Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Adventures in the Print Trade

I just discovered a great blog about the history and art of printmaking, written by someone who knows his subject, and writes very well and enthusiastically about it. His latest blog post is about a French printmaker called Marcel Roux.The link to the blog is below the picture:

In the Studio: Day 65

Today went much better. I said to myself: There is no reason why something you have done for eight years should not work. So I used the formulas that I remember from the very beginning when I learned this printmaking technique, and every print turned out fine:

The linear elements are xeroxes of blind contour drawings (much enlarged) which in turn derive from the photos stolen borrowed from the internet. To further disguise their origins, and also just to find interesting shapes, I cut into the xeroxes. Here are a few of those cut-outs waiting to be inked up and overprinted onto the book pages:

I am close to finishing the printing - at least for now. I suspect, though, that when the exhibition is over at the end of October, I will continue to add to them every now and then.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

In the Studio: Day 64

I'm creating the hundreds of prints for this 100-page accordion book using a technique called paper-litho transfer, also known as gum arabic/xerox transfer. I've described the process several times already. I've been using the technique since 2003, and I have created many hundreds of prints this way. So I was mystified, during my latest studio visit, to spend hours with not a single print coming out right. I kept altering the mixture of water-gum arabic to sponge over the xerox. I altered the ratio of setswell compound in the etching inks. I tried different kinds of xeroxes - some copied using the 'Text' setting, some the 'Text/Photo' setting - and still they came out too faint, or the ink just spread all over the xerox, instead of being rejected from the white areas.

I struggled gamely on, and finally got a few prints to work:

But only after one point where I was literally beating my temples with my fists in frustration.

Ach, so ist das leben! At least I didn't lose my home in a hurricane-related incident.

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Monday, August 29, 2011

Artist-Writer-Artist: Helen Ferguson Crawford

Helen Ferguson Crawford is another artist-writer I discovered on Google Plus. Her biographical information describes her as an artist, registered architect, and visiting professor at Georgia Institute of Technology. I was first drawn towards her paintings, with their strong sense of form and sensitive touch. When I went to her blog, I found that these qualities were clearly evident in her writing, too -- with the addition of a strong narrative element. In this interview, I asked Helen to describe what happens when she works with word and image in such close proximity to each other.

Philip: On your blog, there are various kinds of writing: extended memoir (The Lure of Empty Places), short memoir (Doubling), word lists (Hands That See), journal entries (River Eggs). Sometimes the images are visibly, directly related to the words (Vein), or there is a more oblique connection (The Lure of Empty Places). When and why did you start writing as a form of creative expression?

Helen:  Here is a story: When I was a four year old our family went camping with friends. After careful observation, my mother agreed that I could play with the children in the camp next to us. They had a camper, and being attracted to any kind of enclosure that I could explore at an intimate scale, I really wanted to join them for lunch. I told the children and the children’s grandmother that my name was Alice. And I pretended to be this girl named Alice all throughout the peanut butter sandwiches, tag, and the coveted tour of the camper. My mother watched from our camp. I made up semi-fictitious stories about our life in New York as we played. I liked mixing real life observation with fiction. I mean, we were playing ...

After two hours of being called Alice I was outed by my dad. He just laughed and laughed. I can still see him, with dark hair and a striped shirt, holding his stomach with laughter and looking down at me, saying: “So, Alice, huh? I thought your favorite name was Cindy.” I remember this day vividly and truly think this is when I started writing. It was also that summer that my parents figured out that some mixture of an artistic practice was essential for me as I grew up. I was a lucky kid.

from Helen Crawford's blog (full link here).

Philip: In the examples cited above, did you write first and then create the visual element? Or paint/draw first, then write? What did you notice about either activity immediately after moving from one into the other?

Helen: Writing is parallel to drawing and painting. "The Lure of Empty Places" is an ongoing piece about growing up on a dense, urban island two blocks away from the beginning of the Atlantic Ocean salt marshes, and estuaries. The line between the city owned concrete and beginning of the sea was so sharp. Once we stepped into the tall grass, there was a freedom, and yet a foreboding sense of violation. We weren’t supposed to be there, yet we could not help the curiosity. The cadence of words and imagery in the writing influences the mood of my abstract landscape paintings. A string of fast words may become an image of red in my mind, and then it takes on a new life in paint. This story has generated a whole series of paintings.

