Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The New, Cleaner Studio

So many things are changing in and around my studio. The City of Barre has torn down the building next door. I used to look out my windows at the roof of that building, but now there's a big open lot. Just two years ago the roof was resurfaced, and today they were filling in the huge hole that was once the foundation and basement. What a strange use of resources. SPA may make a sculpture garden there while the city figures out what to do with the site (and gets the money to do it).

So here's the main area of the studio. You can see Preaching the Gospel (subject of a post below) at the right. Plus I have re-worked the big wall piece called Dots that uses disks in a steel frame, adding more layers.

Here's a detail shot of it. I've made the additional disks and buttons applied to the surface stand out with metal spacers, trying to get more depth. Georgia Landau thinks the disks (such as the one in the second row down on the right) with painted concentric circles are distracting and not mellow or restful like the feeling of the rest of the piece. I kind of agree with her, so I may remove them, but I'll have to drill and paint up more monochromatic disks, and I'm not wanting to do that right now. You can compare this to a similar piece I made several years ago (sold).

Another task I've been meaning to do is to mount one of my big polychrome fish sculptures. You can see it below, on top of the room divider. It swivels; maybe I'll make a quickie video of that. The fish is one of the pieces I have on sale in the studio during the month of December, 2010. I'm going to make a post in the next few days about the sale with the new, shockingly low prices.

On the other side of the room: I took lots of 3-D pieces off the display shelves to add them to the All Aboard piece at Flynndog, and decided to use the space temporarily to put up my Priests paintings so I can think about them and where I should go next with this work.

The workbench was sort of clean and tidy at some point in the past few weeks, but as soon as I start working on something it becomes a disaster area again.

Likewise at the front of the studio. There's always tea mess on the counter.

The Disarmed

I forgot that I was working on this post back in June, when I was showing my Disarmed installation at Flynndog. All the pieces in the installation lacked arms, and were suspended from the ceiling. The shadows were pretty cool. You may notice that some of those pieces got repurposed for the All Aboard exhibit (particularly the largest one, which got arms, used for leading a fish...).

I did some nosing around on the internet looking for other artwork that used the "disarmed" idea, and found this fabulous one called Disarmy Men, by Blake Fall-Conroy. He bought bags of plastic soldiers, removed the weapons, resealed the packaging, and replaced them on the shelves. Soldiers without guns!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Preaching the Gospel, a repaired and repurposed sculpture

The sculpture in the video below used to be called Sing, Sing, Sing, and was one of my ORACLES series of standing sculptures. (At left is an image of the oracles stored in my studio. You can see this one in the right rear corner.) But several years ago it fell over and the neck (which was about ten inches long) broke, so I took the portrait off the front and used it for another purpose, and put the piece in the repair pile.

This month I drilled the neck hole out and added the left arm (a piece of an old loom that Pria Cambio gave me). There's a device on the back that keeps the arm oriented, but I think it would be better if the pounding and gesturing of the arm was a bit less regular and staccato. Also, I may make a stand to stabilize it, and put some little people in the area where the arm strikes...

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Back in the Studio

Now that all that big three-dimensional work is safely stashed off-site, I have spiffed up the studio and there is actually room to move around and make new work. I have assembled things that have needed repair for some time (perhaps a topic for a future post) and turned to making new work.

One of the object lessons of the recent All Aboard installation is that, at least for now, I need to stop making large 3-D work. It's hard to store, hard to transport, and doesn't easily find buyers. So I want to make something that's smaller, lighter, and possibly more commercially attractive.

Another thing I'm seeing is that after the strongly political nature of the work in All Aboard (looking at gender, war, the oceans, coupling, animals...), I want to do something a bit more lighthearted. I have been feeling so disturbed by the angry, wrong-headedness of the currently political situation that I have turned away for the moment, and am making work that's a little humorous. Zany. Witty.

For the last several years I've been using wine tops in a kind of collage technique, identifying them as homages to the late Roy Levin, who did quite a few pieces with this material. But now I've decided I've been working with wine tops for long enough that I can feel comfortable using them under my own label, so to speak.

