Installation Final!

Closeup of the center ball.
We got the space we wanted! We (myself, Daniel, and Steve) installed this in the smaller room of the 840 Gallery last weekend. We spent several hours over the last few weeks making string orbs of various sizes. The largest, shown above, was about eighteen inches in diameter. The smallest, below, was about four inches across.
We used about 12,000 feet of string, about 35 eye hooks, and over a gallon of glue
Check out my post from a few weeks ago, called The PROTO Show, if you want to see how this all got started.

View from the back corner. There was string right in front of the camera.

I loved the shadows cast on the wall

A view from below.

Looking down, at an eye hook in the concrete floor.

We spent about fourteen hours installing this on Sunday, and then two more hours on Monday to finish up and set up the lighting.

So... what does it all mean? My original idea was to create a 3-d abstraction of the inside of the brain, where memories are stored. Each orb represents a specific memory. They are all different sizes, and can be reached easily or with difficulty, depending on their placement within the room. Some are well lit, almost glowing, while others are in shadow. They are all connected to the environment and to each other. Some of the connections are strong, others are tenuous. As we tightened the string in one direction, something else would loosen and sag, so we had to constantly pull and push new connections between the orbs.
The memory theme is important to me, because it's part of my thesis, so I'm glad my collaborators were okay with sticking with my idea. I'm also glad they wanted to work with me, because I never could have drilled into the concrete on my own (thanks Daniel!) or come up with such beautiful lighting (thanks Steve!). Plus, I wouldn't have been able to torture them with my music choices for fourteen hours straight, which was fun. How was I supposed to know they wouldn't like They Might Be Giants?


New Tricks!

A few weeks ago I cracked under stress. I was thinking way too hard. About everything. 
Between thesis, installation, advanced drawing, digital art (technology!), and other miscellaneous challenges, I was overwhelmed with the desire to make something fun. And easy. Requiring no thought. Or complete sentences.

Luckily, I had a whole bunch of lovely vellum, and some alcohol-based ink I had ordered on a whim from Amazon. These were the results of my first experiments:

I think this was my very first one.
This ink is super-brilliant and translucent. The alcohol base means it dries quickly and it resists other colors, so dropping fresh ink into dried colors pushes the original color out, resulting in those dark edges. Wet into wet creates unpredictable variations.
In some sort of experimental frenzy, I tried the ink on several types of papers and surfaces. If you want to try this stuff, don't bother with regular paper, because the ink loses all its unique properties. You have to use good vellum or acetate, because they won't absorb the ink.

I went a little crazy with this one

This one is pretty hideous. I discovered all the weird effects I could get by blowing air through a straw at the wet ink. Then I stopped, because it's just not pretty.

I started with black India ink, blew it around with the straw, and then dropped alcohol ink on later. I liked the effect, but it made the vellum all wrinkly.

Then I started having fun turning the vellum back and forth, so the ink ran in different directions as it dried.

So, I figured out that spraying rubbing alcohol onto the ink made interesting effects, like in the lower left corner. I put the alcohol in a scented body spray bottle, so now my art smells like green tea and citrus.

I went crazy with the alcohol spray on this. SO much fun!

I started using the alcohol and a paper towel to "erase" ink from the page, and then I added more ink, and more alcohol. I think this is my favorite.

I spent so much time playing with this stuff, that I felt guilty I wasn't working on thesis-related projects. (As you may or may not know, my thesis work is currently related to memory loss.) Some recent projects involved physically erasing images, or altering them through unseen forces (more on that stuff soon.) But then, I had an epiphany: with the alcohol, I could erase images, alter them, and distort them. I had been making progress on my thesis and didn't even realize it! Bonus!

The vellum is translucent, like the ink, so I decided to layer two pages in the scanner to see what happened. I love it.

I'm having so much fun with my new trick! I'm working on more elaborate experiments with this stuff, I just don't have photos yet.
I promise to post them soon.

Also coming soon: a digital animation (technology!), my most recent installation (I think I'm calling it Rendezvous), abstract videos, graphite drawings, and a secret project (might be illegal!)...


the PROTO show

Final projects for installation class are due in just a couple weeks (gasp!) and our teacher, Matt Lynch, decided it would be super-fun to squeeze in a gallery show (he has an entertaining knack for this- I assume it's his way of preparing us for last minute opportunities that arise in the "real" world).
Matt found these lovely old flashcards with Proto brand tools on them; this image inspired the name of our show
The class decided that rather than choose a completely new idea, which would take a lot of working time away from our final projects, that we could display prototypes of our final work. These prototypes might vary between miniatures, maquettes, Photoshopped images, and works in progress. Ideally, they would stand as more than just sketches, and have artistic merit of their own.
The flyer I designed for the show. Nice and simple.
I am collaborating on this project with two other students: Daniel Lawson, with whom I've collaborated on several projects, and Steve Shack, a new friend who has brought a unique set of skills from his experience as a set builder and lighting technician at the music/performing arts college (CCM).
The Big Idea:
The idea for our (final) project is to fill a room with miles of lovely white cotton string. The string is a metaphor for memory. Some areas will be tangled and tight, others will be loose and fraying. Connections will vary between random and deliberate. Some areas will be completely obscured by string while others are sparse and open.

