My Romance with Mapping

Okay, so I'm in the early stages of love with my new favorite inspiration: cartography.
It's become more than a casual fling: now I am buying books on the subject.

It started to get deep a few weeks ago when I was listening to This American Life on NPR. Author Denis Wood was discussing his new book (not yet released but I already pre-ordered it on Amazon) Denis Wood: Everything Sings, 2nd Revised Edition: Maps for a Narrative Atlas, in which he diagrams seemingly mundane details in his own neighborhood. The result is a fascinating, revealing, and often poetic look into demographics and geography... I was salivating by the end of the interview, and even went into work a couple of minutes late so I could hear all of it. I can't do this interview justice, so you can stream the entire episode from here.

I've always been attracted to art with obsessive tendencies.  Ritual, repetition, and collection seem to combine acts both hyper-cerebral and empty/meditative. It's a good place to be if you want to tap into deeper creativity (as an artist) or deeper connection (as a witness). 

This is not all-new territory for me; obsessive repetition was a common feature in my work over the last few years as I explored the phenomenon of deja vu, and its (personally) sinister role as a harbinger of a seizure.

But the new appeal is in adding the dimensions of space and time to create a diagram of some otherwise invisible truth. Denis Wood reminded me that anything can be mapped. The cover of his book features a geographic layout of carved pumpkin faces in his town. The areas of highly concentrated pumpkins correlated to wealthy areas, while the pumpkin-less deserts were confined to poorer areas. This raises questions. Is it merely a matter of the cost of the pumpkins being prohibitive? Or is there an element of neighborly expectations at work in the wealthier neighborhoods? One map of pumpkin placement is just one piece of a puzzle with infinite pieces; as more are collected and compared,  more questions can be raised, and more truths can be revealed.

While I certainly wouldn't mind copying Denis Wood's ideas as an exercise, I want to find my own systems for mapping. In my quest to develop my own cartography, I ordered some intriguing books which just arrived (Amazon delivery is the new Santa Claus, and today was Christmas).

Visual Complexity: Mapping Patterns of Information by Manuel Lima
It's a visually stunning collection of maps which go way beyond the traditional two-dimensional geographical versions we keep stuffed in our glove boxes (or used to, before GPS).
Some of the most compelling images are maps of information systems, internet connections, blogospheres, etc, which track the exchange of data between hosts. I just started delving into this hefty book, but I'm already struck by how the formerly mentioned maps resemble those of neural bonds, genetic connectors, weather patterns, and other "natural" phenomena.

Cartographies of Time: A History of the Timeline by Daniel Rosenberg and Anthony Grafton
Why? I love a good history book, especially one like this which describe methodologies as a window into interpreting other known histories. Also, I like the idea of working the dimension of time into a map.
While Manuel Lima's book is heavily focused on computer-rendered imagery, this one is full of hand-drawn timelines. Think family trees, geneologies, mythologies, prophetic predictions, and astronomical diagrams. Even tree rings of an ancient sequoia are included, with pinned markers to indicate major historical events. Lovely.

So, this was a long-ish post with no pictures. By my next post, hopefully I will have some images of preliminary experiments or at least images "borrowed" from my continued research.

In the meantime, I have been painting new ink-on-vellum pieces to hang in Cole's 735 Main in Lexington. People are actually buying them!



My final thesis work is on display right now in the Reed Gallery!
Here's what I chose to show:
The piece to the left is the large (29" x 29") center panel of the triptych.
Check out the installation view below it to see how it looks on the gallery wall!
It's called Impetus Indefinitely Renewed (check out this previous post to see the story behind the title).
The small (9"x9") paintings are called Palimpsests, and they are sort of the offspring of the central piece, which is in the process of spawning more palimpsests.
It's about the endless cycle of renewal in art, and the inevitable course or growth and evolution. Fun, huh?
Check out this post if you want to see the six palimpsests in utero.

If you're wondering why the images of the smaller pieces look so much better, it's because they're from the digital scanners at school, while the photos of the larger piece are from my very vintage camera. If anyone has access to a giant digital scanner and they want to let me use it, let me know!

This work is on display 'til Saturday, along with some absolutely amazing thesis work from all my fellow Daapers. Go check it out!


