Is it April Already??

April 4, 2010

I can’t believe how fast time is flying.  Rather then trying to recapture everything that has been going on for the last 3 months I will just post what I am working on now.  I took a brief sidetrack onto a portrait project but did not feel that they were working out the way I wanted them to so have put that project aside for now….

Smurfit Factory, Frenchtown MT

The painting above is 4′ x 3′ (Oil on Canvas) and was the first painting I did in the Factory series…

Industrial themes are not new in my work but over the holiday break, while home in MT I was inspired by a very controversial issue; the closing of Smurfit paper factory in Frenchtown (a small town outside of Missoula).  Growing up in MT I understand the importance of the jobs that such factories and mills provide.  My grandfather was a logger and many of my friends growing up either worked at the mill during the summer, or had parents or family members that worked in these establishments.  There are very few jobs to be had in MT and as the industry fades, with greater environmental awareness and fewer resources, (and arguably shady business) hundreds of family’s livelihoods are taken away.  On the other hand, I can not deny that the environmental issues are vital (with global warming, air pollution, water supply, and resources at stake).  It is crucial that we think of these things but when you are in MT and you read the paper and you drive by the soon to be closed factory and the hard hats are hanging on the fence with flowers and people who have worked their whole lives at the factory and now will have nothing and nowhere to go…it is hard to not be torn between the sides.

So, in my factory series I am not taking sides.  I am operating from the notion of depicting factory scenes “beautifully”.  I have been playing with color and degrees of realism in an effort to decide what exactly that means to me…but I am thinking about formal elements (composition, color, size, level of abstraction) rather than concept.  Of course there is concept to them but it is not a complex one…the concept is simply to add contradiction to the subject.  By painting these factories “beautifully” (of course this is subjective)  it will be interesting to see what reactions they bring.  It is inevitable that viewers will bring their own ideas about factories and industry to these paintings…and regardless of how they feel about factories they will have to think about it.

The next two images are the first two drawing in a series that I am currently working on.  More than studies, these are finished works.  Many if not most of these images will also be paintings.  I have already started the painting for the first one.  I like making drawings of them first because it is like getting to know them…like getting the small talk out of the way before embarking on a relationship…building that sense of commitment before beginning the painting.

A different view of Smurfit factory. Mixed media on paper 15" x 28"

Larger factory drawing 2 Mixed media on paper 18" x 28"

Below are a number of smaller pieces that I have been working on that are a process of examining what aesthetics and approach I want to take…these were all done in the last month.  Some will lead to larger or more refined works later on….

8" x 10" acrylic on panel

I have already started a large (6′ x 4.75′) painting of this image.  I particularly like this composition because the plume is about the size of a person.  As you stand before it you are face to face with the beautiful crimson area…it is an experiential piece for sure…I will post images of the large painting soon…it is still a little camera-shy.

Pastel on paper 8" x 10"

This was a little study I did…I like the idea of making a romantic scene of a factory…I’m not sure if I am going to go anywhere with this but it tickles my funny bone a little bit…on this similar vein I am working on a “saint factory” piece…those of you who have seen my “saint animal” pieces know what I am talking about…

Smurfit drawing...mixed media on wall paper 8" x 10"

Always a fan of pattern I figure…why not let the paper do it for me.  :)  I have others of these but this is my favorite…I am also doing a Lithograph of this same image…I am excited to see if it turns out or not…when it comes to printmaking I am still in the cross your fingers phase.

Ink on Mylar 8" x 10"

Also with printing in mind…I made a photo plate of this image…I plan on layering some other stuff with this image on the final piece…again…we’ll see how that works out.  :)

Well, there it is, a bit of an update.  It has been a crazy second term but I am feeling more in a groove now.  I am in the mindset of making as many works as I can…and seeing where it all leads.  That is the exciting part right…that things will always and forever evolve…

The Laundromat Project v.1

December 9, 2009

Marina and I at the reception on Sat.

For my final installation I once again teamed up with one of my fellow first year grads for a large collaborative project.  It was quite a roller coaster ride as we put in a crazy amount of hours…often working 12 or more hours a day as the install date approached.  We were both fairly nervous about it all along the way; definitely working outside of our comfort zones.  In the end there were things that we wish that we could have changed but ultimately in the big picture I think that the project was a success.

There were four major considerations (in my mind) for this piece: who were we making the piece for, what is the goal or objective for the piece, what does the site specify, and what materials are particularly relative to the topic.

