I'd call this a breakthrough, but I don't want to jinx it...

So, over the last few weeks I
1. made 3-d work that has potential, and that I loved making
2. made 2-d work that has potential, and that I loved making

Great, right? But I have a senior show coming up in 1 week, and I wanted to put all-new 2-d and 3-d work in it, and, although my work was related inside my head, it was not related visually.

I think these new pieces are closing in on what I need:

I found a brush tip marker that I filled with alcohol, which allowed me to make deliberate marks and have more control. The curvy, thorny shapes of the brushwork are similar to the shapes in my new sculpture.
I have no images of the sculpture yet, but I think I thought of an interesting way to bring it closer to my thesis AND closer to my 2-d work.

I'm also working on finding titles for these pieces, and how to mount them on the gallery wall.
Stay tuned!
 P.S.  If anyone had any title ideas they would like to share with me, please let me know! I'm keeping my mind open to new ideas for as long as possible... 


Is anyone else sick of the word THESIS?

One of my goals this week was to push my 2-d thesis work towards a more show-able version, for the senior show which is coming up in a few weeks. The vellum is nice, but it needs to be framed, and I don't want to use frames. Hence, no more vellum...
So, I wandered the aisles of Lowe's, looking for any and all smooth surfaces. Tiles, glass, sheet metal, plexi, plastic... it all seemed to scream out for me to dump some ink on it.
(Dear Lowe's employees: No, I am not remodeling my bathroom. Yes, I want to buy your broken and rejected tiles. Quit looking at me like I'm crazy. I'm an artist.)

This is a stoneware tile. It has a nice texture, which I think complements the way the ink moves and settles as it dries. But one of my classmates pointed out that it exudes permanence, which seems to negate the theme of my thesis. I agree.
This is on a smooth, glossy white ceramic tile. I like the delicacy of detail that seems to be possible. I want to try it on a larger tile. (This one is 6" x 6")
This one is on glass. It was originally really dense and overworked. I was in the process of "erasing" it, and stopped when I realized I liked where it was. I added the drops of gold ink, then forced myself to stop. The glass is layered over a sheet of bristol board which I brushed with graphite powder. I love working on glass!

 If there's one lesson I've learned over the last few weeks, it's that I chose the right theme for my thesis. I can't NOT work on it, I can't NOT think about it, and even when I intentionally try to not work on it, I still do. 
I had a lovely talk this afternoon with a grad student, who suggested that I ought to try and find common ground between my 2-d and 3-d work. I agree! Right now, both are abstract representations of the same concepts, but they don't necessarily relate to each other. Installed in the same gallery, you probably wouldn't guess they were from the same artist. Hmmm. So, this will be my challenge: not only do I want all new work in the senior show (which is ridiculous, it's in about three weeks) but I want it to be cohesive. Which means I mean to make adjustments to my processes in both sculpture and drawing. Hmmmm.

I also experimented with layering glass. Each sheet of glass has two sides. The piece below essentially has 4 layers: The bottom of the top layer of glass, the top and the bottom of the lower piece of glass, and the white paper beneath, which was stained with the ink run-off while I worked on the glass.
It's kind of impossible to see in the scanned image here, but the layers create depth, like a hologram, and the colors sort of glow, as the glass is almost as reflective as a mirror. I'm not especially in love with this particular composition, but I definitely want to try more.

I wasn't sure if I liked the bottom layer, so I scanned it without to see the difference. It doesn't really matter, because it's just an experiment, but if anyone has an opinion on which version is better, let me know.
 I need to stop blogging.
I have a LOT of work to do.


The Sculpture That Forgot Its Own Name

My thesis-related work has ruled my thoughts and actions for quite a while now. This quarter, my studio classes include Drawing, Sculpture, and Woodworking. I wasn't sure I could force wood to apply to my thesis, so I decided to relax a bit, and just focus on picking up some skills and making some interesting forms. It would be nice, for a change, to just think about beauty as the sole raison d'ĂȘtre.
Our first assignment was to build a wood steamer. Our first project had to be built with bent wood; steaming is one of the simplest ways to soften wood for bending.  While we were figuring out some technical issues with the steamer, I came up with a simple sketch for my sculpture. It resembled a sort of nest, with a circular base and several curved, tapered branches reaching out of the base and meeting in a tangle a few feet above.
This is the original sketch, doodled during a lecture class. The term at the bottom, tertium quid, literally means "the third thing."  It refers to the whole which is greater than the sum of its parts, and it was the first title of this piece. In the top right corner, I wrote "onion, solar flare, brain cell;" I researched all of those three forms while refining my sketch.

