Sunday, December 30, 2012

Phase 4 - acknowledge limits, conclusion

The week between Christmas and New Year’s is always a kind of sad week for me as I sort and organize as a way of letting go of one year and preparing for the year ahead. One of my missions this week was coming up with and implementing a system for Tempus Fugit photos (I ended up creating a project folder with folders for each phase with all the photos placed in subfolders by date posted. In a separate folder within the project folder is a place for the artwork only, divided into subfolders by month.) I think the system will help keep the photos organized moving forward (and during Phase 2 (be prepared for good things) I invested in a back up system – thinking it’s hard to be prepared for grant applications, etc. without documentation, right?) So the photos are now all safe and organized, and I updated the artist site with a new section for Tempus Fugit. Going through every photo for the project starting in July 2012 helped me acknowledge limits in a few ways.

One thing that stood out about the work is that, though I work quickly, my process is consistently inefficient. To illustrate - I carried out the idea of a gift edition of tiny prints (pictured last week). The prints are each hand printed because with the cuts in the surface re-fuse under pressure. Each block only yields a small edition (the latest was 25). Then, they’re collaged (adding an “unnecessary” element), and because they’re circles, each one gets cut out by hand (no paper cutter.) Then I like to use a dark border in the image, but I don’t like the white on the edge of the paper to show, (so I tone the edge with color pencil.) Then I mounted these to a 4 x 6 inch paper so they could be framed, (adding an additional layer of paper rather than printing them directly onto a 4 x 6 page.) Since I arrived at this process after months of refinement, the inefficiency isn't accidental. I think it relates to the premise of Tempus Fugit – that the dedication of time/space is a ways of showing devotion. That by making the process time consuming, I increase the time I spend with each work as a way of investing it with my devotion (which can’t be directly measured).

I’ve been continuing to work on the larger work with the tracery and repeating figures, and while it looks different than the tiny prints, I think the idea is similar in that I’m covering the areas of tracery with color in a very time consuming way – with tiny parallel lines in ink instead of paint. Not only is this a way of investing myself in the work, but it creates a contrast with the figurative part of the image in terms of touch vs. something that can't really be touched directly (or all those little lines smear). Each is a way of investing the self, one through direct contact and the other through investment of time. The iconography of the tracery is Gothic, and the idea of investment of time as a form of devotions is also, I feel, Gothic, because in Gothic art, the devotion of the maker seems more important than whether or not there are “mistakes” (for example, the famous “crazy vault” of Lincoln Cathedral, where the ribs on the ceiling are askew). The imperfection could be read as a sign of­­­­­­ the humanity of the maker. 
But even if that’s true – reading Lyotard’s Inhuman and having seen the show Wade Guyton OS at the Whitney a few weeks ago (a very interesting show – recommend, wrote about it for work here, and it’s still on view for about 2 more weeks), I guess makes me question whether that element of humanity is of value in an image, and does it matter that it’s produced by a human in this way instead of some other way? hmmmmmm.

Organizing the photos was a great way to see the artwork on its own without house projects, baking creations, or even cute kitty photos, but it reminded me that this project really wouldn’t be very interesting if it were all talk and no doing/making things. In terms of a practical application - I’ve been considering a big change to the tracery piece and it’s taking me a while to work up to it even though, once started, it will have to be done quickly. Thinking about it for days isn’t a way of deciding, I think it’s more of a process of letting go of one phase and accepting that once changed, the current state will be lost forever.  So, on that note, I think that’s a perfect place to stop for 2012 and start 2013 with Phase 5 – be brave, every decision involves loss.
Going through the photos, I also realized that, with the 
exception of matching colors already there, I've only
been painting the house with shades of white and grey,
so I decided to get myself a little present.
 (those are tiny prints in process in the background)

Happy New Year and Best wishes for an art&happiness-ful 2013!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Phase 4 - acknowledge limits, update 4

This past week has been overflowing with art/music/animals and baking activity.

I went to the American Museum of Natural History to see butterflies. I’ve written about butterflies a couple of times before on the blog, and they show up in work. A few weeks ago, I heard a lecture by academy award nominated director Courtney Hunt (and wrote an article for work about it). One of the things she said that struck me was in response to a question about how she got her ideas for films. She talked about how she has lots and lots of ideas - most of which never develop into films - but when an idea comes back over and over, she know that that’s an idea to purse. I like butterflies because they have a symbolic connection to the soul (the word for butterfly, “psyche” in ancient Greek, is the same as the word for soul) and beyond that, they are so impossibly fragile yet full of movement and life - they're like color incarnate. I’m not quite sure what I want to do with this idea yet, but I took lots of photos.

