Thursday, April 22, 2021

Telephone in 7Days

Pamela Polston wrote about telephone here https://www.sevendaysvt.com/vermont/vermont-artists-participate-in-international-telephone-project/Content?oid=32813653

Vermont Artists Participate in International 'Telephone" Project

Everyone knows the childhood game of Telephone, right? Well, imagine if, instead of being a linear progression from one ear to the next, the prompts went to multiple people at once, creating more of a family tree than a telephone wire. And, instead of a continuum of words that are misconstrued along the way, the medium of the prompt transforms as it filters from one artist to another; for example, a painting might be translated into music, or poetry, or dance.

That is the simplest description of Telephone. The international art project and game launched on March 23, 2020, and has concluded with a massive online exhibition. The collection of interconnected pieces went live for public viewing on April 10.

Telephone's press release is an exercise in superlatives. Nine Vermonters were among more than 950 artists in 489 cities and 70 countries who took part. The team of 10 volunteer administrators came from some of the biggest tech companies in the world. The online exhibition integrates more than 10,000 artist files. A viewer can choose among hundreds of "pathways" leading from original to final artwork.

Exactly nobody made any money from the project.

Telephone's originator is Seattle artist and UX designer Nathan Langston; a previous game was in 2015, and its prompt had something to do with the sea. On the website, Langston explains how he chose trees as a general topic for this Telephone, searching thousands of sources for a prompt. He found it in an obscure Newsweek article on "The Majesty and Mystery of India's Sacred Banyan Trees" by British biologist Mike Shanahan. (Coincidentally, Shanahan's American publisher for 2016's Gods, Wasps and Stranglers: The Secret History and Redemptive Future of Fig Trees is Vermont's Chelsea Green Publishing.)

Instead of following a straight progression, as in the 2015 game, Langston threw a curveball. "Halfway through the game, we reverse the process," he writes. "We start assigning multiple artworks to a single artist. We ask each artist to find what the works have in common and to create a translation of that into their own art form."

Somehow, it's all meant to conclude with a single artwork.

The Vermont contributors to Telephone were painters Larry Bowling, Adelaide Murphy Tyrol, Kathy Stark and Elizabeth Nelson; sculptors Sam Talbot-Kelly and Janet Van Fleet; filmmaker Michael Chinworth; and poet Rage Hezekiah.

Cabot-based Van Fleet said the artwork she received for inspiration was a mixed-media collage by a Canadian artist named Sahar Hakimi. She submitted the following explanation of her own creation, an hourglass-shaped construction made from wire she found in her barn.

"The grid/window in the piece that was whispered to me suggested the liminal zone between inside and outside, past and future, you and me, the human and non-human worlds," wrote Van Fleet. "Suddenly, I began to see it as an hourglass — the sand falls down, you turn it over, and then it starts flowing all over again."

The Telephone administrators dispatched an image of Van Fleet's work to another artist. Neither she nor the other nearly 1,000 participants had any idea what the cumulative results would be until the reveal on April 10. "The vision for this thing was really, really cool," Van Fleet said.

See the 2020 Telephone art project at phonebook.gallery.

 


Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Telephone

The whole game of TLEPHONE, created over the past year by a group of volunteer web developers, artists, and organizers, and involving over 900 artists from 72 countries, is up online at https://phonebook.gallery/

Vermont artists are :

Rage Hezekiah, Poetry, Pownal, Vermont
Janet Van Fleet, Cabot, Vermont
Larry Bowling, Collage, Barre, Vermont
Elizabeth Nelson, Painting, West Glover, Vermont
Kathy Stark, Painting, Craftsbury Common, Vermont
Michael Chinworth, Film, North Bennington, Vermont
Sam Talbot-Kelly, Sculpture, Montpelier, Vermont
Adelaide Murphy Tyrol, Painting, Plainfield, Vermont
Michelle Lesnak, Painting, Montpelier, Vermont

You can search for each of them in the Search area of the site. This is a very cool game, and I recommend giving yourself a good stretch of time to wander through it. Each artist (including filmmakers, dancers, poets, musicians, painters, and sculptors) got one or more artworks created by previous artists, and then made a "translation" of that work (or works) in their own artform. 