I believe that the question of whom we were making the piece for was one of the biggest considerations for the piece.  The fact that we were considering both the art world and the patrons of the Laundromat was a particularly tricky combination.  It often felt like these two audiences called for exact opposite solutions.  To go to the conceptual side and make decisions based on the concept purely would be directly relative to the art scene but would leave out the sensibilities of the greater population.  To make decisions purely based on aesthetics and likeability for the patrons would be disregarding the interests of the art audience.  In the end I am not confident that we found a proper balance.  We dove in and rolled with the piece itself, making decisions in the spur of a moment and plowing onward.  Now having created this first piece there are notions that have surfaced that will be clear next steps for the next version.  Yep, that’s right…we plan on doing it again.  If we were to literally just redo this piece I think that we would have organized the quotes differently, in fact the integration of the quotes was the most challenging element over all.  I am not sure what the solution would be but it would very likely be that they would not be on the walls at all.  I imagine that we would have created an audio of the stories rather then picking out excerpts and had an audio that people could listen to, or created a sort of book that people could look through (probably not), or designated an area to incorporate the quotes that were not spread out over all of the walls…and then created pieces on the walls that were based on concept and aesthetics with the transformation of the space.  In addition we would further consider the organization of the colors.  One idea would be to separate the colors in a way that further reflected doing laundry: whites, colors, and red rather then the brighter colors that we chose.  This being true, the bright colors brought a particular feel to the space, which was part of our original decision making plan.  It is interesting to note that the patron response was that they loved the colors and how they brightened up the place, while the art response was to question the color choice.  Again, distinctly different visual approaches.

As far as the objective of the piece, Marina and I both have an interest in extending art beyond our immediate art circle.  In addition we were both interested in the things that everyone has to deal with no matter what class, age, race, or culture you are.  Laundry is one of those things.  As we began to interview people we became more and more interested in people’s stories.  There were particular trends that seemed to come up repeatedly such as class distinctions and the economic situation.  We did not choose to zero in on this particular element and were more interested in representing the answers that we got as a reflection of the process in general…meaning that the experience of the viewer would reflect the experience of the interviewer where people could draw their own conclusions.  It is interesting to think about what it might be like to be more specific with this element in the future.  The class and economic situation became a major interest for me as time went.

Upon going to the Laundromats around town and thinking about what we might like to do, the idea of covering the walls and transforming the space came readily to mind.  We also really wanted to put elements in the center of the space, which we only began to examine with the treatment to the clothesbaskets.  We wanted to have a large impact on the space and covering the walls seemed like the most effective way to do it.

Which leads directly to the material choices for the piece.  Fabric seemed like an obvious solution.  In addition, repurposing clothes was a natural choice as well.  We took many trips to Dig and Save and purchased bag after bag of clothes and linens to work with.  A few more trips and I would have developed a special Dig and Save muscle from literally digging my way towards desired colors and fabrics.  In the beginning we imagined painting on or using multiple approaches to get the effect that we wanted but as we worked on it we solidified a desire to purely use fabric.  This presented what felt like limitations since neither of us were very proficient with sewing.  Thankfully it was in our projects benefit to have some rough edges and approach so the overall aesthetic did not suffer from our lack of skill.  To have created a piece with precision and perfect craftsmanship would have felt contrived and stuffy for the space.

So, there it is.  The break down of the piece.  It was fun to have a reception in the Laundromat and for people to be doing their laundry during the opening as well as people from the neighborhood joining us.  In addition I want to give emphasis and acknowledgement to the owners who are truly wonderful in so many ways.  There is a true community feel there as you see every walk of life come in and out…from restaurant owners cleaning their stores linens, to students, to professionals, to renters, to home owners, to the homeless.  For the opening the owners brought an array of homemade items, cookies, cakes, peanut brittle, salsa (with chips), hot apple cider, and cheese and fruit plates.  It was fantastic.  I am happy and proud to have been a part in all of that coming together at once.  The experience itself was a major factor for me.  I learned a lot.

And finally, it was great to work with Marina and I look forward to working with her more in the future.

I am going to go a head and make a number of posts…one for each of my larger projects.  So, first things first.

My second piece for my installations and environments class was a more personal examination.  This piece was inspired by reading “Art and Fear” by David Bayles and Ted Orland.  One of the main points of the book was the fact that – the ways that we struggle in life are the ways that we struggle in art making.  It is important for me to continuously fight against and move through these things and make the most powerful work that I can…to move closer and closer to working at my full potential (a loaded word for sure).

I have been very interested in layers in my work as well as literal and psychological barriers.  This piece says “There is a barrier between me and making work at my potential” over and over again, layered up multiple times.  The piece is approximately 5 1/2 feet x 13 feet.  It was installed in one of the main entry ways to the art lofts building at the University of Wisconsin.