Henrique Oliveira, and other artists I want to share a bottle of wine with

The more I learn about art, the more that I realize I don’t know much. It’s an utterly obvious result: when horizons expand, the world gets larger. Amazing art is being made every day in every corner of the world; sometimes I feel a bit overwhelmed with anxiety because I will never see one tenth of it. Still, there is a special kind of satisfaction that comes from “discovering” artists on my own,especially ones that make the kind of art that I feel in my gut.
        Recently,while searching for contemporary artists who work with wood, I found Brazilian artist Henrique Oliveira. I was immediately attracted to his work; it is undeniably beautiful. He has amassed a large body of work, especially considering his young age and the large size and complexity of his installations. He began as a painter, but as he earned his Masters Degree in Visual Poetics (I love that this degree exists) he began working with the scrap wood he found in the slums of Sao Paolo. It is cheap, thin wood used as a sort of fencing around construction sites. It is painted, used for a few months, and then discarded. Oliveira noticed that when the thin wood was broken, the shards of wooden splinters were visually similar to his expressive brush strokes. He began assembling the scraps of wood he collected into what he called tri-dimensionals. Beyond the beauty of his work, I am inspired by his creative use of material and how he has merged painting, sculpture and installation. I only included a few images of his work, but they show the progression he made from his roots in painting to fully embracing installation and sculpture.Seeing his organic progression and growth is also inspiring to me, because I am currently concerned with merging my own 2-d and 3-d work.
Whirlwind for Turner, 2007, by Henrique Oliveira
Tapumes, 2009, by Henrique Oliveira
Bololo, 2011, by Henrique Oliveira

      Last fall I made an installation out of string and light (click here to see my blog post about it). Before I began, I wanted to research installation artists who work with string. (I like to be prepared during critique to acknowledge specific inspirations; if my teacher points out that my work is similar to an established artist, I want to be aware of those similarities.) I stumbled upon Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota. She uses string to fill spaces, often obscuring or revealing other objects in the process. These installations have a spooky, dream-like quality. There is a respect for the simplicity of the medium which gives the work a sort of innocence and purity.In my installation, I tried to achieve a similar respect for material, by using nothing but white cotton string and no other visible materials or hard ware. I was thrilled to see one of her small vitrine-like installations at the Armory Show in New York.
In Silence, 2009, by Chiharu Shiota
TobiasTovera is a San Fransisco-based artist. Visually, his paintings are similar to my ink paintings; they might be the closest thing I have seen to how some of my own art looks. His use of color is a bit more clear and prismatic, and his images have fewer figurative connotations than mine, but I admire his use of scale and space.
Deepening Undercurrent, Pigment on panel, 5' x 5', 2008, by Tobias Tovera

AdamFrelin was a visiting lecturer this year. He was by far my favorite out of all the artists who have visited DAAP. He is open to all types of media, and his work is infused with intelligence and humor. There is something poetic about it, in the way that his work offers satisfying connections and also raises questions,to keep the viewer engaged and inspired. It’s like the perfect appetizer, which tastes really good but keeps you hungry for more. Go to his website; a lot of his work is performance or process-based, so it needs to be explored to be appreciated.
Mirror Ball Roll (One), 2009, by Adam Frelin

There are countless other artists that I have “discovered” who have inspired me in less direct ways. Some of my recent favorites include Leandro Erlich, TroyAbbott, Slinkachu, Isaac Cordal, and Gregory Scott. I discovered these and others from magazines, the internet, and from my classmates and teachers. A few of them I saw for the first time in New York, either at the Armory or one of the satellite shows. (All of these, plus a lot more, are featured on my Pinterest "Favorite Artists" board. Yes, I know, Pinterest is a time-suck, but it's also a handy way of keeping track of things I might otherwise forget.)

It is hard to describe the type of inspiration that can be had just from looking at interesting art. Often it is like reading a menu when you are really hungry. Occasionally it feels more like jumping jacks; it gets the blood flowing and the heart pounding. Sometimes it feels like a jolt of caffeine which wakes me from a stupor, and which makes me want to stop writing this blog post and go make some art.


New Art! (It's taking over my entire house)

I just thought I would share the reasons why I haven't made a lot of posts lately; this is about one third of what I've churned out over the last three weeks. The "Palimpsests" for my thesis show will likely be chosen from among these:

I started this one months ago; it's been languishing in a pile of rejects until last week. I love when a reject becomes a success!

This was another reject; it is the sibling of the one above.

 I don't know it I've mentioned that I do these in sets of 2, 3, or 4; I consider the sets "siblings" or "cousins." They share the same genetic background, artistically speaking. They often begin as prints of one another, made through a self-devised monoprinting process. Fun!
My first experiment with adding silver pigment to the ink. I was hesitant to try it, afraid that it would look like a gimmick, But I like it!

