Sunday, October 30, 2011

Disks and Letterforms

I’ve always loved the alphabet, and have often included text with my paintings, like this one from four or five years ago.

When I set up my Museum Cases at the Wood Art Gallery in 2006, I included what I called a “waterline” (that went all the way around the room, about four feet off the floor) of random text culled from spam emails. These spam emails (now, they're from the ancient history of spamming...) used to contain text copied from novels, poems, and other “legitimate” texts, in an effort to get their advertising pitches (mostly for penis-enhancing drugs and devices) through the filters.

What fascinated me was that even though the words (I just chose nouns and adjectives) were truly random and completely out of any kind of sequence, people couldn’t help making meaning of them, reading them like a poem.

The same is true of the small black and white figures I created in Maine in October. The letters on their chests are random, but people think they see their names and words in them, as though the letters were just scrambled from intact (and discoverable) words.

This is the sketch for a wall installation with letterforms that I made in Maine

and here are some of the disks I painted with both spray enamels and oils. When they’re dry (gee, it takes a long time for them to dry; I had to bring many of them back to the studio covered with wax paper!), I’ll be working on a large piece, and deciding whether it should be in the loose configuration of the sketch, or in a more formal arrangement with a steel frame.

Artmaking in Maine

I’m just back from a week of artmaking near Rockport, Maine. My art group, 2nd Tuesday, rented a house situated on Penobscot Bay for the month of October and we all went when we were able. The rent was very reasonable, and the house came with everything – linens, kitchen equipment, and heat. But no TV or internet connection. Perfect. Alex Bottinelli, who had a sabbatical from her work, spent the entire month, and some others were able to spend up to 19 days in one or more trips. I had a quick trip early in the month with my husband that was more of a vacation, and then went back from October 23-28 to actually do some work.

People set up studio space in various parts of the house, but mostly in the big, heated garage, that had windows and was a really great studio space. The house is associated with a place that rents small summer cabins right on the water. It used to be a destination, with a dance hall and dining hall in the early 1900's, and it still has old stonework and a lingering sense of history.

During my first visit in the early part of the month, I discovered the dump, filled with wonderful things that only Janet could love, including old rusted sheetmetal firepits, a pile of lath from latticework, and some dead colored lightbulbs that were strangely appealing. It came in a rush to me that I would split the lath to make arms and legs for small people, some black and some white, with random letters in the opposite color. I made a test piece in the studio when I was back in Vermont, and hit the ground running when I got to Maine.

Unfortunately, the thing with the basins just didn’t work. Not enough figures to really fill it up? I don't know, but they just looked like a pile of messy sticks. I wound up taking the tubs (and the lightbulbs) back to the dump.

So I tried some other things with them – combining them with old rusty slats from a rusted venetian blind, and...
then I just started to play. I took them down to the water and sat them on the rocks.

But BEST of all, and the piece de resistance, was this Homage to Magdalena Abakanowicz!

I also did a lot of work with letterforms, did a prototype wall piece, and painted many disks that I will be integrating into a large wall installation. I'll write about that in another post.