Meanwhile, Matt, our teacher, taught us how to laminate wood into curved forms. Basically, you plane down wood into thin strips (about an 1/8 inch thick is good). Then you slather the strips with wood glue, and quickly stack them up and bind them together (Matt used cut up strips of old bicycle tires). Then, while the glue is still wet, the wood is bent around some sturdy, curved form and clamped into place. As soon as the glue dries, the wood is ready to be unclamped, unwrapped, and sanded down to remove the crusty glue.
I decided to use this technique for the base of my sculpture, because I could make it sturdy and solid enough to drill holes into, to hold the tapered wood forms, kind of like candlesticks pushed into a candlestick holder.
We also learned about another technique to bend wood, which just involves soaking the wood in a solution of water and fabric softener. This method appealed to me, because I could work on it at home, by soaking the wood in my bathtub. I bought a bunch of dowel rods, of varying widths and lengths, and began soaking them overnight in batches. I bent them, still damp, into bowed shapes and tied them with twine. Once they were dry, I was able to soak them again, by immersing them halfway in a bucket of the same solution, and bend the ends back the other way. This way, I was able to get some really nice, elegant S-curves. Which smelled like fresh laundry.
Then, while all this productive work was happening, BAM, I had a seizure. It had been a really long time since my last seizure, and I forgot how much it really, really sucks. I won't go into detail, but suddenly my perspective on my thesis work became much more focused.
The next time I saw the sketch I had made for my sculpture, I accidentally glanced at it upside-down.
Once I decided to flip it upside down, I also re-drew a portion of the main hoop so it was open, not closed.
It looked like a basket with the bottom torn out. It looked empty, and strange, and it reminded me of my head right after the seizure. I decided to suspend the sculpture, upside-down, and hang it from invisible string. I also decided to not close the laminated hoop. I decided to cut a gap in it, like an opening or gateway into the basket-like shape.
The time-consuming task of tapering the dowel rods took over my life for a few days. I probably should have bought some specific hand tool to make my job easier, such as a spoke-shaver or a scraper. Instead, I developed a tedious process of hand-sanding each rod, then sharpening it to a rough point on the disc sander. Then, I used a whittling knife to refine each point.  I sanded the points smooth, with a rough sanding block. Finally, I polished each ivory-smooth with fine sandpaper.
When it came time to assemble the sculpture, I rubbed beeswax into each separate part, because I didn't want to use some stinky varnish, and I didn't want to alter the appearance of the wood too much. I drilled the holes very slowly and deliberately, deciding the placement of each rod very carefully.
It was important to me that the finished form had some of that beauty that I originally aimed for. The meaning of the piece had changed in my head, and had, despite my intentions, become related to my thesis. The emptiness, the thorniness, and the paleness of it were all somehow perfectly descriptive of my own scary emptiness moments after the seizure. By keeping it beautiful, I think I was trying to edge out the despair with some hope, or peace, or something. It may sound corny, but I don't know how else to explain it.

 So, the title of my sculpture is It Forgot Its Own Name. This title refers to two different but complementary ideas.
First: Matt and I were discusing the amount of "spring-back" that wood has. Some might call it "memory;" it's the ability of wood to recover its shape when it has been bent. For a living tree, this is necessary for survival. The more a tree bends and recovers, the more interesting its grain can become. But, since I was working with cut, dried wood, I was able to bend it and have it maintain the bend, with only a little spring-back. I was altering or erasing its "memory." But, the essential wood-ness remains; it might "forget" how it grew, but it still exists as proof of its growth.
Second: The title is a reference to the memory loss I feel right after a seizure. Not only do I not remember my own name, I don't even remember that I ever had a name to forget. Luckily, this feeling doesn't last, because it's absolutely awful.

This was, I think, the best show I've been in. The rest of the work was amazing,
so of course I took pictures:

Unidentified Mammal Skeleton #1, by Marty Rossman. This is one of the best pieces in the show (in my opinion); it is very well lit and eye-catching.

Undulate, by Meredith Waddell.  Meredith bent her wood with a different method, which involved rocking the thin strips of damp wood back and forth over a propane-heated pipe. Her piece is very striking in person; when you look at it head-on, the stripes of wood look perfectly straight.

Step On Me, by Jeff Badger. Jeff curved thin pieces of wood by steaming them and clamping them to the insides of trashcans while they dried. Then he cut them up into these chips, which look like skin cells to me, and laid them out on the floor in a large frame. Simple, but good.
Pete and Repeat, by Daniel Lawson. This was one of the largest pieces in the show; Daniel definitely bent the largest pieces of lumber. I like that there is so much grace and delicacy, but it's still really rough lumber.

These sculptures, and others, were all installed in the Meyers Gallery last week. I wanted to include pictures of some of my favorites, and to show the incredible variety of approaches among my classmates.


the FLUX series (more fun with alcohol ink)

I have done some more experiments with ink over the last few weeks. I feel as though I'm getting closer to not calling them just "experiments" anymore... soon...
This reminds me of an alien landscape. For some of these, I had a hard time deciding which way was up and which was down. I had them pinned to boards as I made them, so I could easily turn them to get the ink to run in different directions. So, even as I make them, they don't have a top or a bottom.

This one is going to be one half of an art trade; another artist, Megan, will give me one of her pieces in exchange for this one. She liked the way the blue streaks look like wood grain.

This one is a bit overworked, maybe, but I like the colors. It looks like one of those pictures taken by the Hubble space telescope.

This is the first print I made with this technique. I sprayed two pieces that I didn't really like with alcohol, then I pressed them together face to face. After pulling them apart, I ended up with two images that were perfect mirrors of each other. I plan on trying this more, because I have LOTS of rejects to mess with...

I like the neutral colors of this one.

This is another print; it has a mirror twin. I like the way the ink rearranges itself during the printing process.
This one is on acetate (the others are all on vellum). Acetate is harder to work with; it gets sticky and messy and curls up on itself. As a result, I'm less likely to overwork the image. This ended up being one of my favorites.
 Next up with ink: I have some very large sheets to work with, of both vellum and acetate. They are expensive, so I have been wanting to get more control with the stuff on smaller pieces first.
I also have glass, mirror, and ceramic tiles to experiment with.
There's a big, scary, pre-thesis show coming up in a few weeks, and I would like to put some of these ink pieces on a gallery wall, to see what people think of them.