[work]+ news

June 27, 2013

The VisArts Faculty and Staff show, [work], is up until August 11. There is much to see from many artists, so stop by and take a look. My piece is Promise, a 3-D piece. Here is a detail:

Promise
More of my 3-D work is up for only a few more days in the H. Scott November Gallery at Westminster Canterbury. It will come down on Monday, July 1.

Finally, my next class is a one day workshop – Oil Pastel Studio Day – on Saturday, July 20. You can find details at VisArts for this and for my August drawing classes. Stay cool in the studio!

In the Gallery

April 9, 2013

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For the months of April, May, and June most of my 3-D sculpture and assemblage work will be up in the H. Scott November Gallery at Westminster Canterbury, 1600 Westbrook Avenue.  On May 1 at 10:00 I will give a short talk about the work. If you want to visit, just let the guard know you are there for the gallery and get a visitor’s pass.

True Stories

September 4, 2012

The project that was begun this past spring is finished at last and installed in the group show Friends at Caldwell Arts Council in Lenoir, North Carolina. The piece is Collected Stories, and this is what it looks like:

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The box contains true stories generously sent to me by fifty-six friends. A recent post, “My Story” (see below), is the text of my own story in the box. It is the story of the project, and it is the only story that is available  to be read. The stories contained in the box are folded accordion-style and threaded on a metal rod in a process that I have described more thoroughly in earlier posts. It was clear to me from the beginning that the collective voice of these true stories was crucial to the piece – these fragments of lives are woven and layered together (literally and figuratively) to create a visual object that is completely dependent on its content for its image. If you are near Lenoir any time before October 1, stop in and have a look!

Rust

July 3, 2012

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This is a piece of cotton organdy rusting. It is for a new piece, and I will use it with a fused glass plate. Here, the nails are stuck through the organdy into a piece of foam core and the whole bit is put in a tray of water for a day or two. The organdy is so sheer that it is difficult to see under the water in the photo. There are four pieces of fabric to rust, and although they are small pieces, the rusting takes some time. In a sense, rusting is a way to visibly record the passage of time. The process is not unlike exposing (old-fashioned wet) photography paper to light – the longer the exposure the darker the image. With the rust, the longer the fabric is left in the water, the larger and darker the spots will be. I like the notion that the rusting captures time in a way… it would be nice if it would slow time down!

My Story

June 25, 2012

I am continuing to work on the piece that was described in the last post, and I have finally gotten around to writing the story I am contributing. It is the story of the making of the piece, and it will be the only one the viewer will be able to read. Here is my story:

THE BOX

This is the story of how this piece, Collected Stories, came to be.

One day my friend Rob offered to take me to a couple of interesting used furniture and stuff places up Route 1 heading north out of Richmond. Our first stop was “Class and Trash” which is always over-full with furniture, household goods, and assorted curiosities. We both noticed this box, because it had such an interesting shape; but neither of us could imagine what it was ever intended for. That day I bought a couple of things that had potential for use in future assemblages – but not the box. The curious piece stayed on my mind the rest of the day, so the next morning I went back to buy it.

At the time I was in the midst of working on a group of 3-dimensional pieces, so I immediately began cleaning the box up and smoothing out the rough inside. But I had no notion how I might use the box in a piece. Over time I sketched out several ideas, but none seemed quite right. As I began the work for this show at Caldwell Arts Center, I began once again to consider how I might use the box. I had just finished the piece Promise in which I had used some layered writing on Lokta paper, and I thought about the possibility of using the same kind of layered paper in the box. For this piece I wanted to fold the paper accordion-style; this was influenced by a Japanese accordion sketchbook I had recently finished (as a left-handed project) and also by an amaryllis pod which split to reveal paper-like seeds layered in the pod like some sort of gills. In the past I have used quoted poems and, in Promise, some of my own poems in the writing – whatever seemed relevant to the piece. This one called for something different: a collective voice – true stories from the people around me. I set about composing an e-mail with a request for a true short story or anecdote (NOT a creative writing piece). Within an hour of sending out the message, the first story came in, and after the first day, six stories had arrived. People have been so generous with their stories and time, and they have been very supportive of the project.