We wrapped various canvases in string and secured them to the wall. We see these blank canvases as portals, like the eyes and ears, which allow information into the mind, while the web of string represents the connections made in our minds as memories are formed. I think. It's just a prototype, people.

So, for our Proto project, we had a small corner of the 840 gallery to ourselves. We took advantage of a well-placed spotlight because we liked the shadows the string made on the wall.
Close-up! We made those egg shapes by wrapping Mod-Podge soaked string around balloons, allowing it to dry, then popping and removing the balloons. Thanks mom, for teaching me that technique years ago  :).

I'm not sure what the egg shapes are supposed to represent. We really liked the shadows that they created on the wall.

 It will be interesting to see how we re-use these elements in our final project. The awesomeness of this proto-project is that we worked through a LOT of technical issues and artistic concepts, so our final piece will be a lot stronger.
I love that we used cheap raw materials which will be re-used in future projects. Our budget for our final installation will be less than twenty dollars each. REALLY CHEAP!
I recorded a terrible little video. I said I wasn't good with technology, didn't I? We liked the shadows that were created when we spun one of our little string balloons in front of the spotlight.


yeah, yeah, I know...

The fact that I have been neglecting this blog should in no way indicate a lack of interest in showing my work to family and friends, nor should it indicate that I haven't been creating art. 'Cuz I have. Been creating art. A lot.
 I've been doing lots of new stuff, with video and installation and digital media- truly scary stuff for me- and some of it's kinda conceptual so I've been scared it won't come across well in a blog.
Helpless, Digital Sketch
 Helpless is not a finished piece or anything. I've been keeping a little notebook so I could scrawl down potential project ideas. These ideas aren't usually practical or achievable. For some of them I decided to do quick digital sketches, just for fun, to aid in the process of thinking/planning. Helpless is a result of thinking of 3-D installations I could do with nothing but string.
The Scent, Digital Sketch

The Scent is another digital sketch. It's part of a series I'm doing for my Digital Media class. The series consists of abstract depictions of the physical symptoms I feel before a seizure. This one is meant to depict a strange olfactory hallucination. If sulfur, electricity, and cotton candy were all mixed, this is what the smell would look like. Does that make ANY sense? Well, it's a work in progress, so give me some time.



Installation Studio Class: Project 1
What the heck is installation art? I get asked that a lot, especially when I'm whining to my non-artist friends about my workload this quarter.  Installation is a specific genre of three-dimensional, site-specific work designed to transform a viewer's perception of the space. Installations can be permanent or temporary, indoors or outdoors. This type of work is totally outside of my comfort zone, so I may have been crazy to sign up for this class.

Imagine my delight, when at 8 a.m. on the first day of class I learned that I would be doing a group project for Installation Studio. For those of you who are sarcasm-challenged, this was NOT good news. (Group projects are scarier for art assignments than for any other kind of work!)
Groups were chosen at random, and I was thrown together with three strangers: Megan, Daniel, and Jessie. We were the only group that had complete freedom as far as location of our piece. We quickly chose a site: the giant atrium in Tangeman University Center. This huge building is sort of the center of campus- like the food court at the mall.

Our first thought was something like "Crap! How are we gonna build something large enough to fill this space?"
Which was quickly followed by the idea of putting something very SMALL in the large space, to emphasize the extremes of dimensions. There's a huge, 30' red carpet in the atrium; we thought of putting something small in the middle, then surrounding it with fancy stanchions so people couldn't get close to the small object. The idea would be to get people to think it must be really valuable and to engage their curiosity.  BUT the object is actually ordinary, simple, and plain- an apple!
We chose a site and a concept so quickly and so easily that I felt sure that problems would start once we got down to work.

We started by discussing our respective strengths. Megan and Jessie are into ceramics, Daniel is into sculpture, and I'm into 2-D. Not only was it nice to know we had a wide range of abilities, we also had access to a wide range of free materials, because we had all paid various lab fees in our other studio classes. Aren't we smart? So Jessie and Megan made the apples, I made the hand-printed signs, and Daniel built the pedestal for the apple. We all worked on building the stanchions. Daniel and I cut and forged steel rods, while Megan and Jessie set them in plaster. We painted each of the stanchions black. We all worked on making the velvet rope, and we all assembled the piece on site. WE ALL WORKED. Weird, huh?
Curio from above
This shot shows one of my signs with the installation in the background

This is Saturday, right after we installed it; nothing's protecting the apple yet

For the critique on Monday, we made a velvet pillow and encased the apple in glass.
Close-up of the velvet rope. We made these out of lengths of pipe insulation, less than a dollar apiece!
These are the extra apples, which we handed out to classmates during the critique.