So far I've made two series (the individual pieces are each 5.5 x 10"). The first series of six pieces is called Erogenous Zones, and includes (left to right: Brain, Face, Neck, Breasts, Back, and Genitals). The relevant zone is indicated with copper-colored foil. Click on an image to get an enlargement.

The second series is called Aches and Pains, and includes (left to right below) Migraine, Lower Back, Knees, Heel Spurs, Carpal Tunnel, and Rotator Cuff. The pains are blue.

The next series will be on the topic of Beverages: wine, beer, tea, coffee, etc. I'm thinking of making them into cards, or some other kind of multiple. Stay tuned.

All Aboard

I'm finally posting some pics I took at the end of the Afterward exhibit at Flynndog, which was up during the month of October, 2010. My part was called All Aboard and Emiko's was entitled Cornucopia.

When I got there to take the exhibit down, Emiko had already removed her work, so the only image you get that includes her pieces is in the previous post.

I've posted shots that give a sense of the scope and length of the "train" of sculptures, as well as some detail shots.

Right now the pieces that weren't sold during the exhibition are stored in the basement at Flynndog (Thank you, Bren!). So my studio is now MUCH emptier, and I actually have room to start some new projects.

And here's the statement for the installation:
What happens when a tree is killed, when a piece of metal falls off the bottom of your car, or when you throw out your grandma’s photos and a bunch of broken glass? Sometimes those random bits of matter (from what I call the planetary dumpster) are scooped up by artists and given an afterlife in art. All the materials in Afterward were acquired in this way.

In my installation, All Aboard, there’s also another kind of rescue and re-purposing going on: for this project I have used my own work from the last twelve years as raw materials -- combining them, adding new elements, and making narrative groupings. A very happy outcome of this process is that my studio now has much more room! And now that I have sent my children of wood out into the world to make their way, they will not be coming home to the studio. So make me an offer (each of the “cars” has a chalked number) if you would like to take any or all of them home with you afterward.

I think of this installation as a march, a procession, a circus parade. In the sweep of time, human history has been changed as people moved across the face of the planet in migrations and expulsions, the triumphal processions of conquerors, the yearly trek over the Tokaido Road, and political demonstrations. And along the route, the advancing (or receding) multitudes cast off their broken, spent, or useless stuff – even, sometimes, their wounded – like a grim or comical trail of breadcrumbs back to nowhere.

That’s the big picture. The small picture is that each one of us is marching in the parade of life: we stroll, run and roll through our lives until we get where we are going – which is death. And here is the “art” we leave by the wayside.

The titles I’ve affixed to the “cars” suggest different human states and experiences on this road of life. I have found that many people are grateful to be offered ideas about how to think about this work and find it helps slow them down and enriches their exploration of each piece. If that works for you, great. If not, then just move on down the line.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

AFTERWARD at Flynndog

I've almost finished putting together my installation All Aboard at Flynndog in Burlington, in a two-person show with Emiko Sawaragi Gilbert. Her installation (of manipulated found branches) is called Cornucopia, and the exhibit is titlted Afterward, which refers to the fact that both our work is made from found materials, mostly wood. And of course, it's coming after On the Planet, an exhibit I curated of Japanese and American artists at three sites in Vermont (including Flynndog)

So, I've had to immediately switch gears and get the work out of my studio and move it to Burlington. Here's my husband and the packed van.

Here's a link to details on Vermont Art Zine about the exhibit. There are two openings:
  • Thursday, September 30, 6-8 PM (Bren and Emiko will be there on Thursday, but not the next night)
  • Friday, October 1 (Burlington Gallery Walk), which I will be doing solo, 5-7 PM
And here are some preview shots of the show; I may make a few changes before the opening, but it's basically done!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Installing Music of the Spheres at NRG Systems in Hinesburg

On Wednesday, June 2, I finally went over to NRG Systems to install the Music of the Spheres, that they bought way back in August of last year. Here you see Steve Knowlden and Martha Keenan at the end of the hanging process.

The lagtime (from delivery to installation) has to do with our mutual effort to find someone there to create a lighting system that uses moving light to make the shadows on the wall move and dance.