As soon as the stories began coming in, the piece became more than I had imagined it would be. I don’t know why this surprised me. One predictable aspect of making art is that each piece has a life of its own, and the maker is generally not the one in control. As soon as a piece is begun, it goes off in some unforeseen direction. The job of the artist, I believe, is to respond to what is happening – in a sort of dialogue with the work itself. With the box my focus had been on making the object. But the process of collecting and transcribing stories immediately became extremely important to the piece, and curiously so, since I am the only one who will read the stories. People have trusted me with their stories, these small fragments of their lives, and I have a responsibility to honor both that trust and the gifted story in my making. The stories themselves and the gifting of the stories change me. And, it seems, the project has also affected the participants. Many have thanked me for the invitation to write for different reasons: they were grateful for the motivation, they had been meaning to write this story, the writing was a welcome break from the daily routine, the writing brought clarity to their story, or the writing provided the opportunity to share a story that would be safe here – something that could not be shared more publicly. There is an aspect of exchange in this process that is akin to ideas expressed in Lewis Hyde’s book The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World. For a gift to have value and to stay alive, it must be passed on, kept in motion, not quantified. Hyde supports his ideas by looking at the notion of the gift through time and across cultures before he begins a consideration of the creative gift. What has happened and is happening with this piece seems to fit his thesis well. Further elaboration would require an essay of its own.

Many aspects of this piece are multi-layered. In its format it is a combination of object/sculpture, assemblage, collaboration, and conceptual art. It is made from the literal (physical) layering of stories combined with more figurative sorts of layering. The contributed stories have been written and layered two sheets together. They are layered again as they are torn in strips, then glued and stitched, and finally folded into the box. There are layers within the stories themselves: layers of narrative, meaning, feeling, symbol, and characters. From story to story there are links and overlaps of subject or theme. There is a layer of the story of the box itself: the unknown story of the box’s origin and the one that is being written and continued now in the making of the piece. These layers and stories together speak of our connections to one another in ways that are elemental and quite profound. While it is unlikely that the viewer will be aware of all that I am describing, it is these things that allow a found box to be transformed into MORE.

Slow Art

June 11, 2012

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As I have been working on the most recent 3-D piece the notion of “Slow Art” (akin to the Slow Food Movement) has arisen frequently in my thoughts. The current piece is extremely labor intensive. I knew before I started that it would be, but the approach seemed like the right – no, the necessary – thing to do. Somehow, I am not the one in charge here. The piece involves collecting true short stories and anecdotes from friends and relatives, copying them on lokta paper, rinsing the paper to fade the ink, layering two sheets together, tearing the pages in strips of appropriate width, stitching them together, and folding them accordion-style. That is what you see in the image above. When that long accordion is complete, it will be put in a found box by threading it on a rod. Well, that is difficult to describe, so I will post an image when it is finished. For now, I am so very grateful to all those who have entrusted me with their stories, and I love the way that the story gathering has changed the piece and given it a collective history of people and stories around the world. The project has changed me and, seemingly, made a difference to many of the participants. So, perhaps “Slow Art” is a sort of cousin to “Slow Food”…

Promise

April 27, 2012

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This is a bit from the piece I just finished, Promise. It sits on the recycled, gessoed journal pages pictured in the previous post. I will be showing this with other new pieces in September at Caldwell Arts Council in Lenoir, North Carolina.

Rehab

April 22, 2012

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There is a curious phenomenon that often occurs in the creative process. Sometimes there are pieces that I can’t begin, because I don’t know what they are about. But I can’t know what they are about until I begin. So there is nothing to do but stumble along… and pay attention. Creativity can be messy and uncomfortable. I often think that I would like to be comfortable in my work and feel as though I know what I am doing, but the truth is, I think it is even more frightening to imagine that I might ever reach that place!

I am currently working on some three dimensional pieces in preparation for a group show in September. When I began this work, I slammed into that curious conundrum of beginning. This image is a bit from the first piece that has put itself together. One layer that you see here is a stack of old journal pages that I “rehabbed” by gessoing both sides. I like the white, imperfect surface that results as well as the idea of writing that can’t  be read (something which occurs in another part of this piece). I will post more bits as I can along the way.

And if you are interested in thoughts on creativity, Elizabeth Gilbert gives a great TED talk on the subject.

Small X’s

November 29, 2011

Main Art will open its annual Small Works show this Friday, December 2, 7 – 9:00.  Stop by and check it out.  I am showing a couple of mixed media layered pieces (lokta paper, rust, paintstick, stitching, trace monotype, etc.).  These are more left handed pieces and continue the “x” theme:

Left Handed

October 26, 2011

Time again for artSpace‘s biennial invitational “Think Small” show.  The last show was a chance for me to play with collages using bits of stained and painted lokta paper as a beginning.   For my two entries this year I have used lokta again, but layered (and rusted, printed, stamped and drawn) instead of collaged.  Both are 3″ x 3″.

X . 1

X . 2

These pieces are the first of my left-handed work.  Well, I used my right hand too;  but since it is currently in a cast ( from a bike + pothole spill in September), it really isn’t very helpful.

I had a quick preview of the show, and there are some gems to see and snag.  So stop by the official preview on Thursday night and the opening on Friday night to pick your favorites!  Details and previews at Think Small 6.