Thursday, January 01, 2009

This semester I presented to myself some significant challenges. While still very much in love with the printed image, I found myself looking for new ways to present it. I decided to replace paper which is the typical support medium with glass. When doing so one has to ask why? What are the advantages of the new support medium verses the old? Glass has the qualities of illumination, molding, slumping, and breaking. This print (they're both the same) originally came off an intaglio plate onto a transfer paper which was then used to transfer the ink onto the glass. In this case a sheet of white glass was printed on and a sheet of clear glass placed over the top and fused. The print in the black shadow box was dropped to break it, and then reassembled in a broken manner with the various pieces at different height levels. The print is about Apartheid in South Africa and it's effect on those it brutally repressed. The broken piece symbolizes on Apartheid shattered the lives on those people.

I'm also experimenting with slumping the glass prints into plaster/silica molds, but haven't gotten things to a point that I am satisfied. Stay tuned!
This semester's techniques included new ones such as fabrication as well as the delightful castings. These two pieces illustrate both techniques. They are both related to spirituality and were intended to go together. The casting with its flat space in the middle was to hold the fabricated piece. However, they just don't work well that close together. As the suggestion of Cambid Choy, UWL's sculpture professor, next semester one of the projects will be an extention piece that holds the fabricated piece at eye level while attaching to the base on the floor. Stay tuned!

Sorry for the poor pics. You would think a photo minor could do better!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

After "Standard Issue" (see next article) I meandered back up to the Grand Marais (MN) Art Colony for a workshop on Fusing and Slumping Glass. This a lot of fun, and I already have a project in mind for it. I finished off my summer workshop series with a trip to Peters Valley Craft Center in Layton, NJ. It is part of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, and so is very rural and pristine in character. It is actually an old abandoned village and the park supervisor wanted to preserve the buildings. So, he talked the craft center to move in and help take care of them. My studio was about a quarter mile down from the main crossroad in an old farm. We stayed in the farmhouse, and the studio was in one of the barns. So what medium did I take? Chasing and Repousse on Steel taught by Kirsten Skiles from Desoto, WI. Strange I had to go all the way out to New Jersey in order to take a class from a home area artist. However, she also has some upcoming classes at Tunnel Mill near Rochester, MN. You can visit her blog to see some of the incredible artwork she produces. There are also some photos from the class there, and you can get an idea of the process. It is a cold forging process for moving metal. One works the metal sheet from both the front (chasing) and back (repousse) to produce a relief. One uses pitch in a pot as a supporting medium to help keep from punching holes through the metal.

Okay, so now we are getting around to the photos. One needs to have a pot to put their pitch in. Judith Berger of Blue Moon Press, a truly multi-talented person and one of my classmates, suggested I find a used discing blade to make my pot. If you're from Wisconsin you will recognize that is one of those circular discs farmers pull in gangs over their fields to break up the soil. Using my scavenging skills, I rescued one from being melted down at the local metal recycling yard. I wire brushed it to clean it up, used by blacksmithing skills to heat it and put just a tad more volume to it, and finally welded in the hole in the bottom. There you have the fore and aft pictures. Beautiful, huh? Well, okay it's a tad squiggly. I had it pretty good, but when I welded it I think the heat warped it a tad. I'll have to go back and re-true it as best I can. I have ordered the pitch for it, and when it arrives I will start work with it.

What am I going to make? A friend, and Portland, OR poet Christopher Keller has commissioned me to make a piece for the front cover of his upcoming third publication. It is a love story between Horacio and La Maga. I won't go into the particulars, but will leave that for when the book is out. At this point I envision representing both characters with facial masks. Horacio will be made out of metal, and thus the need for the pitch pot. La Maga will be made out of glass with perhaps a print or text encased and then slumped into a mold. I'm very excited about working on these, and anxious to get going. I will be sure to add more articles on them as they progress.

I was invited to Karl Unnasch's "Standard Issue" which is an artist residency on metal casting, or in particular what is called an Iron Pour. Iron Pours are way over the top. Easily one of the most exciting mediums going. The week starts out making forms out of clay, progressing to making resined sand molds off those clay forms, and finally pouring molten iron into the molds to hopefully achieve a piece. The fact that it was run by Karl makes it - well, it's kind of hard to find the right words but surreal comes to mind. This guy's not your average run of the mill farm boy. To be quite truthful I think he milked one too many cows in his earlier years. Standard Issue was held on the farm outside of Lanesboro, MN of his parents Rich and Winnie Unnasch who can only be described as "salt of the earth." Truly enjoyable people, and Winnie is an artist herself and participated in the pour as well as tending to the many chores of farm life.