Any of my readers who has seen the film about my Circular Statements work by Gail Marlene Schwartz (with music by Michael Arnowitt) may remember that I've been trying to develop such a lighting system, but so far haven't been able to figure out how to do it. I tried a computerized system with a timer-chaser (which is now being used with Disc Dance at the ECHO Center), but it didn't do what I wanted. So I figured that I was really lucky to have a piece bought by NRG Systems, a place filled with Engineers!!, and now maybe it really could happen.

Guy Kirchoff is now on the case, and I'm hopeful that he'll come up with something wonderful to make my Dreams of Dancing Disks come true!

Stay tuned!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

New Wine

OK, the wine that's been sitting in a carboy in my kitchen for over seven months is finally in bottles. The label isn't as funny or inspired as last year's S'WINE label (see below), but it tastes good and I'm glad to have the brewing operation out of my way for another few months. For the last few years I've stopped trying to remove labels from old bottles (a major pain in the neck, and sometimes just impossible), and just recycled my old (commercial) wine bottles, washed them out, rinsed with boiling water, and put the wine in. My label goes over the commercial label. Kind of a nice hodge-podge.

I'm not planning to get pigs this year. We bought two goats, who will become this year's meat at the end of the summer. (Summer is coming, right?)

Monday, April 19, 2010

DC Photo Opportunity

So here is a Vermont Arts Council photo with Senator Leahy in front of Susan Abbott's work in the Curator's Choice Tour at the Russell Rotunda in Washington DC. A better photo from Leahy's office will be coming later, I think.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Alter(ed) Ego, Family & Friends at Flynndog in Burlington

Before I headed out for DC (see below), I put up an installation I called Stepping Into My Mother's Shoes (and genes, and brain, and…) in the new show at Flynndog called Alter(ed) Ego, Family & Friends. The show will be up from April 9 - May 30, and there will be an opening reception during the First Friday Art Walk in Burlington on Friday, May 7, from 6-8 PM. Most of the show was installed on April 7, after all the artists got together to hear and read each other's statements and bios.

My piece used my paintings (and my mother's drawings) from our collaboration called Jungian Journey. Additionally, there was a dress affixed to the wall with buttons, and a pair of my mother's baby shoes. I've printed my statement about the piece underneath the photo below, which was taken by Tina Escaja, one of the artists. It was dark at night, so I'll try to take a brighter photo the next time I'm there during the daytime.

Stepping Into My Mother's Shoes
(and genes, and brain, and…)

There's something about long-time relationships - whether with family, friends, or colleagues - that makes us real, by which I mean that when we share history and experience, it grounds us in time and space. For example, having participated in exhibits here at Flynndog many times in the past makes me know this space, know Bren, and be known by them. We all have many people and places that are part of our circles of intimacy, whom we know and by whom we are known. Our relationship with parents is particularly rich and powerful, as we not only share history and experience, but also the very substance of our bodies and being, both nurture and nature.

This installation contains pieces of a project I did in 1997 called Jungian Journey. When my mother, Sandy McKinney was almost 50, she joined a Jungian women's group near Santa Fe, New Mexico and embarked on a series of "guided active imaginations", then entered into a more intensive analysis with a Jungian therapist. In the course of this exploration she was encouraged to draw the powerful characters that were emerging from her unconscious. She made 14 pencil drawings and many years later wrote about the whole experience in an unpublished manuscript entitled Promethea.

The small drawings always interested me, and when I came to be about 50 myself, I decided to do a series of paintings responding to these drawings. I tried to universalize my mother's characters a bit by giving them more generic titles than her more personal ones. I called them speaking portraits because they state their case in chalk-like utterances directed to the viewer.

Other elements in the installation make reference to my painting series called The Red Dress, in which the red dress represents the body, or the garment of meat in which we are all clothed. This time the dress is blue, the color of my mother's baby slippers, sky, and water. We are not only meat (red), but also mind (blue). And buttons are falling through the whole thing, connecting me to my mother, and you to me.