There were a number of things that I was thinking of when designing this piece.  I installed it as an actual barrier for the most popular entrance of the building as a way of effecting other artists that are inevitably dealing with their own barriers and struggles in their work.  I chose the thick plastic that is used in construction for two reasons: the first is that it is typically a temporary material (as hopefully struggles are temporary), the second is because it is translucent so you can mostly see through it to what is beyond.  I chose to write in sharpie with multiple layers over and over to represent the way that the negative speak in ones head (and in society) tends to act as an undercurrent within everyday life.  Acknowledging this undercurrent while pushing through challenges feels like a vital element for truly reaching for ones potential.  Comfort is unfortunately never a part of making great work.

I dedicate this piece to all of my ex-students at SGS that I pushed to work outside of their comfort zone.  I’m right there with ya ladies!

Hello and welcome to my new blog!  This is going to be a space where I show the progression of my artwork in Graduate school.  I would love it if it also became a way for people to share their thoughts with me about the direction of the work etc. so please do leave comments.  Feedback is always awesome and it is fun to hear from people that are in my life but not in Madison!

There is nothing like a huge change to push you outside of your comfort zone and require you to rise to the occasion.  So far Grad school is everything that I hoped it would be.  I am already re-evaluating my work and being pushed to a greater potential.

For the first month and a half I found myself making work that was the same as what I have been doing the last 5 years and quickly became dissatisfied.  I realized that I was not engaging myself in the work at the level that I desired.  The work that I see myself going towards will require me to access a much more personal and deeper examination of my interests rather then looking at them from a broader perspective.  I will write more about that when I have some images to show.

I would like to kick it off with a collaborative piece that I did with two other 1st year grad students.  I have been wanting to do collaborations for a while so it is great to dive in and make it happen straight away.

The piece is titled:

INTERSTICE                                                                                                                                      Visions of War

INTERSTICE, Visions of War

INTERSTICE, Visions of War

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J.E. Sandberg and Dale Kaminski are the two other artists on this piece.

It is difficult to show what it is really like with digital photography.  It is truly an experiential piece.  I will attempt to describe it to you…

When you come in it looks something like this:

view from the entrance

view from the entrance

You can see a glowing grid and there is a base heavy sound that fills the room and gets into your bones.  It sort of lures you in and you are compelled to move closer.  As you get closer there is a projection on the floor that you couldn’t see from a distance.  The projection is a random loop of war images.  There are bombs going off, people in face masks, heavy machinery etc.  The projection on the wall is constantly shifting.  Dale took the same images that are on the floor and distorted them and put them in a program that layers them randomly in various sizes.  You can not tell at all what the images are on the wall but they relate by color etc. to the floor images.  There are 800 plaster squares that make up the pattern on the wall and floor.  The paper airplanes that the projection is going through cast shadows on the floor and wall and create an ominous feel.  The audio is of a helicoptor blade slowed down to about the speed of a heartbeat and there is also a sort of distant sounding higher pitched sound that is reminiscent of a war siren that fades in and out.  (Dale is also a musician…toured with the Violent Femmes as a back up guitar player…and has a theramin which he made the siren sounds with)  The pattern speaks of the underlying way that happenings such as war cycle through our societies and also has a sort of digital feel on the wall which speaks to the notion of how information is presented through the media.  The images on the floor are the reality of what is happening…

There are many layers to the way that we set this piece up…it has been cool to hear and witness peoples reactions to it.  All in all it has been very well recieved and was worth the many many hours of hard work that we all put into it.  It is definitely the most powerful piece that I have been involved with in a long time!  Making this piece has acted as sort of a catalyst to have a greater impact on the viewer in my solo work as well.  As I said earlier…more to come on that front…

Here are some shots from the making of the piece above…

I built a grid and cast the squares from plaster...90 at a time...

I built a grid and cast the squares from plaster...90 at a time...

about 8oo squares total...phewwww  I enjoyed staking them up.  They had a nice feel to them...

about 8oo squares total...phewwww I enjoyed staking them up. They had a nice feel to them...

The gallery pre-install.  We had to black out all of the windows and light sources so that it would be dark enough.

The gallery pre-install. We had to black out all of the windows and light sources so that it would be dark enough.

I laid a grid onto the felt backdrop and then hung the pattern one square at a time...there are about 400 squares on the wall.

I laid a grid onto the felt backdrop and then hung the pattern one square at a time...there are about 400 squares on the wall.

here it is almost finished...ready to see how it looks with the projection...

here it is almost finished...ready to see how it looks with the projection...

It looks cool!!  Phew...we were relieved and excited that it looked how we wanted it to!

It looks cool!! Phew...we were relieved and excited that it looked how we wanted it to!

another shot from our trial run

another shot from our trial run

When we took it all down I was marveling at all of the technical equipment we used!!

2 projectors, 2 dvd players, and speakers...plus everything that goes with them to hook it all up.

2 projectors, 2 dvd players, and speakers...plus everything that goes with them to hook it all up.

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