For example, here's the "whisper" I got from an artist named Sahar Hakimi:


And here's what I made and said about my "translation"


The grid/window in the piece that was whispered to me suggested space-time and also the liminal zone between inside and outside, past and future, you and me, the human and non-human worlds... Suddenly, I began to see it as an hourglass -- the sand falls down, you turn it over, and then it starts flowing all over again. And the present, where we are in this moment (like the woman in the piece I received), is in the middle, the narrow, transitional space of Now. I have shown that with a narrow neck and three balls of fine golden wire. The piece is 36 x 12 x 9”.

I work with found materials, typically found wood and metal. But they didn’t seem right for this piece, which wanted to be more conceptual and abstract. I am quarantining at home during the pandemic and have some tools with me, but am limited to what I find in my environment. As I wandered about hoping for something to call to me, I came upon a length of black fencing in my barn. It seemed perfect. The final challenge was photographing my piece. My house is made of wood and there are no white walls or a pedestal to position the piece. I was able to go to an empty gallery in the village and photograph it there. The outcome wasn’t optimal, but these are not ideal (or even normal) times.

 

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Three New Pieces

 I've been working through the month of March on the Arts Marathon, created to support refugees and asylum-seekers through the Central Vermont Refugee Action Network (CVRAN). I've been making small and large pieces, as usual from found materials. Here are the latest iterations of three of the larger pieces:

 

Hugging a Fish, wood, steel, cardboard, paper mache, rubber, 56x18x5"


Code, antique "code practice oscillator" case, wood, bottle caps, stone, annealed wire, 56x16x6"
 

Ship, wood, bones, goatskin, metal, antique shoe last, 45x27x16"




Thursday, March 11, 2021

March 11

So many different things in a day in the studio! 

INSTALLING ART

When I arrived, SPA's executive director, Sue Higby, was ready for me to install the insects in the main gallery for the new exhibit, Up & Away: A group exhibit about flight. I brought down the six wooden insects I'd made, and we installed them hanging on monofilament. They turn and move in a pretty cool way.

 
We also installed my hanging bird (Athena in the background).
 

Sue did seem a little disappointed that I hadn't made more, smaller insects, which I had said I might do, so I went up to the studio and made ten more small ones with wood I salvaged from an older piece with wings made from mica that a friend had given me. Down to the gallery again to hang the little ones.
 

 

 MAKING ART
 
I've worked on a piece called Mum over the last several days, and it's now in a place where I'm pretty happy with it. One of its arms is extended, and there are also hands in the chest area, made with stuffed gloves, stiffened with polyurethane (though clearly someone else's hands, as the thumbs and hands are in a position such that they would be your hands, possibly, in the sculpture...). Are they protecting, or are they enforcing the mandate to be mum?
 

REPAIRS

One of the many tasks in the studio is fixing things that have broken (I'm a terrible breaker-of-things myself, but in this case it was a piece owned by someone else). The mounted photograph (with application of black wine foil for clothing and a hat) had come unmoored, and a small perfume bottle broke off.  I had to do the gluing in two separate operations. Here it is waiting for the glue to dry on part 2, the perfume bottle. I had to have some way of stabilizing it, and a clothespin seemed to do the trick. I'll find out next time I go into the studio.



Monday, March 8, 2021

March 8

 Today I recycled the spiral bits from yesterday's failure. I have a piece that is, again, offering something -- in this case, a sailboat.

I have always been a bit obsessed by boats, though I don't know why. I grew up in New Mexico, and boats were certainly not a thing there!! I have a whole series of boats I've made recently, that I exhibited at the Visitors Center in Montpelier just as the Pandemic started. Here they are, back in the studio again:


 And today's boat, a blonde confection of sorts


The boat body is made from a segment of a seed pod, and the sail is skin from a banjo head. The head is a piece of driftwood that darkened more than I expected after I painted it with beeswax (with which I finish most of my wood pieces).