I don't think this one is done yet, but I'm not sure what the next mutation will be. I think it will need to languish in a pile of rejects for a while.

This one is the sibling of the one above it. Also not quite ready... I need to neglect it for a while.

More silver pigment; also, my first on a square instead of a rectangle.

Sibling of the one above it. I have since switched to square for my preferred format. Compositionally, it's a lot more challenging, but I like it anyway.

The zygote of this one is from last December. I love it's evolution.

This is the cousin of the one above it. They began together, but diverged too far apart to remain siblings.

Part coral reef, part diseased internal organ, part Hubble telescope image.

This is the sibling of the one above it. Diseased liver, anyone? Mmmm.

Jellyfish-skull-eruption thingy; I love the colors.

The unfinished cousin of the one above it.

This is the first of three juicy little paintings. I might cut them down into squares (from 9x12 to 9x9) and include them in my thesis show.

The one unfinished sibling of the three. I'm afraid to touch it right now.

My favorite of the three. The ink is so rich and glossy on the vellum, which the scanned images don't really convey.
 Below, I have a bit of an octo-mom situation. All 8 of these are siblings, begun and evolving concurrently. They are all 9x9, already perfect for my ideal layout for the thesis show.

Might be my least favorite of the family. Red-headed step-child?

Maybe my favorite of this family? Not sure yet

This one looks like an alien embryo grasping its over-sized skull.
So, here's a little verse I wrote for my thesis paper. I wrote it in the midst of complete exhaustion and frustration, at 2 in the morning, so forgive me if it seems a bit maudlin. I based part of my artist statement on it (see my last post), so hopefully it's not completely awful:

if my art is an expression of my inner somethings
if it is a reflection of my joys and pains
my anxieties and satisfactions
my angers and my wisdoms
my foolishness and my triumphs
if my art is to be all of this
then it will be unrecognizable
it will appear alien
it will be everything to me and nothing to everyone else
it will be empty and full
it will be tiny and vast
it will be thorns, it will be petals
it will be blood and bone:
parasitic little tumors
cancerous little beasts
anomalies, events, curiosities
malevolent and beautiful
resplendent and repulsive
both the crime and the witness
blossoming then blooming
melting but frozen
liquefying, solidifying
in flux
but petrified, suspended
a supernova in its own tiny universe
a cyst, a growth
neither plant, nor animal, nor mineral
but an amalgamation of the three

I used to write poetry a lot when I was a kid. It's hard to write a good poem; I think I stopped writing them because I was afraid of failure. For me, good wasn't enough- unless I felt I could achieve perfection, I didn't bother. I mean, my poems were good for an eighth grader, but not compared to what I was studying in school at the time. It's a strange combination of cowardice and vanity that stops us from trying something which will likely result in failure.
So, for me, the thesis verse represents re-gaining my courage, hopefully with the humility to recognize that I will most likely fail, most of the time. Speaking of which...
 I need to get back to work!


Word Nerd, Revisited: the dreaded artist statement

This year, DAAPworks is doing something new. Beyond just the ordinary labels with the name and title of each work, every student is also required to write a short statement, which will be hung near the work. This allows visitors who are unfamiliar with a student's oeuvre (oeuvre: the works of a writer, painter, or the like, taken as a whole) a chance to understand a bit of background or intent. 
This is what I wrote:
"parasitic little tumors, cancerous little beasts
both the crime and the witness
blossoming then blooming
melting but frozen
liquefying, solidifying
preserved and suspended
like a supernova in its own tiny universe
in flux
neither plant, nor animal, nor mineral
but an amalgamation of the three
These paintings were conceived from loss, but they are about growth. No amount of memory loss will result in losing my self, as long as I keep building and making and replacing the voids with new creations. The themes of loss and despair, juxtaposed with the satisfaction and hope caused by the act of creation, have provided an amazing depth of challenges and inspiration for my work."

 I thought maybe the first half was a bit too esoteric (esoteric: restricted to or intended for an enlightened minority, esp because of abstruseness or obscurity; difficult to understand, abstruse) so I gave Aaron, the gallery director, the option of including only the second half. 

 Hopefully, the artist statement will add some weight to the work, instead of just being another random distraction on the wall. I'm also hoping that the statement will help clarify my titles, which are definitely in danger of being esoteric (for more on this, read my last post).