La Crosse artist Jo Ann Planavsky who was also in attendance kept telling me about a grouping of cliff swallows she had seen the previous day at a local rock quarry. So, off we went for some inspiration, and it ended up being the subject of my pour. I was entranced by the close social life of the birds with their dense grouping of mud nests hanging high off sheer rock faces. The female entombs herself within the nest with her eggs for protection from predators leaving only a small opening to receive food from her mate. I tried to capture this intensely close and dependent relationship in my piece.
After Penland I headed for Grand Marais, MN on the north shore of Lake Superior to the Grand Marais Art Colony for a five day workshop on drawing. After that I headed to Pigeon Lake just outside of Drummond, WI for a seven day class on blacksmithing. Pigeon Lake is an old post-depression CCC (Civilian Conservation Corp) camp. It is still very authentic (albeit rustic) containing many of the original buildings which are in good shape. Yes, it sits on Pigeon Lake. It is now owned by the University of Wisconsin system and administered by UW-River Falls. They have added a couple of newer structures that function as classrooms and workshops. The UW campuses offer a variety of classes in the summer. These classes by the way are one of the biggest bargains going, including instruction, room, and board well below what you will find anywhere else. The blacksmithing class was taught by Ron Verdon of UW-Stout. Ron is a super guy, great teacher, and a lot of fun. Most of my classmates were non-students that keep coming back year after year because they enjoy Ron, the class, and the surrounds. Ron's challenge to us was to try and find the essence of what it is we wished to portray, and express that. This assemblage of "Leaves" is the result of my efforts.
I had an absolutely awesome summer of art workshops. Just after the end of the spring semester I was fortunate to be accepted to the Penland School of Craft in North Carolina where I enrolled into a two week Blacksmithing class taught by Philip Baldwin of Seattle, WA. Penland is situated in the eastern part of the state up in the Appalachian Mountains, and is a quite beautiful area. It follows the traditional blueprint for craft schools of isolating the art students in a beautiful area for inspiration, outside of urban distractions, and providing for all your needs (room and board) so all you have to worry about is art making. There were many mediums being taught, but my recent interest in blacksmithing lead me to that studio. It is an incredibly well equipped studio, and a real pleasure to be in. The story behind this picture is our instructor Philip Baldwin (second from left in the light blue shirt - that's me way on the left) boasted that we could replicate a form that the wood working shop turned out. Well, we did pretty well, and I think I can safely say the wood workers put no where near as much physical energy into it as we did!

Lately I have been getting very interested in the three dimensional side of art. That third dimension to work with is very exciting and adds a lot of potential. Not that I am about to give up on the two dimensional world. It would be very difficult to give up the love of many years so easily. I even find myself thinking about getting back into my passion for photography - large format black and white film. I haven't done any for a couple of years now, and find myself missing it. However, I keep finding new and exciting mediums to explore, and find it nearly impossible to not explore them! These pieces came from my spring semester 2008. They both deal with the same subject - our countries insatiable appetite for oil. The oil pot consuming itself is titled "Gluttony" and is cast in aluminum. It is pretty much self explanatory. The wall piece is titled "Melt Down" and is made in steel by blacksmithing and fabrication. It deals with how the unceasing search for oil is distorting our world, and beginning to cause it to deteriorate.

This piece represents a new direction in which my art is heading. I call it taking the print "off the wall." The traditional way of presenting a print is on paper, matted, framed, and hung on a wall. The viewer has become trained to view and relate to the traditional print in a uniform way. I want the viewer to be able to see and relate to a print in a new way that they have not been able to do before. This sculptural piece is titled "Overpopulation", and is based on the intaglio print that inspired it. Blacksmithing and fabrication techniques were used to created the metal form. The print is encased within paraffin wax and fills the open voids within the form. I like the translucent qualities of the paraffin wax not fully revealing the print at first look. At first the lines of the print appear as stress lines on the faces of those suffering the consequences of overpopulation. Upon closer inspection one realizes the image is composed of thousands of smaller faces reflecting the pain of the larger ones.

