice, it’s actually written into the law that for all commercial crops, there is a post-harvest period of time after November 1st when the public can enter the land and forage for what’s left. We also learn that people from all economic classes take advantage of this law–some are even chefs who are eager to gather up perfectly ripe and free fruits and vegetables to serve their customers. The film shows many examples of urban gleaning as well–including an artist who finds their materials in the streets. This screen shot points out that stooping is a common denominator amongst all gleaners.
Varda is brilliant where she brings her own story into this documentary. I think it’s one big reason why I return to this film so often. Summer always reminds me of my first art residency a decade ago at the Center for Art in Wood. Now I’ll also always think of Les glaneurs et la glaneuse. It’s been a really great past five months being able to glean at the Metro Waste Facility and then working hard to put this show together. I can’t wait to see it installed next week.
Opening reception – Thursday, August 11 from 6-9PM
The Bison Building 421 NE 10th Ave. Portland
Gallery hours: Friday, Saturday and Sundays 12-5pm through August 27.
It wasn’t until I went back to art school in 1995 that I truly fell in love with the pencil. Previously, I had spent my days finding the perfect pen to express my moods and create the most permanent of doodles. But something changed when I learned to design furniture, and for several years I would never be found without one tucked behind my ear. Now that I have my own studio, my special pencils are strategically placed on every work surface, bearing their printed reminders of places I’ve visited all around the world.
It was one of my first visits to the Metro Transfer Station when I was handed a small chest of drawers by one of the workers there. Each drawer was filled with basic office supplies: X-acto tools, felt-tipped pens, highlighters, note pads, adhesives, and a ton of pencils. Within the next month, I had my second major pencil encounter–someone had dumped a stamp and coin collection, along with other materials from someone’s office space. I came back with dozens of perfectly sharpened pencils that never got to scribe the words intended by their diligent sharpener.
I’ve seen many artists use pencils in their work, but my favorite by far was Gord Peteran’s series of drawings titled “Five Sounds.” He did this series during his 2002 residency at the Center for Art in Wood, and they are now part of their permanent collection. Peteran’s series takes you through his varied approaches to draw a circle with pencil, paper, a lathe, and his body. The above drawing is the second in his series, when he mounted the paper onto a piece of plywood and held the pencil in his hand. I love this journal of the relationship between human and machine.
It was nice to be, again, reminded of Peteran’s series while I did the rough shaping of my forms with the pencils already embedded. Depending on the spacing of the pencils, it would create a circular “drawing” on my sanding disc. The graphite produced more minimalist drawings.
And you can even see a ghost of the sanding process on the face of each piece. I like it because it is a subtle reminder of the spontaneous drawing exercises I employed while in the design stages of this installation. Similarly, I use the disc sander with a high grit paper so I can quickly make shapes. This detail shot reveals the nuances in pencil wood grain you can sometimes spot in even this pea-sized cross-section. I also like how the yellow paint that once dominated the pencil’s appearance is subtly evident around the edges.
It’s been fun to let people discover this found object that’s in each of the 50 pieces I made for this installation. The entire form is seen first, an then there’s often an expression of surprise when they recognize this everyday object that has now become a design element.
I feel a little sad cutting apart the batch of pencils that were so carefully sharpened, but hope that somewhere out there in the universe, their previous owner knows that they didn’t end up in the landfill. Or perhaps they’ll start again with tips from pencil sharpening expert David Rees:
We’re on the last lap here for the Glean Residency and I’m so excited to share a few photos of the sculptures that I will be showing on August 11th at the Bison Building.
The dump is a repository for unwanted things and these things are charged with so much emotion. As I watched the ever changing mountain of trash, I thought about how there was such a feeling of catharsis as people tossed their things into the trash pile. There was a sense of letting go of emotional baggage, things that don’t serve and reminders of past lives. I realized that the sculptures coming from these retired objects were embodied representations of these difficult emotions that were being released. The sculptures became organs that functioned as containers for these difficult emotions.
I hope to see you all at our opening at the Bison Building on August 11th. It’s going to a wonderful show.
So, here we are on the final stretch before the big show. And I’m at the intersection of “damn I love this” and “what the hell am I doing”. I’ve been working in my studio in a frantic yet focused state of a madman. There have been so many great ideas and concepts that have come out of my experience gleaning the castoffs of others. I’ve found endless possibilities, which sometimes makes it hard to focus. At this point it about which pieces can I finish in the shortened time I have left. Losing a month of production time has altered my world.
One thing that stands out for me is how we (collectively) are blind to the waste we produce. I also know that a big part of my creative process is that my art needs to have a message. And before I can make it need to know what I’m trying to say and how I want to say it. So through associative processing I’ve created a few Braille pieces.
Ok, that’s enough, time to get back to the studio. I have three more pieces to complete and I have six in process.
Come meet the artists and see the results of five months of reimagining materials reclaimed from the transfer station!
All five artists have created an impressive and unique body of work that will challenge any notion of the potential for discarded materials.
Opening Reception August 11, 2016 – 6:00 – 9:00 pm PNCA/OCAC Bison Building 421 NE 10th Ave., Portland
Learning how to work with and manipulate new materials is always thrilling to me (after it has passed that initial phase of being incapacitatingly scary!).
It would seem worthwhile, with such a short production turnaround (and so many variables) as Glean, however, to stick with media that one knows how to use. For me this would have meant gleaning for wood and paper. But I saw my opportunity and access to the dump as the perfect catalyst for artistic growth. Adventure! Excitement! Unknown!
“Just in case” though ( i.e. to manufacture some control) I produced a deliberate creative plan. I was armed with a concept thoroughly worked out in my head, and myriad sketches of “what” I was going to “make”. As soon as I could find the exact materials to realize this vision in a heap of trash, I’d be on my way. No big deal.
Now, this is ridiculous in the first place because it is unnatural for me to work from a rigid plan in any artistic scenario. Unsurprisingly, it would NOT be easier with waste material. I got frustrated, [creatively] constipated, stressed.
But perhaps the initial plan was a necessary stepping stone. A starting point provides direction, allows for evolution. I have really gotten into a rhythm with my pieces for Glean as of late, donning a new-found sense of understanding how to work the materials I’ve been gleaning at the dump (NOT wood or paper).
New pieces are born rapidly and evolve quite naturally. They all still exist in some liminal state of evolution right now, awaiting final details, characteristics, traits; on their way to becoming a family of individuals each with their own personality, yet with one collective story to convey. Their story is undoubtedly related to the original plan/concept, though more like a spur off the main trail.
One certainty is that I never follow the direction I set out to go.
Below, a shot I took when I was lacking an available surface for drawing a full-scale model of a sketch, so I used my studio doorway. Sometimes the littlest bits are interesting to me. These tiny “spoons” were clipped from the intricate network inside a piano found at the Metro Transfer Station and will become decorative elements in some of my pieces. I was so busy this month, I would sometimes squeeze an hour in here or there just making shapes so that I could assemble sculptures later. trying to make the tail ends of some very old clothespins work into a piece. So far, I’ve only been satisfied with the nobby ends, but I keep playing with these long pieces, which look like tailfeathers. note nobby ends in the images below! One benefit of having a great day in the studio is when I spend the following night dreaming about design ideas. This is one such instance, where I woke up with a vision of a solid piece with shapes removed, rather than the additive building of shapes that I typically do. I want to keep pursuing this idea!Today was the monthly Glean studio review so I decided to bring the 25 pieces I’ve designed (but not stained or glued together) outside and hang them in my covered work area to get a better sense of how they will look en masse. The final show will be multi-tiered with more breathing room, but it was great to see them in a new setting.