Monday, April 13, 2015

phase 6 - new collage

This week's art-experiment:
Self-portrait as Pierrot, 36 x 30" collage, 2015

How has it come to this? [Very good question! I will do my best to explain :) ]

This week started with the Sleep/Falconry piece from two weeks ago.  I was so excited about this one that I posted it right away as soon as it started to come together. That may have been a little premature because there was still a lot of work left in terms of permanently attaching the parts, but my enthusiasm got the best of me. 
I thought about using a machine,
but decided to do it by hand -
it's slower, but there's less risk
- the worst that's likely to happen
is a needle hole in the wrong spot
as opposed to the scenario I imagine with the machine where the paper gets torn to
shreds in a few seconds.

photographed at an angle so the stitches show -
I tried to 'build it like what it is' and
put the stitching where there would be stitching
in the real thing.

not only stitching each thing together, but also stitching the 
parts to the background

On the one hand this was not exactly happy-making, and the piece doesn't look much different than it did two weeks ago; on the other hand, structurally, I think it made a difference - now I can shake it and none of the parts are going anywhere.  Also, since it was pretty boring, there was plenty of time to think.  One thing that occurred to me is how it sort of reminds me a little of the Ambras Court Hunting deck - a favorite among playing cards by Konrad Witz from the mid-15th century (which was an inspiration for carving the falcon blocks in January).

The other card that came to mind is this one from the Mantegna Tarocchi , two related Italian decks from the mid 15th century that draw on the style of Andrea Mantegna (I heart Mantenga!)

digital file - testing out different dimensions 
Tarot has been on my mind as I build up an archive of different head and hand blocks. I've been studying historic examples of the standard Arcana Major. I made a chart of the head and hand positions - my take is that one might be able to build a whole set of 22 with 4 (but better 5) full-scale heads and about 7 hands [hmmmmm - steeples fingers.]

I'm getting super excited to learn more about non-toxic intaglio and started working with the digital file of the most recent piece to turn it into the basis for a photopolymer plate... 

So how the leap from that early in the week to the Pierrot that I made in the second half of the week?

I liked the playing card proportion, so I decided to try a rectangle in this piece. The reasons for the clown are a little more difficult to explain.

It's funny I sort of made a game out of coming up with explanations. Just a few examples:
a) I wanted to try out ways of working with the prints and individualizing them so I sprayed a layer of white over the face - maybe that led to a very literal association with the white-face make up Pierrot wears
b) Or maybe it's because I recently finished Amanda Palmer's book "The Art of Asking" in which she describes working as a street performing mime, and her description of her white make up and voluminous white costume reminded me of Pierrot
c) Or maybe because there's a show I'd like to see in New York about masks - Becoming Another: The Power of Masks at the Rubin Museum. I think make up is like a flexible mask, and self-portraits are like masks too in the way that they allow a person to dissociate from and examine from a distance a particular aspect of themselves by turning the image of the self into an object. 
d) Then maybe thinking about masks and shows in New York led me to think about an one of the best recent show I've seen -  Marcel Dzama's work at David Zwirner. In his Une danse des bouffons (or A jester's dance), 2013, one of the characters has a white mask that can be turned to show happy or sad. I especially liked that part because, to me, it seems like an interesting way to show Harlequin and Pierrot as different aspects of the same archetype. (This idea of two symbolic figures who can be shown as a repetition with variation or conflated into a single figure has been on my mind like I was describing two weeks ago for Sleep and Death.)
e) Or maybe it was coming across a beautiful set of prints of characters from commedia dell'arte by Jacques Callot in a local shop a few weeks ago - such a nice art-surprise!
f) Or maybe the commedia dell'arte got me thinking about masks and then Venice, and that got me thinking about this piece I saw some years ago by Bruce Nauman. As I remember it, there were two screens on opposite sides of a room, and on one a clown says "I'm sorry" and the other he's saying "no, no, no" - I think it was the 1984 version of a similar piece from 1987 in the Art Institute of Chicago, Clown Torture - disturbing, but very memorable.
g) Or maybe thinking about two sides of an archetype, reminded me of this memorable piece - Nathaniel Mellor's hippy dialectics (ourhouse), 2011 in which two animatronic heads conjoined by their facial hair say conflicting things, and that got me thinking of masks. 
h) or maybe it was because I've been looking at a book of Odilon Redon engravings including La fleur du marecage, 1885
New block
i) Maybe, thinking of prints reminds me of the show, The Paris of Toulouse-Lautrec: Prints and Posters that I saw at MoMa, and I remember seeing a photo somewhere of the artist dressed as Pierrot. (Or maybe it wasn't the face/mask that got me thinking about Toulouse-Lautrec, maybe it was thinking about gloves - because I took more glove photos this week, and he drew lots of really great gloves.)
j) or maybe it wasn't visual at all - maybe it's because when I read Amanda Palmer's book, I listened to the Dresden dolls, who wore white face make up while performing, and that got me thinking of how David Bowie and Lady Gaga also both wore white make up dressed as Pierrot-like characters.
k) Also - drawing this collar was really fun!
If you made it to the end of that list - o my! 

 In the end, I feel like the number of possible explanations may point to something Benedict Carey describes in How We Learn. He discusses experiments conducted by Michael Gazzaniga  (also described  here  in an article by Carey) in which different pictures were shown to each of a person's eyes, corresponding to the hemispheres of the brain, which in very simplified terms represent a language side and an visual side. Afterwards, people couldn't describe what they saw on the visual side. They could however associate the two disparate pictures they saw at the same time - indicating that both the visual and language side were working together to absorb information and create an association, but (here's the most interesting part to me) - they didn't remember why the two disparate images were associated(!) Instead, it seemed like the language part of the brain just made up a story to explain the association. To me, this feels accurate - that the visual part of a person wants to "say" something, but, by definition, it can't put it into words, so it gives pictures about which the verbal mind makes up a plausible explanation after the fact.  

So maybe the best explanation for self-portrait as Pierrot is that I don't know the explanation? ;)  

Para-art developments:
I put up a shelf in the studio (yay me!) and took photographs in the park

I came across this toy snake -
uncanny fake creature in real habitat
Also, a boat that looks like it's cruising across the field (weird, right?)