Monday, March 31, 2014

phase 3 - develop thoughtful algorithims

The idea of trying to make a giant installation is a little overwhelming right now, so I'm trying to break it down into smaller pieces and treat the process as an algorithm. (Step 1: clean up and put away/remove anything unnecessary from the studio. Step 2: make a sketch. Step 3: evaluate whether additional research/skills/materials may be needed (gather). Step 4. start with a part for which there is has a high probability of success.)

Voila! My latest block, 12 x 18." I was being hard on myself for posting a little later than usual because this took a few hours longer than I thought...but then I thought, wait - much more surprising than it taking longer than expected is that I managed to carve it in a week at all, haha ;)

The owl is part of a larger plan for a tree with all different birds perching in it inspired by an illustration from the Nuremberg Chronicle (excerpts published by Dover  are available in paperback on Amazon.) I love this so much that I want to make a life size version as a wall-mounted collage (Mmmmmmm)

The owl is on the lower left, eating another bird - I'll be skipping the avian cannibalism in my version ;)

 In other art-related news, I went to my favorite place, the Met for some research and discovered something uncanny. I've been thinking about medallic engraving, since studying with the American Numismatic Association in Colorado last summer (with great thanks going out to the Gilroy and Lillian P. Roberts Foundation!) 

I'm looking forward to returning this summer for the second part of the fellowship and want to practice on a small scale at home before then. Because it's been on my mind lately, in the museum I was drawn to a case of Ancient Greek coins donated by the American Numismatic Society. I don't remember ever looking at this case before, but inside was this:

Compare to one of my mini reliefs from 2012:

Weird no? I tried to rationalize it - the ANA hosts a books sale, and the only book I purchased was one with lots of pictures on Ancient Greek coins. I thought - well, maybe I saw a similar coin in the book...but then I checked the date on the print - October 2012 - 6 months before I applied for the fellowship to study coin engraving. What makes it stranger is that it wasn't the only coin in the case to relate to a tiny print - there was also a pegasus, a winged figure, an owl... It was pretty uncanny, like I've been copying the coins in the case for years without realizing it??
Every time I go to the Met, I see more wings

Monday, March 24, 2014

phase 3 redux - don't be afraid of a big project, but try to go about it the smart way

finished carving and printed the crown! I'm so happy with how it turned out :)
It's been a busy art week :). Early in the week I went on a visit to the studio of Ed Rice in South Carolina. I love visiting other artist's studios and hearing about their work! This visit was especially fortuituous. Ed recently completed a large series 50 paintings of Fort Frederica, in which he set the iconography and composition while changing other variables (scale, color, material, support). The paintings are at the same time similar and unique, and the tension between the collective and individual is something that interests me.

This week also marked the beginning of spring. I feel like my mind is like a projector going from "standby mode" (winter), into "warm up" (spring), to be followed by "on" (summer), and cool down (fall).

Spring figure drawing has also started up.
15 minute
20 minute

Philosophia (personification of philosophy) - Albrecht Durer
Philosophy by Albrecht Durer, 1502

It was almost exactly a year ago that I went to VCCA and made the first giant collage Lacrimae Rerum, which paved the way for The Forest of And, And, AndEros et Thanatosand Spes

A year ago, I didn't know that I'd have the opportunity to learn engraving in Colorado with the American Numismatic Association and in Massachusetts at Zea Mays with Barry Moser.

When I ask the question: "what do I want to make most," I have the beginnings of an idea. It's something much bigger than my work space, so I won't be able to see it until its installed (surprise!), and I may need some additional technical skills. 

Which brings me to phase 3 redux - don't be afraid of a big project, but try to go about it the smart way. Before I jump in, I'm researching and trying to come up with a game plan to address/refine things that have come up from making the other big collages

I've been mulling over Durer research for months. One piece that I can't get over is The Triumphal Arch of Maximillian I, 1515. It's gigantic, almost 12 feet tall, and made from 192 separate blocks - Amazing! I heart Durer.

He wasn't alone on this. The architect, Jörg Kölderer designed the overall appearance and structure. Durer drew the scenes with the help of assistants, and master printer,
Related pieces are at the Beinecke Library at Yale
and the Morgan Library in New York
I particularly like the Visconti-Sforza Tarot Decks
Hieronymus Andreae carved and printed the blocks.

Other things on my mind: tarot cards, tapestries, and Byzantine icons.

Heroes Tapestry, ca. 1400–1410
South Netherlandish
Wool warp, wool wefts; 168 x 250 in.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY:,47.101.1
Icon with Christ, the Virgin and the twelve Great Feasts and Saints,
The Byzantine and Christian Museum:
memories of  my student work - faux-stained glass, 2009 
From my own archives, I've been reminiscing about this piece that I made in 2009 while I was in school. I think of it as "faux stained glass." It's 6 translucent pieces, about 45 x 45," and it covered the window of my studio apartment. The materials were picked up at the local stationers for probably less that 2 fancy cups of coffee - sharpie and acetate stuck to plastic with electrical tape. Now, I think it's really funny - because how obsessed with stained glass does a person have to be to decide that this is the best solution to the problem: "my window looks into a building"? hahaha. Not coincidentally, the figure in the center bottom row is based on a Durer.

Possible reasons this is on mental refrain? (A "things I like" list):
-it's a conglomeration of pieces made up of more pieces
-it has a limited color scheme which helps unify it
-there are lots of intricate patterns as well as areas of flat color for visual relief
-it has translucent layers with drawing on both sides of the material
-it shows things I like (a bird and plant, figure, unicorn, patterns)
-it became part of the architectural structure of the room
-it has both detailed elements and an overall design so that it works up close up and far away.