A week in DC, installing the Art of Action in the Russell Rotunda

In the April 13, 2010 issue of ROLL CALL, the Capitol Hill Newspaper in DC, this photo appeared. I can't remember (or even imagine, given this photo) what I was doing, but as my son Jonas said, "Apparently there was some crazy lady loose in one of the Senate office buildings with a screwdriver and a shock of wild salt & pepper hair. I think they called in Marlin Perkins to hit her with a tranquilizer dart."

I was there to install an Art of Action exhibit, which was up from April 12 - 16. Here's a more sedate view of the exhibit, at the reception/photo opportunity in the Russell Rotunda, following the coffee hour in Senator Leahy's office.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Disc Dance Still at ECHO in Burlington in the Contraptions Show

Disks are still making happiness happen at the ECHO center. Have you seen it?

More Button Dresses

This is the last of the catch-up projects I decided to do after getting back from Japan. (Actually it was the first piece I worked on after getting back, but I hadn't photographed it before yesterday.)

It uses the last of my antique thread stands, and this one is special because it is a double. Over a year ago I made a sketch of a black and white pair for this stand, and so it was just a question of making it happen. Under the conical bottom of the stand is another antique piece of wood from the Lane Shops that I got from Schuyler Gould.

All my button dresses are sold and gone. This is the only one remaining. It's interesting how these appeal to people. Perhaps it's the charm of the miniature.

13th Green Mountain Film Festival Window

Sunday, March 28 was the last day of the Green Mountain Film Festival. What a great event! I was constantly running into people I hadn't seen for ages and having the pleasure of catching up on their lives. This sense of community (that is almost like extended family) is so important for a healthy public life, and Vermont is still small enough to make it possible. We are really indebted to cultural enterprises like the Savoy, SPA, and Focus on Film that, through the dedication of hard-working and public-spirited visionaries, bring us opportunities to step outside ourselves, get together with others, and connect with the creative life of our species.

It's odd -- several times in the last few weeks I've heard people saying that the 60's generation was self-absorbed and self-indulgent. That is not my experience, as I see the (really quite selfless) efforts of these cultural organizations, most of which are founded, staffed, and supported by my generation.

I did the Rite Aid window for the festival, and took some photos before I removed the work. I went through a few different configurations of the circular elements before I was even slightly satisfied. In the end, I went back to my studio and brought back some of the the new IN THE WEB work from Japan, and felt that brought it together. Nevertheless, it did feel like a bit of a hodge-podge.

I bought the big piece of red fabric last May from the Re-Store in Barre , intending to use it for banners for the CIRCUS show I curated at SPA. It turned out that I only used a bit of it, so it was pressed into service for the window. Maybe hodge-podge is not such a bad thing -- stirring around the pot and re-using, re-purposing, and re-imagining elements already in one's possession.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

I'm on a Roll

This is a piece I've had in the hopper for quite awhile, made with the metal foil (previously lead, but now mostly some other kind of metal) on top of wine bottles -- working on it mostly at home (where I consume wine). I fear the good old Parisian days of wine in the studio (except at receptions, when I am the lone server of wine in the SPA building) are not a part of the Vermont scene, in my experience. I finally brought the figures I'd been working on into the studio last week, along with a load of wine tops that Dorigen Keeney had saved for me, and finished it over the last several days. I still need to figure out how to frame and/or present it. I think it needs to be covered with plexi or glass to keep the pieces in place (though they are affixed with double-sided tape to the 48" high backing board, which is covered with silver metal foil).

It's an homage to the late Roy Levin (who, among other things, made constructions and collages out of wine tops) called Standing on the Shoulders of Giants. I love the idea that we are able to have a broad and expansive view of the world only because the way has been paved for us by those who went before us (such as Roy). Even a tiny person standing on the shoulders of a giant can see farther than the giant him (or her) self. And I like this Perilous Pile of People, dangerously leaning, but not falling!

And that's something to think about, and take heart from, in this time when the problems of the world seem to be getting more intransigent, and political life more rancorous, more nasty, more depressing (well, maybe not as depressing as when George W. Bush was president, but still...). Hope is again hard to come by, but from up here at the top of the pile we can look back and see that not too long ago in this country there was slavery, lynching, and no vote for women. There were giants who helped put those evils behind us, and maybe we smaller people can continue to move the ball forward now.