I also made a lot of progress on the Mum piece... more on this on Wednesday.



Sunday, March 7, 2021

March 7

 I went into the studio today fully intending to work on the MUM piece at the end of the previous post. I was intending a figure, a child, held by the mum, and did a piece whose arms and legs were made of segments of a dried vine, with a subtle natural spiral.

 Aargh! No! This isn't a baby! It's long and skinny; a baby is short and chubby. And that's a mess how those legs are attached to the body. Take it apart! So, several hours later, with new arms and legs and taking its place with several other recent small pieces proffering things, I got:


The object it's offering to us appears to be a church. I found it at an old house where I also got the chair leg that I cut up to make the body. Hmmmm.....

But this was all a digression. Making these Proffering or Offering figures seems to come easily these days, but the large pieces are not happening. I force myself to go back to Mum. And suddenly I realize, maybe "mum" isn't a Mother; maybe it's about being silent, or even about being silenced. Wow.

Let's see where this goes tomorrow...

Thursday, March 4, 2021

March 4

 Working on two small figures today, each about 15 inches tall. The first I had made several weeks ago -- it had a body with lots of small nails and tacks driven into it (like an African nkisi figure), long arms hanging down on each side. What were those arms doing? Were they feeling for something, should they be holding something?

Today I rummaged around the studio and found a carved wooden cone that was given to me. It isn't a chillum, because it only has a hole at one end; maybe it's for burning incense? It seems to be made of sandalwood. In any case, I began to see it as a musical instrument, and decided this figure should be playing it. I also stabilized the legs with glue and new pegs, so now it's in pretty good shape. 

Over the years, I've gotten better at "fit and finish", making things that are more well-crafted and don't fall apart. I've needed to cultivate patience. I have to drill proper pilot holes so I don't split the wood, glue properly, finish the surface, saw carefully, sand the edges, and not break things.
 

 

The second piece uses the fish on a dish from two days ago! I think of the head as a wolf, but I'm not sure it's right for this piece, so that may change. It appears to be offering the fish, which is an image I've used frequently in past work (often it's someone holding out a child).


Am I avoiding working on the larger wall-hung pieces? In some ways they are much harder, because of the scale. It's also hard finding a place to store or hang them in the studio when they're done! But I fiddled a bit with the Mother piece, thinking that the round body I was using may not be working. This is just playing. I will have to keep at it tomorrow.  It might be holding a child.


Tuesday, March 2, 2021

March 2

 I think painters love the physical experience of moving a loaded brush across a surface. Maybe for all artists there are  sensory parts of their practice that excite and engage them. For me: I love screwing screws into wood with a power drill and I also love banging on things. It just feels great, and, in both cases, makes a cool noise. Right now, I'm into using a ball-peen hammer to texture and round the surface of metal disks (in this case, the tops of tin cans that I have removed with a special can opener gifted to me by a friend that keeps the outside edge intact so that you don't cut yourself on the top you've removed).


 

When I made some yesterday, I thought "A silver dish!", and that transported me to a song that one of the first people I met in Vermont, Sarah Webster, used to sing, Dance to Your Daddy: "You shall have a fishie on a silver dishie, you shall have a fishie when the boat comes in". Words, lyrics, cultural references always circle around when I'm working. And then I just had to make it!

 I spent quite some time today working on a piece that I have changed substantially since I started it. It was called Play Ball, and looked like this:

I decided to remove the catcher's mask and the circular body, then it went through a few other iterations, and here's the result of today's work, with its stone nose and drawer-pull lips.

 

 
And finally, a word about materials: I use wood that I find, often outside when I'm walking or jogging. I love wood that has been modified by other animals -- beavers, wood miners, or other people, like this wonderful piece with its gorgeous vermiculations:
 

 Today I cut it up into 7 sections and am beginning to make some small people. It's handy to have small people around in the studio. You can always find a use for them! They will get arms and legs at some point, probably, but they're also nice just standing still.