I haven't quite figured out how to put all these elements together, but I feel like I'm getting closer. I like the idea of building a massive multi-part architectural installation, but I feel like I need to be strategic so I can make, pack, move, and assemble (and then store) everything by myself. And there's a timeline...


Monday, March 17, 2014

crown and faces

This week's faces are based on photographs that I manipulated on the computer. I "pulled" the face at an angle (like a digital version of an El Greco ;)); then drew them with pen, pencil and gold ink on translucent cardstock working on both sides of the paper to give the images depth. Then I burned the edges (It was fun! I did it in several small steps and had a fire extinguisher ready, but thankfully didn't need it). The center face is spray paint and ink stippling.
From Harley 4338, 
Book 2 of Boethius, 
Consolation of Philosophy,
attributed to Jean Colombe,

It sort of reminds me of the character with eyes on its hands in the uneatable banquet scene from Pan's Labyrinth,(a movie I only saw once, but made a big impression.)

The other thing it reminds me of a little of is an illustration from an illuminated manuscript. I've been thinking about allegorical figures and recently came across this illustration from a 15th century French version of Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy  in the British Library:

I also started carving a new block which will become part of the same piece.
the latest block, in process, app. 15 x 15" 

Photographic Fairytale of the week:
These are from
and I can attest that they
were as delicious as they are adorable

Once upon a time (March 10 - 17, 2014), there was a little human who lived in a little house by a little lake in the frozen North. Everyday the human woke up thinking "what can I make today?" and so it made things. Sometimes the things were beautiful, and sometimes, they were not.

Always two fearless and fluffy feline assistants were there to help (unless they were distracted by a particularly sunny napping spot or squirrel-watching elsewhere).

The human loves to make things with the feline assistance in the little house. But the human is cold. It's heart is starting to freeze.

It goes on a journey to the Great Pine Forest of the South. On the way it sees beautiful things.

By Charles Chester French -
 in the Albany Airport
 It flies and things look different from the sky.

. Everywhere it goes it is watched.  Finally, it reaches its destination...

a photographic interpretation of
DiChirico + Panopticon 

There are family and friends, and the human is happy

Monday, March 10, 2014

bunnies and fish

“As I see it, life is an effort to grip before they slip through one's fingers and slide into oblivion, the startling, the ghastly or the blindingly exquisite fish of the imagination before they whip away on the endless current and are lost for ever in oblivion's black ocean.” 
                                                                                                         ― Mervyn Peake

still testing out different backgrounds...

drawing on and adding metallic ink to
 the eye and cutting out 7 bunnies
took a few days
Then I printed more goldfish on paper
I had toned neon orange.

 I drew on them to individualize each one and added metallic ink to the eyes
The fish isn't glued down but suspended on a string so that it swings back and forth,
 like it's swimming. It's a mobile in a shallow space and the brads not only attach the
  gray and blue marbled paper, but also prevent the  mobile from being flatted

Sunday, March 2, 2014

phase 2 redux - observe the laws of equivalent exchange, wrap up

"I want to learn more and more to see as beautiful what is necessary in things; then I shall be one of those who make things beautiful. Amor fati: let that be my love henceforth! I do not want to wage war against what is ugly. I do not want to accuse; I do not even want to accuse those who accuse. Looking away shall be my only negation. And all in all and on the whole: some day I wish to be only a Yes-sayer."
                                                                                                                     - Nietzsche, The Gay Science
Amor Fati - a science fair backboard put to good use ;)
Funny thing - I set out to make an Amor. Couldn't. Made Fati instead. Then recognized a connection between the two - Amor Fati, from The Gay Science, hahaha! I listened to this last spring on audiobook (free from Librivox as "Joyful Wisdom," a different translation of the same title: ). I think this is really funny and corresponds well with my concept of "Unhope." The black background is a tri-fold science fair backboard. I think it's a good way of turning something mass produced (and honestly, associated with unpleasant memories for most people ;)), into something particular and special. It's also funny to me because it shows what I would offer up in place of scientific knowledge (there is no STEM field career in my future I'm afraid ;)).

I kid, but in all seriousness, I think this is the conclusion of phase 2 redux - observe the laws of equivalent exchange. I feel like I made some good exchanges - for example, instead of cutting the foam core backing into specific shapes like with Eros et Thanatos, which was time-consuming, boring, and involved lots work with an exacto knife (always risky for the clumsy :p), I used the tri-fold board and let it be what it is. It works well and reinforces my ideas about general vs. specific, manufactured vs. hand-made, and seen vs. unseen sources of knowledge. 

For other things, I find exchange is not possible because there is no equivalent. I just read a good example in The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman. The main character's kitten dies, and a visitor makes a well-intentioned but misguided effort to offer a different cat in its place. In cases where exchange is not possible, I think there is still unhope - the capacity to love what is present (even if what is present is memory/absence). 

Enough philosophizing - more pictures! I also tried printing the bunny - tried (sigh).

bunnies, bunnies, everywhere

I wasn't entirely successful at printing them.
The block is too big to be hand printed easily (at least by me ;)),
and the water- based ink was drying too fast for me to cover the block evenly,
 even with extender :( (will have to rethink this and try again later).
but I got enough to get an idea of what the print might look like if  I were able to print it,
and I will find a use for some of these prints, which remind me of the "ghost animals" I was working on
 earlier this winter.
I also cut out the fish, drew on them with black color pencil, and added silver ink to the eyes.
I've been trying different papers in the background, and, so far, this is my favorite.
Mmmmmm - goldfish
Do I dress to match my artwork or does my artwork match the things I already encounter in life?
Not sure, but I do enjoy the ultramarine headphones ;)