I continued holiday cheery-ing by making mini-cards.
and gifts. I liked the idea from phase 2d of making an edition of a tiny print to give. I’m learning too in terms of accepting limitations and asking for/taking expert advice. I tell friends and family when I give them artwork (and new cookie recipes too) that they're helping me by sampling/testing, and it’s true. One friend's response to a tiny print was that she loves the print, but finding a frame has been difficult. I don’t want to change the size of the patterned paper or prints, and I can’t offer them framed right now, but I decided to attach the latest edition to a backing that fits in a standard sized 6 x 4 inch photo frame (the change has received thumbs up).

I thought I’d reached the end of my holiday baking, but it turns out, it was really more of a pause. I used doing more baking as a little bit of self-bribery – that if I dealt with some difficult things, only then would there be more baking. It turns out, baking is an excellent motivator.

So because I’ve been working on my kitchen and doing a lot of baking lately, the time/space organization of my kitchen has been on my radar more than usual. This is a bit of a tangent, but it does relate to the time/space management aspect of tempus fugit.

I eat oatmeal almost every morning with different fruit and spices in it and have repeatedly put chili powder instead of cloves in my breakfast by accident. This bothers me because I hate wasting any food, and it’s especially frustrating to make the same mistake over and over. So in terms of phase 4 – acknowledging limitations, I tried to step back and consider if there are limitations that I can work with to come up with a new solution. I concluded that I mix up cloves and chili powder even after I tried storing them in different locations because the jars look the same (same brand, same color spice). They’re labeled, but I must not really read the label, or if I do, it’s not enough to override the visual identification I’ve already made. While I may be able to train myself to read the labels every time, that’s really more time than I want to devote to this. So I thought I'd try a more visually-oriented organization based on color. I found the jars and rack at a dollar store (cost – one cup of fancy coffee – score!) I picked out the 6 spices I use almost every day. Breakfast spices are warm color jars, lunch/dinner are cool color jars. The color lid is associated with the contents (pumpkin pie spice mixture is orange, cinnamon is red), and I mixed some cumin in with the chili powder, since I always use them together, so that it looks different than the cloves (and it's in the green jar as far from the warm toned breakfast spices as possible.) I decided to forgo labels, since (apparently) I don’t read them, in favor of a better view into the jar to keep track of refilling. I haven’t mixed up anything so far using these. On the one hand, I know it is foolish to be thinking about butterflies, spice jars, and art when there are far, far more pressing issues nationally and globally; but on the other hand, this was the problem I could solve this week and coming up with a solution made me feel better prepared to tackle bigger issues.
reworking started in the upper right corner and will move toward the lower left.
I got some thoughtful and helpful responses to my question last week about photographing work better and tried to make improvements within the existing framework of time and space. I thought about the source of the issue and concluded that maybe my challenges photographing the whole piece derive more from limitations in seeing rather than photographing. I don’t think I actually see the whole piece at one time. I see it more as fragments of detail to be mentally reassembled, and that may be why I like the detail shots so much.  Presenting it as a conglomeration of areas is closer to how I actually see the work. However, because it’s important to be able to present the piece as a whole, I changed the bulbs in my studio, doubling the brightness with much more energy efficient, wide spectrum, compact bulbs that give off light which is closer to daylight. I went back to working on a piece from the summer that I don't feel is working yet, but after the carnival piece, I feel better about trying again on a bigger scale.

visual record of the overlap of this week’s museum visit, cookies, and art:

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Phase 4 - acknowledge limits, update 3

and baked
and baked

and baked more
The only thing missing last week was photos of cookies. This past week - I did more baking. I wasn't planning on doing quite this much cheerying, but I feel lucky to have so many people in my life who deserve cookies (at the very least)!

While baking, I was thinking that one of the things I admire most about the cookies recipients is their quiet bravery in remaining steadfast. I think of this as the opposite of dilettantism, only doing the fun parts of a task. I heard an interview with a musician who talked about a dream (nightmare?) she had in which she went up to Art (personified), and he told her 'Art does not love dilettants' and turned away (ouch.) It made an impression, and I was thinking one way to honor my friends' devotion would be to follow through all the way with the process - packaging nicely, mailing carefully and on time (and no new baking projects until the last one is completely cleaned up). 

Now, since this is "Artwork, etc." and not "Cookies, etc." (though, really, both sound good to me :)), I tried to apply those ideas to the artwork this week. I went back to the carnival piece I've been working on for the past two weeks. The central image developed so quickly, but the rest wasn't adding much conceptually.  I couldn't recreate the spontaneity of the center (I didn't try); so instead, this week I tried to make it repetitious and laborious to emphasize by contrast the immediacy and flow of the center.