Monday, March 1, 2021

March 1

The last time I was in my studio at Studio Place Arts (SPA) in Barre, I finished making six flying insects for the next exhibit at SPA, on Flight. They're hanging in the studio, waiting for their moment.

I figured some of them would come back to me at the end of the exhibit, and I could incorporate them into a big, wall-hung figure of an insect, so I had begun working on a head with a proboscis made of a funnel and wire, and eyes of beaten can lids.

So much of making art, at least for me, is trial and error. You think you've got a great idea, and then you start making it and it doesn't feel right. The wooden face was too flat, and the eyes too garish. So today I worked on another way of putting it together, and that may still not be what I need. I will put it aside and revisit it.

Now I wanted to make a piece, even a quick one, that wouldn't remain a work in progress, but could stand on its own (a little joke...). I had a bull's head I'd recently made, and was wandering around looking for what to use for the body and yes! An old record box that used to look like this:

but now looks like this, as of today! I often reuse and repurpose things many times over (I removed that figure awhile back). The only way to make that recycling stop is for someone to buy it and take it away!

 And finally, I'm working on a large wall piece of a mother holding a baby. I seem to make these habitually. This one was in a recent exhibit at J. Langdon in Montpelier, bought and taken away, so I can't deconstruct it any more:


and this is the one I'm working on now (with the insect eyes re-purposed as breasts) laid out on a table, with the legs leaning up against it. It's very much in progress, but I think it will come together.



Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Cleaning the Studio and Getting Ready for CVRAN Marathon

 I'm going to be doing a project called  March Arts Marathon during the month of March, in which I make a commitment to make work every day of the month and share images with supporters. Here's the letter I sent out to potential supporters on February 2.  So far 25 wonderful folks have responded with donations that will help support refugees:

I am participating in a project of the Central Vermont Refugee Action Network (CVRAN) called the March Arts Marathon to raise funds for their Asylum Seekers Assistance Fund that pays for legal bonds, living expenses, and lawyers’ fees.

I am hoping you will go to my page on their site https://cvran.org/janet-van-fleet/ and donate to help this effort. My part of the bargain is to send all donors (who are supporting this effort through me) information about what I'm working on in my art practice in the month of March. During the pandemic, I have not been going to the studio as often as previously, but I will commit to doing something each day (even if it is art projects with my grandsons, with whom my husband and I are podded up). My aspiration is to send daily emails to those who sign on, with an image. But if I fall behind with reporting in to you, I will certainly post at least once a week on my blog at https://janetvanfleet.blogspot.com/ detailing what I've been up to, and send you a link.

I have an idea of making small booklets to be sent out to donors at the end of the month (with images of work I've done, kids' drawings, etc...), but we'll see if I get that together. No promises yet.

I hope you are healthy, happy, hopeful, and hankering to help refugees!

The studio was such a mess that I had to go in and spend over eight hours over the last week or so hoeing it out and organizing shelves and materials. Here's how it looks now. Whew! Let the artmaking begin!



 

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Rolling On at Studio Place Arts

 

Studio Place Arts (SPA) has four great new shows in their galleries at 201 North Main Street in Barre, Vermont. In the Main Gallery on the first floor (newly painted with one gorgeous white wall), the exhibit is all about wheels, which has been a big part of my work in a variety of ways for the last ten years or so. I have four pieces in the show, the earliest (2007) being Feeding the World, from my series called Rolling Boil.

I made another series of four pieces that featured wheeled chairs in 2017, all of which were built on small chairs, had wheels, and bones. This is the second of those. It uses a modified doll carriage, and contains an antique slide of a naked man in a wheelchair, affixed to the top of a wooden box that acts as a sort of light table. A piece of white paper at the bottom of the box reflects light up through the image.



And finally, two pieces using cars from my current group of large, wall-hung figures, that I wrote about a few posts ago.

SPA is very careful with Covid precautions, so I hope folks will feel comfortable seeing the really wonderful exhibits that are there right now. Here's a flier to show what all the shows involve and information about gallery hours: