Thursday, May 29, 2008

Overload ... In A Good Way

I was at the Swedish American Museum here in Chicago...

Task at hand ... to select a piece from their permanent collection ...

The Swedish American Museum Center maintains a permanent collection of history, art and artifacts dating back to the mass immigration of Swedes to the Chicago area nearly 200 years ago.

... to inspire a piece of artwork for an exhibition at the Museum in October as part of Chicago Artists' Month

Myself and 9 other artists will be making pieces inspired by the Museum's collection.

So, tonight, I had the opportunity to meet the other artists, the Museum director, some of the jurors, and Jason from the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce.

And, the opportunity to look through the collection to choose my piece. That's the overload ... so much was inspiring. So many different shapes, artifacts, and story elements.

It was hard to pick a place to start, and even after I had selected my inspiration -- I selected a wooden sled and two small horse shaped figurines (white with delicate blue markings, with one horse standing and the other fallen over in the display case, feet in the air) -- this horse I will have to research and think about as I think it's quite symbolic of the Swedish American immigration experience, an icon of sorts -- many other items sparked interest. A 1955 Nursing School graduating class photo, with all the graduates wearing old fashioned (not so old fashioned at the time, I'm sure) nurse's caps, plus old medical implements. Many tools that looked very worked with, expressing the labor - and care, really -- that undoubtedly was made of them. Very different looking furniture design -- a chair with a triangular seat, for example -- all holding up well to time. A Swedish bread making circle that was very abstract on the wall -- a circle within a circle, with the diameter of the larger circle stopped by the circumference of the circle. Wonderful embroidered samplers that a Museum board member was kind enough to translate. A wedding cake making device that had a crank handle and looked a bit like a wooden blimp form -- oval, bulbous.

Some days, and some places, creative neurons fire, and this was one of them.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Now Showing: Chicago Looks

Chicago Looks launched today on Chicago's Riverwalk between State and LaSalle. 40 portraits by Chicago Artists about Chicago, it's people and it's built environment. Presented by the Chicago Department of Transportation and the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, Public Art Program.

My portrait, shown above, is Daniel Burnham: Vision and Legacy. We are incredibly fortunate to have accessible lakefront to enjoy.

Other artist friends participating in this exhibition include James Mesple and Vanessa Shinmoto.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

All Awash With Gimmicks ...

There was a time when I painted on mirrors; a professor suggested (their job to criticize, right?) the mirror was just a gimmick. I could defend the mirrors, albeit, they were not entirely successful in relation to the concept that engendered them. At the time, I was obsessed with the idea of painting empty space -- the actual air between objects, not as air particles, not the objects visible in the negative space between focal point objects -- and kept getting stuck on painting the objects themselves as definers of the empty space between them. I wanted to navigate the space between the objects without being dependent on painting the objects. Because mirrors reflect the space of their surroundings, I painted on them, maintaining unpainted areas of reflection and blotting out other areas with paint. The result was some areas of deeper space, and some odd incongruities between painted image and reflected surroundings depending on where the mirrors were displayed. But more important, there is space between the reflection of marks on the surface of a mirror and the marks themselves, a kind of in between area that I could ponder as empty space or transitional space between the real world surroundings and the image world, albeit it's a very narrow band. There's a whole history of the mirror in paintings, which I was thinking about simultaneously, but I won't digress. I watched this transitional space develop as paint touched the mirror. Cracks that developed in the mirror also reflected themselves, with that same small space between the cracks and their reflections. I learned from my mirror work, which is enough for it to be more than a gimmick; Sometimes, all process can do is teach something, open up new ideas and perceptual lens.

The professor's question was a good one, even if he may have been being contrary for the sake of making me defend my work. The mirrors weren't being received by him in a visual way that suggested concept. It's entirely too easy to rest on gimmicky techniques.

I stopped with the mirrors because they were too fragile, reducing their portability, which at the time was important to me.

A Word About Photoshop Processes ...

Meaning doesn’t have to depend on emerging from process – but I find I like the process to facilitate, underscore or otherwise impact meaning. Has anyone not played with Photoshop . . . multiplied an image or piece of an image over and over into a pattern or faceted constellation? Pumped up saturation until highlights and shadows are a day-glo facsimile of original image? Joined two images to make one image or diptich? There’s a lot of this now. Is it still possible for the images created this way to take on real meaning from the process – no longer new enough to be original or even particularly out of the ordinary? If one goes for the same result as an image, sans photoshop, does meaning change with the labor and skill involved?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Accepting A Little Failure

I ruined a paper construction piece today; it was experimental, so ruining it at some point is to be expected. Still, I was getting spoiled with how well my experiments were going lately, I was a little taken aback, even as I proceeded to make one bad decision after another on the piece. I made a number of discoveries along the way, and partly salvaged the piece. I'll continue to pare away at it. I won't get it back to the place where it once was working, but I may get it to another place, perhaps one that will work even better (one hopes). For now, it's fodder for digital superimposition experiments, like these ones, Predator Exposed To Extinction and Partial Extinction Slide:

Thursday, May 8, 2008


I've had to shift my work to a temporary space -- they are putting sprinklers in my space. It's proven to be surprisingly off putting. I've worked in temporary spaces before; usually, I find the change of scene conducive to my work. Not this time. It's dead quiet, with absolutely no interruptions. Just me and the work. And this is not a space in which I can be particularly messy.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Deterioration In Art

I've been thinking quite a bit about deterioration in art. It's natural, especially with when the art process involves a great deal of experimentation and envelope pushing.

Pollack's paintings supposedly shed chips (the paint was household paint, so made to fall apart really). I find the shedding of the work interesting.

The paint has come off classical statuary -- to the point that we view classical as white and unadorned.

Da Vinci's Last Supper is more myth/legend (not sure the proper term, really) than painting, since it started to deteriorate rather quickly and has been in-painted, etc.; yet the myth/legend is strong.

Cave paintings survived for thousands of years precisely because they were hidden from view; now, discovered and exposed, they are deteriorating.

Great buildings fall to time, weather, war, and new construction.

Some deterioration is ironic: fairly quick crackling in Mondrian's work undermines his utopian ideals.

Yet, old master paintings are valued in part because they managed to survive hundreds of years (some level of care taking by some set of people valuing the works enough to preserve them).

The art I showed at The Artist Project was based on scavenged images and materials, included decades old paper and yarn found in my childhood home after my mother's recent passing. Here are some stills from the video I took of my installation at The Artist Project:

What Comes of This




The venue wasn't the best venue for my work, which is conceptual and tends toward the ephemeral. Live and learn.