In terms of phase 4, acknowledging limits, I've also been re-thinking how to photograph the work. It has multiple scales, lots of small details, neon colors, and metallics - all things I've been finding it hard to capture.  But then I got to thinking - maybe I'm asking too much of each individual photograph? If I accept the limitations of photography, is there another way to try to record what I'm doing? So, I'm trying something new - I photographed the whole thing again, but then I shot a close up of the figure to show the touch and mark-making and took a separate shot of the ornament to show the patterning, gold, and neon colors. Thoughts?

I also had a home project. December always sneaks up on me (not sure how it happens every year), but I realized I've been living in "Owl House" (so named because it came with owl tchotchke's in every room), since October - the time had come to move beyond the camping cot and sleeping bag. I found a beautiful headboard at a salvage place and built a net in place of a box spring. The mattress came rolled in small box (who knew?) and the frame was modular. I got to put it together with help from my feline assistant (and a ghost apparently - see the orb - it only shows up in this photo even though I took several pictures in a row from the same spot.) Clearing enough space to put the frame together in the tiny room with all the bedding removed was a little challenging, but I get "good human" points for building the best kitty fort ever.
It's comfortable,
as my feline assistant will attest:

"Really, Mom? Interrupting nap time 

on my new bed for pictures, Really?"

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Phase 4 - acknowledging limits, update 2

:) (c) 2012 

(c) 2012
On my list of favorite things, right up there with "art" and "coffee" is "cute animals." I went to the Central Park Zoo this past week for the first time!  I feel a little conflicted about zoos, but have decided that if a creature were not in the zoo, the alternative would not necessarily be roaming happily (that binary opposition ignores other possibilities, like being part of the digestive system of another creature, becoming a fur coat, etc.) Thinking that animals wish to be somewhere they are not may be projecting-humaness. I think zoo animal thoughts may go more like:"this bamboo is tasty and nice to eat - oooo there's a bird - that rock looks sunny and nice to nap on." (but that might be me "kitty-morphizng" their thoughts). It was lots of fun, and I got lots of photos.

(c) 2012
To mark the occasion, and show appreciation for my very patient friend (did I mention that I took lots of photos?) I made cute cat and elephant gingerbread cookies with the new cookie molds (thank you Mary Anne!) I was traveling, so I tried a new technique for decorating by inscribing the lines before baking with the tip of a knife instead of using icing. It wasn't as colorful, but the faces came out well and the transportation process was much neater (and they were yummy, if I do say so myself), but I forgot to take a picture (in my defense, it was 5 am when they came out of the oven). It's high cookie season, so I suspect I will be baking again very soon, and next time, I'll photograph.

 I had some home projects in my kitchen, moving the fridge so it wasn't in the middle of the room and in front of the window.  It involved taking out some cabinets, and I had help from a house whisperer :). I never could have done it myself. It made me realize that I should direct energy toward the things I can do, even if that's a limited list.  One of the things I did was fixing this door. In terms of accepting limitations, whenever I hear someone say: "oh, it's easy, just (complex explanation follows)," my thought tends to be along the lines of "hmmm, well I think a lot of things are easy if one knows what one is doing, but otherwise...ummm." I fixed this door by in painting (just filling in the damaged part). For me, it was straightforward to match the color and then just paint the missing area. It used skills I have (color matching and painting) and tools I feel comfortable with (sand paper, wood filler, tiny brush). It's probably not the solution most people would have gone with (painting the whole door would have worked too). I wish I could do more, but this is what I was able to do (it took about 20 minutes and didn't require me to lift anything heavy or use scary power tools.)

I practiced limiting myself to 5 neon colors in the background, white, and gold 
I didn't go to figure drawing - limitations, choosing this or that. I would have preferred to go, but instead I did some school work that has been needing attention. I was disappointed, but I put the energy I would have put toward the figure drawing into finishing the piece I started last week - ta da!  I think the sense of touch on this is very nice. Making it reminds me that I wake up every day wanting to draw and paint and sculpt things. In terms of limitations, that isn't always a good thing, because there are also other things that require attention, and I have limited time/space/energy. I've been thinking that maybe for the next phase of tempus fugit, I can work on systematizing some of those other things as a form of recognizing limitations - I can't do or be good at everything, so I want to be really really good at this one thing and make sure I have the time/space/energy to do it as well as I can.

Fireworks are  also on the "things I like" list 
I also went to "Winter Walk" - a winter festival in Hudson. It was so much fun! It was like Carnival. Lots of art and music and good food, and general cheeriness. I didn't mind shoveling snow for the first time this week because I  heart Hudson.

