Sunday, November 29, 2009

Recycle, Reuse, Rework

Yes, I thought. I might as well be creative and keep an optimistic outlook during this time of trouble or else start working at Burger King for the rest of my life - but I'll go down making art, by gum.

So in a non-Burger King and self-pleasuring mode, I've been casting a critical eye at the stack of work taking up space in my studio and thinking about reworking it.

This prime target was Lewis, encaustic and mixed media on three panels, 24"x66". I always really liked the two end panels with horizontal stripes, so I decided to take them away from Lewis and use them in other works. (Don't ask what I'll do with the center section because I haven't decided.)

This is the panel that appeared at the right side of Lewis after I repainted the top and bottom to make them more monochromatic. This panel is 24"x12" and I'm going to add a 24"x24" panel so the new diptych will be 24"x36". My plan is to make the new square mostly white(ish) in the center with color top and bottom so it will be the reverse of the panel above.

This is the section of the end panel that I'm going to copy to put in the center of the new square.

And here I am making the beginning of the new piece by cutting circles into a thick layer of white encaustic with a couple of layers of medium underneath. I'll paint over this to fill the circles, then scrape back and work the surface with some oilstick to get a mottled effect like the section shown above. (This square panel, by the way, was scraped back from another piece I didn't like, and I built up the depth to match the 12"x24".)

Here's the second panel. This one appears to the left of Lewis and I've also repainted the top and bottom of this one.

This is the section that contains the part I'm going to focus on in the new square - those dark circles. But of course I had to reinvent the wheel somewhat by building up the circles into more dimensional areas.

This is what the square panel looks like now. The top and bottom are masked with newsprint and yellow tape to protect them. I made two areas of lumpy circles that have quite a lot of wax on them and then black oilstick rubbed in and partially rubbed off. I'm waiting for the oilstick to firm up before adding more layers of white wax on top. The center area contains the same felt circles I used in the original 12" panel.

This is a (very vague) idea of what this diptych will look like. The center of the new panel will be mostly white with color top and bottom and the horizontal lines of white/color will carry across through both pieces.

At least that's what I'm planning now but we'll all just have to see how it turns out, won't we?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Peek Inside New England Wax

Chair Kim Bernard standing at the head of the table to open the meeting

New England Wax (N.E.W.) is a networking group for artists who work in encaustic and live in the six New England states. It was founded three years ago last August by Kim Bernard, who has served as Chair of the group since its inception. I've been the Co-Chair for about a year and a half. The group has grown to nearly 100 members and volunteers handle all the administrative tasks of keeping the group running. We hold about six meetings a year and try to get a couple of juried shows organized every year for our members at venues that are located by a member or team of members.

A closeup of Kim at center of picture

The group is pretty informal and communicates through a Yahoo site and direct email. We have a website where each member has a page for images of their work and we post other public info about the group. Many of us have formed friendships, organized smaller shows and encouraged each other to give talks and demos at the annual encaustic conference.

Our Mission Statement:

N.E.W. provides opportunities
· to exhibit
· to share technical information and aesthetic ideas
· to build friendships with other artists

Our mission is
· to promote excellence in fine art made with encaustic
· to educate the general public about this medium
· to increase interest in encaustic in the art world

Looking across the room at the members attending

On Saturday, November 21st, we had one of our regular meetings that drew 30+ members. We are fortunate that Kim is a grad student at MassArt in Boston and able to get a large meeting room for us in the Graduate Student Center, complete with a digital projector that unfortunately was not working on Saturday.

Another view toward the end of the table

We usually have a delicious and colorful pot luck lunch to go along with meetings and this was no exception.

After discussing the future of our group and how we intend to maintain a high level of professionalism for it going forward, we discussed some other business and showed images of our work on a laptop in the darkened room - not a good way to see images but the best we could do with a broken projector.

After adjourning the four-hour-meeting, we walked across the street to the MassArt residence hall where Kim had an experimental installation of new work in the gallery there. The gallery had a very innovative door that was actually a sliding wall.

The wall that will become the entryway to the gallery

Kim sliding back the wall to open the gallery

Kim sets the balls moving in her new kinetic piece

This piece is composed of cement balls with long springs inserted in them that are hooked onto the ceiling. When the balls are pushed downward, they start bouncing, and Kim says they keep going for 20 minutes. She is planning a larger version of this work with some other additions for her solo show next year at the Boston Sculptors Gallery.

Viewers engage with the work

This was an fun cap to our meeting and an opportunity to see how Kim's work is developing as she pursues her master's in sculpture.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Reality Show

I was in the studio today scraping down an encaustic painting to the bare panel and thinking how great encaustic is to work with. There is no other medium that can be totally reversed the way encaustic can, and that's a great thing for reworking paintings that ultimately don't make the cut.

And after working with oil paint last week, I realized again how messy oil cleanup is compared to encaustic. With encaustic, I can just unplug, clean off my hands with vegetable oil and sayonara.

But of course, everything is relative.

If you've never worked with encaustic and/or only know it from looking at instruction books, you probably think it looks like this.

So neat, so clean and so totally staged. (You can tell that this was taken a long time ago because my heat gun is still aqua and the rubber tree is still alive.)

In the foreground of this fairly neat looking table are some of the lovely wax balls that scraping paintings makes.

But tthis is more the reality - wax everywhere, heat gun turned grey from wax buildup and table barely visible.

Wax drippings everywhere you look.