I also hope to explore this using glass instead of paraffin. There are techniques for printing on glass or encasing prints within glass. Even further, these printed pieces of glass can be slumped into molds creating three dimensional pieces. The fall semester at UW-La Crosse will hopefully provide the opportunity for this.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

At the end of the Spring semester 2007 I was awarded an Undergraduate Research Grant to study Printmaking in South Africa. Part of the proposal was that I would study techniques used there and incorporate these new techniques into my existing vocabulary. In the Community Art Centers people off the street with no formal training are taught printmaking techniques as a way to give them skills in order to earn a living. Since they are very poor, they are not able to afford the expensive materials we are used to in this country. Often times their print matrix is composed from found materials. Their prints are very simple in construction and composition, but exhibit an amazingly strong presence. As a result for the Fall 2008 semester I simplified my own printmaking techniques in an attempt to get the same qualities so brilliantly achieved in the South African Art Community Centers.
This series deals with social issues, primarily global warming. The first print, which is also the simplest in technique is a salute to the the black artists who suffered through Apartheid, and is appropriately titled "Apartheid." The others in order are titled "Over Population," "Melting Polar Caps," and "Chemical Pollution."

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Again this semester in printmaking, I am working off from the same set of plates the entire semester, continually trying to explore new possibilities offered by the image. These were pulled after the first trip through the acid baths with no aquatint applied yet. There are three plates, and the chine colle is applied at varying places in the plate printing order. I managed to get this image accepted into the All Student Juried Art Exhibition which gave that little pat on the back we all need now and then.
The study of 3D in Foundations II has been hugely enjoyable to me. It is quite a change after working in 2D for so long. The semester started out with lots of reading, and watching of videos. Finally we have gotten to the point where we are working on projects. This was the first one, and the goal was to take a 3D object, reduce it to 2D, and then return it to 3D. We took a photographic slide of an object, in this case a 52 Chevy pickup. We then projected the image onto paper mounted on a wall and traced the lines. We then took foam core and built a relief model from the drawing. A real brain twister, but hugely fun.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

At the end of this past semester I had the opportunity to participate in the "Pele Iron Pour" put on by Cam Choy, head of the sculpture department. These things are way too much fun. Lots of energy, excitement with the preparation of the molds, and tension with the presence of molten iron. We all divided up into four person teams and tooks turns getting a heavy bucketfull of molten iron from the blast furnace, and trying to hit the little bitty pouring hole in the mold. Some teams seemed to have put more on the ground than in the mold. That created immediate excitement as there was a scurry to throw dirt on top of the molten iron so as not to cause injury. I kept myself busy taking pictures (ugh, with a digital camera) and joined them into this collage. If you click on the image you should get a larger version which will allow a better look.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

What I posted on these intaglio prints earlier were exploratory monotypes where I was trying to figure out how to do them. These prints are the intaglio version which are much richer and more interesting. It's the only image I worked on the entire semester and I ended up printing 60 prints of it. What I learned from that is there are endless ways to interpret a print. Just because we have reached a print that we like doesn't mean there are many more other interpretations to be discovered. Some perhaps even better than what we first achieved!

Here's the balance of the intaglio prints from this fall semester.

Most of these are the remaining assignments from my Commercial Photography class at UW-L. A couple were taken at the Badlands National Park were I escaped to over Thanksgiving break. The portrait was taken with my latest camera, a Crown Graphic. It was made somewhere around in the early 60's. If you remember the old pictures of the press photographers with their rather largish hand held cameras with the large flash bulb attachment, that's what it is. Basically it's a hand held 4X5 camera, and of course, large format black and white is my passion.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Sorry that it has taken me so long to contribute to my blog. Now that I am retired, it seems I am spending all of my time working on finishing off my degree. I hate to say it, but perhaps that adage "I've never been so busy since I've been retired" is perhaps true. This semester in printmaking is a new turn for me. I've never spent so much time working on a single print. So far it has taken up the entire semester, and promises to do the same for the balance of the semester. This image is based on a photograph taken in Alaska this past summer. It deals with global warming, and what may happen if we don't soon take it seriously. These are all monoprints tht I've used to work out the final design. Now that I have settled on that, I am now starting to experiment with different ways of etching to achieve what I want. Right now I am working on sugar lift. Needless to say since I am just beginning to work with it, nothing works out right. That's why I say it may take the balance of the semester to get this single print done.

This semester at UW-L marks a return to another of my passions - photography. Although Commercial Photography is not exactly my cup of tea, it is a requirement for my photography minor. Fortunately Dr. Grant, our instructor, has allowed those of us on the fine art side of things to be more expressive in our images. These are all shot with a 4X5 film camera, certainly the love of my image makers.