Saturday, October 11, 2014

Man with Dog and Angel 2005

Man with Dog and Angel was recently purchased by Bernalillo County here in New Mexico for their public art collection.  An exhibition was held for the work purchased, and most of us whose work had been purchased, along with our friends and proud families, showed up to take a look.  I stood examining this piece for quite some time, remembering that because of the bearded figure and his possible terrorist reference, I had worried about not being able to ever sell the painting.

However, now, with the painting sold, what I saw was a complicated, triangulated relationship between the dog, the angel, and the bearded figure.  Both the dog and the man are constructed from photographs of the Reverend Dennis, an African American folk artist/minister from Mississippi, in his late 80's when I  met and photographed him.  His world was a tangled overlay of religion, militarism, and paranoia(his antiquated hearing aid probably didn't help matters much). *  The angel's body is made up of tumbleweeds and wire, as are her wings, and while she is looking benevolently at the bearded man, it's not completely clear what the dog is up to.  His tail is up, and he is alert,  not sure if he's barking a warning to the angel, or if he's ready to take a chunk out of the man.  The man looks concerned, but not alarmed, and we are left not quite knowing what is about to unfold.


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Small Brown Snake 2014

My rules were this:  all ingredients of the work I did while teaching an Intensive at Anderson Ranch this fall had to be found or given to me.  The second day of the workshop, one of my students, Trace Nichols,  showed up with a plastic bag with something inside.  On her run that morning she had found a small brown snake, dead, by the side of the road.  As the days went by, I had 4 stripped pine cones(squirrels getting ready for winter) which resembled paws of some strange beast, two dead flies, about 15 tiny sea shells, some smashed pine cones(from being driven over), a stack of lovely Japanese printmaking paper (tear offs), beautifully stained tissue with  which a student had blotted her paintings, old, yellowed, dictionary pages, a DASS transfer of leaves, and numerous copies of images printed and then discarded. And these were just a few of the things I collected or that were given to me by my students as the workshop went on. My last gift was laying on my work table, beautifully wrapped and tied in leaves.  Trace had, once again, on her morning run, found a dead animal, this time a squirrel, and knowing that she wasn't going to come back that way, had wrapped it in leaves and tied them with stems so that she could carry it comfortably on her (long) run home.  I opened the beautiful present, simultaneously gasped and jumped a several feet backwards, then thanked her profusely for the lovely present.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Big Head(Thinking) 2014

The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”
Albert Einstein

 “Stop thinking, and end your problems.”
Lao Tzu

In thinking, keep to the simple.”
Lao Tzu

I have a hard time with thinking, or rather, perhaps better said, thinking has not always been my friend.  My thoughts shape me:  they can create much anxiety and loneliness, and I don't understand why.  The thoughts swirl and repeat, swirl and repeat, especially at 4:00 am in the morning, when whatever thoughts I have seem always to go to dark places.  When I teach, I tell my students to let their brains go outside for a smoke while they stay inside to work.  I see my students convincing themselves that they can't paint, or can't collage, or don't understand color, then, when given a little push, and their hands are allowed to take over and their thinking discouraged, they are able to do all those things, and much more,  beautifully with complex creativity and, often, with profound meaning.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Big Head(Worrying) 2014

Of the three Big Heads that I did this past year, "Big Head(Worrying)" is my favorite. It's the one that I most identify with.  The colored dots of perspiration dripping from the head's face and forehead, the background, made of columnar paper; straight, rigid, meant for keeping careful track of numbers and accounts. The eyes and ears are tiny,  fever dream features, and the mouth is from a photo of a young friend who has a congenital disorder that is causing him to lose his teeth. It's a large head, with big worries, not just about numbers, but about the environment, children, the on-going war in the middle east, aging, bad backs, the tea party, mothers with dementia, GMOS.  I could go on and on, but it's probably better if you just add your own worries so that you can relate to "Big Head(Worrying)" as I do.  It's good to be able to share.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Big Head (Listening) 2014

My process is this:  I take paint and move it around on a panel until something happens that looks good to me; that gets me pretty worked up.  The next thing I do is to take paper of some kind, either  photographs I have taken, paper that I've painted on or altered in some way, or paper that has something on it.  Then I take the paper and start to cut it.  The cutting releases something, lets some genie out of the bottle, and allows me to start making the image.  I arrange the paper,  mostly with mushy purpose but sometimes--very rarely--with clear intent. 