And the floor is basically rising around the painting area.
When I walk from the painting area to the woodworking area where the wax on my shoes picks up the sawdust, I know I'm really becoming part of the process.
But that's life in the studio.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Wherever It May Be

Tonight I'm posting the ultimate in me-ism - 5 shots of one encaustic construction called "Wherever It May Be." When I came home from the studio and downloaded photos of the piece, I showed them to Bonnie, my resident art critic. She pronounced it, "One of the weirdest things you've ever made."

So with that recommendation, here is the first view.

The overall dimensions are 36" H x 60" W. The deepest part is about 3 1/2", and the most shallow is 3/4". It's all encaustic with mixed media on panels.

This is the piece I mentioned a couple of posts ago. It's comprised of eight paintings or constructions that relate in some way to my mother. I wanted it to look like a narrative but not be an explicit story. Originally I intended to use photos, but it started looking too scrapbookish.

This view shows the dimension of various components

Instead, I decided to use repetitive images - circles, doilies, gothic shapes, and repeating color.

Closeup of right side

In the center above is the first piece I made for the combo. It began with a handkerchief with a hand-crocheted edge. My mother gave me dozens of them and they just about fit on a 12" square. In the outer circle is some text written in shorthand, and the inner circle says, "To the memory of my mother, wherever it may be."

The vertical blue piece at left above contains most of my mother's cocktail rings and a string of her pearls. The vertical piece at right above pays homage to the many wedding cakes my mother decorated and sold.

Closeup of the left side

In the brownish vertical piece at right above, I'm thinking of the rolled up pieces of fabric both as bandages for the many hurts my mother covered up during her life and also as memories rolled up and stored but now inaccessible.

The stripes on the horizontal piece at bottom mask a collage of handwritten notes and scraps that she kept near her chair at home. The yellowish piece at top left references her nearly lifelong practice of crocheting and the way that it faded away as she lost the ability to remember patterns.

A view of the piece from my chair on the other side of my studio that shows the work in the midst of my ongoing rummage sale.

I enjoyed making this piece because it involved juggling the shapes, colors and content all at the same time. It was also a challenge to use found materials and not have the work look too junky. If I had more time, I would make more of these constructions that I'm thinking of as wall books, but, no, onward and upward to the next new thing.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Poking Around in the Past

I've been looking through photos, old papers, scrapbooks, recipes and all kinds of stuff that I took from my mother's apartment. I'm in the middle of making a new kind of more sculptural work - sort of an ultra or uber combination of panels, including encaustic paintings, dimensional components and all kinds of things. The idea is to have all the parts relate and make a narrative on the wall without narrating - the viewer reads the components and puts together the narrative which may be just a visual journey or a discovered biographical story.

So much for the heavy explanatory lifting. You'll have to see it when it's done.

Here are some pix of my mother that I'm working with.

Here is Eleanor a few years back looking very calm and happy - on a cruise, I think.

This was a formal portrait by Purdy, a famous Boston commercial photographer, taken when she was in her teens.

And this, of course, is my favorite. The idea of my mother on a horse is so ridiculous and unexpected that I was astonished when I found this (cropped and de-colored by me and Photoshop). This strange event must have happened during one of her many trips in later years. I showed her the photo to see if she could tell me more about it, but all she could say is, "Who's that horse?"

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Luxuriating in Color

Before I fell for encaustic, I used to paint with oil. I still love the gooey mess of oil paint and the aphrodisical smell of it. So I dug out the oil paint to rework three paintings to submit them for jurying into the MassArt auction. (See my earlier post about it.)

"Sticky Situation", 24"x24", oil, cold wax and oilstick on panel

"Conjunction", 24"x24", oil, cold wax and oilstick on panel

"Glory Passed", 36"x36", oil, cold wax and oilstick on canvas

I did have fun playing around and obliterating the (failed) work underneath. It was a treat to see red and yellow again after all the somber browns and blacks I've been surrounded with. But it did make me appreciate all over again how easy cleanup is with encaustic.

Which one do you think they should pick?

Monday, November 2, 2009

A Little Out of the Ordinary

Every year I participate in two art auctions: one for my alma mater, Massachusetts College of Art, and the other Icons+Altars for the New Art Center in Newtonville, Mass.

The MassArt auction is now a Very Big Deal with expensive tickets required for admission to the auction, a festive buffet with wine, a well-known auctioneer and prime collectors attending. The auction is actually juried and requires that three images from each potential donor be submitted in advance so that one of the three may be selected if the artist is allowed to participate (i.e. donate). Both an online and a printed catalog are prepared, and images must be submitted in November for the early April event. I made three (reworked) oil paintings to submit for jurying but haven't photographed them yet. I'll show you when I do.

Home Sweet Home, encaustic with mixed media and found painting, 16 1/2"H x 6"W x 1"D. (In case you can't quite make them out, those are aligators or crocodiles swimming in the pool below the tranquil scene.) (And that's plastic lace so it shouldn't need laundering.)

But meanwhile, I sent off my piece above today for Icons+Altars. This event is not actually an auction because all the works are sold for one fixed price. (This year $250.) When you buy a ticket, you are entitled to draw a number which indicates the order in which you may select an artwork from the 107 pieces that have been donated. The work is supposed to represent either an icon or an altar and the size is to be kept fairly small, but after that, anything goes.

I usually spend an inordinate amount of time making the piece and get way too involved. This year wasn't too, too bad because I came across that saccharine painting in the cardboard pseudo-wood frame when I was clearing out my mother's apartment. It is actually 3D with dimensional mountains, birches and fence, and it looks just like our sweet little home (nestled close to the western Mass. Alps, on the shores of Lake Superior). It's truly an icon, representing both the idyllic vision of home we all have and the more realistic pool of aligators we find ourselves in after we own the damned thing.