Going back to the theme of doors... I continued to cheery the house for Christmas (maybe I really was an elf in a past life?) I "orchestrated" this. The best part - cost: less than one fancy cup of coffee - the bow was a hair bow on clearance (can't imagine why - who doesn't want a little more neon in their life?) The ornaments were from the tree - I learned that if the ornaments come in a pack, and one is broken, the rest of the pack is deeply discounted (like seriously, seriously discounted - so, while I would never break one on purpose, yay for someone else being clumsy too!)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Phase 4 - acknowledge limits, update

5 minutes
25 minutes
15 minutes

I went with the largest tree I could easily carry up stairs by myself .
Cost equivalent - 4 cups of fancy coffee, with decorations, 9
The question of who/what I would be if I weren't myself has never made sense to me (if I weren't myself, then I couldn't be myself as someone else, I would just be that person instead - see, it doesn't make much sense now, does it?), but as I cheerfulled up the house this week, it occurred to me - I know the answer!  If I weren't myself - I would be an Elf!  Elves purpose is to make beautiful things, decorate, bake cookies and, generally, sing, dance and cheery about. I was thinking about this because...I got a Christmas tree!   I didn't have ornaments, but I got a few boxes of candy canes (less than $1 for a dozen - that is exciting :)), a few bulbs, and - of course - multi-color lights! (I really really really like multi-color Christmas lights - they combine, colorfulness, mininess, and bright-shininess - three of my very favorite things).
I was so happy about the tree that I decided to sit under it and make an artwork on an unfinished panel I had sitting around. If I had thought it through, I would have self-vetoed the technical decisions here - it's all one layer of vine charcoal which, in theory, is a very-very-bad idea. Vine is extremely fragile, but I've used it alone before (for mini 17).  The fragility of the material makes it extremely responsive to touch and to erasure, so on a toned surface, one can work both dark (with the charcoal) and light (with the erasure) and physically push the medium around with fingers.  All good things, but it's so light that breathing on it too hard messes it up (so in my house, that means it has to be done in one sitting, without "help" from my feline assistant, who, consequently, decided to sit on my shoulders since I was being mean and denying her a napping spot on the panel). Vine smears and wipes away if one drags a sleeve or hand through it. In terms of accepting limits - while other people seem able to work without accidentally smearing, I've never been able to avoid dragging my hand over the panel, so...using this technique, I knew I'd have one shot, starting in the upper right and working down to the lower left; no going back or fixing. I'm not sure how long this took (not good at measuring time while I work, but most of the day). By the evening I coated it with an aerosol acrylic clear coat to set it on the panel and protect it (and then went and brushed my hair - wish I'd though to do that first!), and added a little bit of color pencil to bring out the highlights. Now I just have to decide what to do with the rest of the panel (I may cover the charcoal in paper while I work on the rest or I may call it quits on this one).
"Lost in the forest of and, and, and"
I also made this earlier in the week using letters like in the orange "gemini" piece of a few weeks ago, but turning them into an actual word this time (limiting the number of letters to a-n-d-&). 

feline assistant in the forest of Christmas tree
I went to figure drawing again too, except this time, I got up and started getting ready earlier so that I arrived on time, with all my materials, and was so happy about the vine charcoal piece  that I had a good session.
Limiting is hard for me, because there is always more that I want to do and see and learn, but on the other hand, it can be helpful in terms of focus - like the vine charcoal piece - by only working with one thing, I didn't have to make decisions about which medium or colors to use, only how to use a single medium better. Hmmmmm - there may be something to this one, I feel like I need to keep working on it... 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Open Studio!

mighty mini's for sale!

Come see me - I'll be a guest artist here:)

davistudio fine porcelain



NOVEMBER 23 & 24 : 12 NOON-4PM

486 Pratt Hill Road : Chatham : New York : 12037

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Phase 4 - acknowledge limits, update

So I may need to keep working on this principle for a bit. I've been cheery-fying (and cleaning) my space. The latest cheerying efforts (mostly painting, makeover cost - about 12 nice cups of coffee (thumbs up :)).  I think white paint is the little black dress of interior decorating.  I couldn't not make art things though (new doll parts), and I went to figure drawing (and made it on time too! :)), and I wanted to make these cookies for a friend.

In a sense though, I wonder if the way I used my free time is an expression of limits -I cheery-fied with paint and an arty swirl of raspberry in the cookies because that's what I know how to do (I couldn't have fixed the plumbing in the bathroom or come up with the recipe for the cookies.)  Hmmmmm, a little to cheeried out think it through all the way right now, but will keep working on this one...



From the inside looking out
but there is still time for cookies right?
white chocolate and macodamian nut
 with a swirl of rasberry - mmmmmmm
new doll parts