I am definitely looking forward to reading the statements of other students, especially those of other majors (fashion, architecture, etc). 

Palimpsestic Impetus: A word-nerd chooses her titles

This week I had to hand in titles for my BFA thesis show; the gallery director needed them to make labels to stick on the wall next to our work.
Titling non-existent art is a tricky, tricky business!

First, I decided on a layout for the work. I will be hanging 7 pieces; one large one (probably 36" x 36") will be in the middle, with three more small ones on each side. The three small ones (probably 9" x 9") will share a large set of glass panels, and will be spaced vertically under the glass. The final arrangement ought to look like a triptych.

Triptych is a term generally applied to sets of three 2-d works which are meant to be displayed side-by-side, with the center panel being the main element.

I'm hoping to evoke the original, more specific intent of the word:
triptych "hinged, three-leaved writing tablet used in ancient Greece and Rome," from Gk. triptykhos "three-layered," from tri- "three" + ptykhos, gen. of ptyx "fold, layer."

I'm reinforcing this allusion by titling the six small pieces "Palimpsests, No. 1-6."

palimpsest "a parchment or the like from which writing has been partially or completely erased to make room for another text," from Latin palimpsestus  parchment cleaned for reuse, from Greek palimpsēstos,  from palin  again + psēstos  rubbed smooth, from psēn  to scrape

It's a bit of an awkward word, palimpsest; it doesn't exactly roll off the tongue. But it satisfies several needs:
1. I've been wanting to use it as a title for a really long time.
2. It sounds smart. Yeah, that's right, I'm smart.
3. It's actually perfect, thematically speaking. My little ink paintings are about growth in a reclaimed space that only exists in the wake of erasure and loss. They all begin as pristine little paintings which are corrupted and partially erased; a new painting grows out of the remnants left behind. 

Henri Michaux, Belgian/French writer and artist, ca. 1936. Photo by Gisèle Freund

While I was writing my thesis paper a few weeks ago, I was reading Miserable Miracle by Henri Michaux. The book is based on a journal he wrote while heavily experimenting with drugs. It would be unreadable if any normal fool had written it, but Michaux was an incredibly talented and unusual man. The edition which I was reading was awesome; the editors had thoughtfully included text which Michaux had scribbled in the margins of his journal. There, I found the phrases "Impetus in jerks," and "Impetus indefinitely renewed." The phrases stuck with me, and I scribbled them in my own little journal.
At that point, I was still developing my final thesis statement. Until then, I had focused on the erasure and the corruption, and I hadn't yet consciously realized that my thesis was more about rebirth and growth.
I couldn't stop repeating Michaux's peculiar phrasing in my mind.

(Let me pause for a moment, to define impetus for anyone who isn't quite sure what it means.
impetus: an impelling movement or force; incentive or impulse; stimulus; the force that sets a body in motion.)

Impetus seems to aptly describe my motivation to make art, and more specifically, to make art about memory and loss. The "indefinitely renewed" part is even better: it describes the realization at which I was concurrently arriving. My memory loss had caused anxiety that I would lose myself, but I realized that was impossible as long as I keep making art. It heals my brain, keeps it full, and fills in the voids lefts behind when something is forgotten. Thus, my impetus to make art will be indefinitely renewed.
Sorry for the blah-blah-blah, but it was necessary to explain why the central panel of the triptych will be called "Impetus, Indefinitely Renewed."
I recommend it highly; be prepared for some meandering, it's to be expected.

So far, I think I have the little palimpsests done, although I know I will make a million more, and choose my six favorites. All of my attempts at the large central piece have been investigational (read: failures). Just in case it doesn't happen, I requested titles for 3 more palimpsests, which will be shown with the others in a square layout of 9. This is a last resort, but hey, a girl's gotta have a backup plan.

So, I have SIX AND A HALF DAYS until my completed work has to be dropped off at the gallery. In ten days, I will be installing the work. In twelve days, I will be handing in the final dvd disc with all my work on it. In THIRTEEN DAYS, our thesis show opens (see my last post.)


I Know, It's Hard to Believe...


Come See
The Long-Awaited 
(you know what I mean, people)
Senior Thesis Show
Jackie Hopkins Bond

it's only a few weeks away!

Opening: June 5, 5pm to 9pm
June 6-8, 9am to 9pm
June 9, 10am to noon

for more info click here

I would love to include more details, but I don't want to ruin the suspense...