With Big Head (Listening) the intent was clear almost from when I had the panels cut, which is very unlike me.  There was an idea in my head of big heads (and they are big--the panel is 49" x26"), and that they would be formed as negative space left by the paper.  The paper I used is handmade paper with little flowers in it, given to me by a friend.  The mouth, eye, eyebrow, and ear  were all bits and pieces from my enormous collection of photographs(I have thousands of pieces of photographs that I have tried to organize in my own arcane way.  For example, I have two plastic boxes with just photographic heads.  One box is labeled "not real heads" and the other "real".  Within those categories they are organized by size and sex, either male or female.  Each category has it's own little paper folder to keep it with it's peers).  The motion and action of the existing paint determined the title of this particular big head.  With Big Head (Listening), it was the pink paint sweeping from one side of the head to the other, starting with, or ending at, the ear.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Horse Resting 2014

For as long as I can remember, I've carried an image of a horse, or horses, resting.  There has always been a fascination for me of seeing a horse rising from the ground, and conversely, watching as they first drop their knees, then their hind ends as they take their bodies down.  They are large beings, and just the fact of getting up or down requires a lot of energy and activity.  They can sleep standing--their knees lock--so laying down for them is a sign of being either very secure, or sick.  The other wonder to watch is when, after returning from a hot and sweaty ride, they drop down and then roll, turning side to side, legs waving in the air like a big bug.  Supposedly, a horse that can roll all the way over and back is the sign of a good horse.

When I did this image, I know I had in mind a painting of several horses resting in a pasture, so I went online to see if I could track it down, a favorite from my childhood. What's interesting is my use of a tree to define the horse, clearly having been impressed by the tree in this painting.
I also came across this Chinese painting of two horses resting, one on the ground, which I thought captured the same quality of peace that my horse has.
And lastly, I found an image of one of my favorite artists, Deborah Butterfield.  Both horses are made of wood:  cottonwood trees in my case and sticks and mud in hers.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Obsession 2014

For quite some time now my students and I have been working on different ways to transfer photographs to other surfaces.  Our biggest success has been with polymer transfers, and we have unraveled many of the secrets of how to make those transfers work(most of the time).  Lately, we have been working with DASS transfers, the brain child of Bonnie Pierce Lhotka     With care, those transfers are consistently rich and full, but can be finicky and require using Lhotka's transfer paper and "Super Sauce".  Most recently, I have been experimenting with ink jet transparency transfers. 

After a few weeks of trying different ways of making the transfers, and most of them working only some of the time and not very well, I turned to youtube, and found clips on how to do the transfers(Gary's here has over 160,000 hits  ).I watched all that I could find, and was appalled at their sloppy techniques.  "No problem", I thought to myself, "I teach this stuff". So, back to the studio, armed with lots of knowledge and ideas of why things weren't working.  One woman had said in her demo, "Don't be cheap about applying lots of the glue!", so I knew to load up my brush with the "glue".  Days later, I wasn't much better off, except that I knew what would happen if I used too much of the polymer medium, and what would happen if I was stingy with it.  I tried regular brushes, foam brushes, and even my fingers(sloppy technique!) to apply the medium.  Still bad. Always something lifting or smooshing or disappearing, but with tantalizing bits and pieces of it working perfectly.  I kept working.  One night I dreamed that I was doing full body transfers of people.  They worked just fine in my dreams.

 The images piled up.  Sometimes they almost worked. Sometimes they were a complete and total failure.  Days went by. I kept working.  But the interesting thing that happened was that when I would first pull off a transfer, and realize that once again, it hadn't really worked, I would be disappointed. However, later that day or the next, I would come back, look at the image and find that I liked what I was getting, or perhaps, better said, what was happening that I didn't have much control over.

One night, I thought, why not just put make the layers in photoshop and then put the pieces of paper through my printer and get the image in a 100% true and faithful way, so I did:
 But what I decided was that I preferred the rough, hand made quality of the image, rather than the smooth perfection of the inkjet print print
I'm not sure where I stand with all of this.  I have never really used any of these transfer processes in my own images, but at this point I have 50 of these transfers.  I'm just going to try a few more.  I'm thinking if I use canvas for the ground and load my brush fairly heavily but not too much......