I made 30 hand-printed apples, and hung them throughout DAAP in the weeks before our installation. We wanted people to be curious, and it worked! Everyone wanted to know what was with all of the apples! Lots were stolen, which was fine with us- it meant that our apple had gained value. I made color copies of these apples and continued to hang them.
I made these signs with wood-block printing also- we hung them throughout DAAP and TUC. They are deliberately vague and simple- we wanted people to be uncertain about what exactly Curio meant.
The grungy bulletin board outside the sculpture studio got the first sign and apples- I wanted Matt, the professor, to see that we were following through with our plan to promote the project. (He seemed skeptical that we would actually do so much work so far before the due date.)

This apple hangs high above the DAAP cafe. I tried to put them in unusual places, where they would be noticed.
 Interesting development:  we joked that it would be sort of funny if our porcelain apple got stolen. We kind of hoped it would happen, because it would mean that our goal worked- we had assigned the apple so much value by displaying it the way we did that someone wanted to steal it.
Well, it worked- someone stole it and left a ransom note, of sorts. I scanned it.

If any of you want to tweet a message, to help solve the mystery, feel free. So far, we've made no progress.
 Another fun development: around DAAP, where there are still apple prints hanging on the walls, someone hung paper caterpillars behind them, as if the caterpillars were about to eat the apples. I haven't gotten a good picture yet, but if I do, I'll post one here. I'm hoping someone else will make paper birds to eat the caterpillars.
Curio went so well that three of us have decided to work together for the next project, even though we had the option to work alone.


Studio Work: Printmaking

Just as I suspected, printmaking is SO MUCH FUN!!!
Professor John Stewart, the same talented guy who taught Advanced Figure Drawing last quarter, is teaching Intro to Relief Printmaking this quarter. I am officially a big fan of J-Stew. It's mutual- the other day he confided that he liked me because I'm "a grown-up." Ha- that's what he thinks!
Project 1a: Pink Kiss, 5" x  8"
Project 1b: Ugly Me, 8" x 5"

PROJECT ONE: Self-portrait (again???) 
Having more than enough self-portraits, I decided to do a kiss-portrait instead. I donned lipstick, kissed paper, scanned it and enlarged it, and traced it onto a linoleum block.
I was totally happy with the results, but I finished early (what a STRANGE feeling!) so I decided to be an over-achiever and do another one. For Ugly Me, I was inspired by a conversation I had with John. We talked about how because we are used to seeing mirror images of ourselves, our own faces can look really strange in photos. I decided to do a self-portrait in which I exaggerated all of my asymmetry. The result was a pretty accurate depiction of me before my morning coffee.

PROJECT TWO: Shape and Shadow
The challenge here was to show volume and form with black and white only. This can be tricky, as I learned last quarter in Comics class. But with printmaking, it's more difficult because positive and negative space are reversed- you don't draw in the black, you carve out the white! I drew a larger-than-life ice cream cone, and threw in a dark shadow for some drama. We also had to complete an edition of three identical prints.
Project 2: Big Scoop, 14" x 10"
This image shows the inked block next to some prints.

The one on the upper left is known as the "Artist's Proof." It is not included in the edition because the registration is slightly off and I carved a few minor adjustments before the next print.

John expects the very best prints on perfectly clean, handmade Japanese paper. The registration should be perfectly straight, with symmetrical borders (a little extra on the bottom margin for a signature). The ink should be applied just right- just enough for solid coverage, but not too much! It takes forever for the oil ink to dry on the cotton paper.

For our next assignment, we will be doing double color prints, using the press, and pulling a larger edition. Fun!
 If anyone has any ideas for subject matter, let me know!


A Special Bond

I know I promised this weeks ago, but I finally have decent images of the 4-page comic, which was my final project for Carol Tyler's Comics class.
This project took hours and hours and hours... I lost count after 25.
Ms. Tyler is a bit of a sadist, I think!

Thanks to Joey for helping me compress the file without the images being blurry!

It there's anything I learned from this class, it's that writing an entire graphic novel would be a terrifying and difficult task. I definitely appreciate it and respect it as an art form, and take my word for it, you should too.
If you are interested in reading some amazing graphic novels, I've listed some of my favorites below.
Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary by Justin Green

Justin Green is generally acknowledged to be the father of the Graphic Memoir genre. I may have never read this book, but Mr. Green is Carol Tyler's husband, and I was curious. It was really, REALLY good. Almost as good as Ms. Tyler's masterpiece, You'll Never Know. I know that including it in this list may seem like brown-nosing, but I SWEAR it's worth reading.

This is Book Two; she's currently working on Book Three. I can't wait to read it!

Maus by Art Spiegelman; this is volume one of two

Maus by Art Spiegelman is one of the most haunting books you'll ever read, graphic or not. It tells the story of Mr. Spiegelman's father, who was a holocaust survivor. If you decide to read only one book that I recommend, make it this one!!

Boulevard of Broken Dreams by Kim Deitch
More books on my short list: Fun Home by Alison Bechdel and Epileptic by David B. Everything I've mentioned so far has been a memoir; it's my favorite type of graphic novel. But I also read pure fiction. Recently, I read Boulevard of Broken Dreams by Kim Deitch. Deitch has a twisted imagination and a sick sense of humor, and he puts them to good use in this very strange book.

My next post will be about printmaking. MUCH less stressful than cartooning!