Moving between writing and painting is a strange activity for me. Sometimes one phrase or sentence from a story will stick in my head as I paint. I will sing it as a whisper inside my mind over and over again like this: the lure of empty places.... then maybe just the word "lure," and then "lure" gets stretched out like a line, and then maybe makes a color. Like purple. Right now it seems a light, translucent violet, slightly grey, and medium cool.

New stories come to me while painting, too. My notebook is always next to me in the studio and I write a few words down each day. Lately, the music is off when I am working because I want to catch the story when it comes without distraction, and that is so tough for me because I am a music nut.

Philip: The Lure of Empty Places seems to be drawn from previous written entries, implying a process of revision, or at least re-seeing. Do you revise and reconsider the writing? And how does that compare to similar processes in your visual work?

Helen: They may share a cadence, a color, or a mood. The writing, like paint, builds up over time. I do not paint or write in a linear fashion, meaning the final goal of the writing or the painting is not completely set. I think this is where these two separate acts are the most similar to me. Yet in the end, the painting is meant to stand without the writing. The painting becomes something else, and the writing becomes something else.

 from Helen Crawford's blog (full link here).

Philip: I see a lot of physical description in the writing - colors, objects, textures, quality of light - which one might expect from an artist. But there's also dialogue, gesture, place, a sense of scene. What are your thoughts on how these elements are or are not present in your paintings and drawings?

Helen:  Small bits of dialogue between characters in writing helps set an overall mood for a whole series. Sometimes, I think that is where the pencil comes in to the work. After the few weeks of painting, and completing a work via the paint, I draw on the painted surface with soft, black 8B graphite. Sometimes I use water to soften the lines. But they are sharp, and do not erase. I like this danger. I like this form of writing on the work. It’s like the process comes full circle through drawing. Also, it’s wonderful to hear what someone feels when standing in front of a finished, painted work. It always sounds like some awesome piece of rock and roll starts playing out loud when one person sees something in the work that may have a parallel component in the writing. 

Philip: In this back and forth movement as artist-writer-artist, what have you learned about your own creative process in particular? And about the creative process in general?

Helen: I’ve learned that my process is a slow process and that I must always give into the work and listen to it. That means that everything I do on a daily basis is part of the work.  It means I have more than four canvases in progress at all times. Words flow all day. I write them down, and keep doing other things. Colors come to mind, and I try to figure out what paint mixture that would be, and write it down. I’m sure all this will change, and grow in different ways. I really hope for that.

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Friday, August 26, 2011

Thursday, August 25, 2011

From the Archives: "My Coal Curtain"

"My Coal Curtain" is an installation that I created in 2007 for the Art on Armitage gallery in Chicago. Artist and gallery owner Mary-Ellen Croteau invites artists to hang work, and create installations, even performances, in this shop-window-style space. This piece came from several childhood memories: my grandfather, who was a working miner; the vinyl strips that hung down over one doorway instead of a door. I drilled holes in dozens of pieces of coal and strung them together using monofilament. I suspended them a foot apart from the ceiling, then positioned the lights to create dramatic shadows, which become part of the piece.

This came back to me as I start to think back over the work I've done since then, particularly my attempts to get back into painting. I keep returning to this pattern of coal, which sometimes is abstract circles, but always has this memory of coal in it somewhere.

Sometimes the answer to what to do next is staring you in the face.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

"Contested Terrains" at Tate Modern

Video about a recent exhibition of works by African artists at London's Tate Modern (with thanks to the Tate Channel).

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A video by artist Grace Graupe Pillard

Floating - Ephemeral Passage from Grace Graupe Pillard on Vimeo.

I've been spending a lot of time on Google Plus, after getting one of the early invites from a friend. In the space of a few short weeks, I've gone from thinking of it as a needless addition to the world of social media, to thinking that I prefer it to Facebook. The main reason for that is the number of contacts with very talented artists that I've made through G+, as we hip early adopters call it. I've already posted several interviews with some of them, and more are to follow. Meanwhile, here is a moving video by someone else I encountered on G+. The artist is Grace Graupe Pillard. The video is a meditation on: the death of Pillard's grandparents and other family members in the Nazi death camps; her own sense of aging and physical vulnerability; change.

If you like the video, leave a comment on the Vimeo page.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Artist-Writer-Artist: Tullio DeSantis

Any attempt to describe the life-work of Tullio DeSantis will inevitably come up short, faced with the variety of media in which he has worked (writing, painting, installation, performance, video) and the application of intelligence he has applied for many years in each medium. His work has a quality of absorption and attentiveness that comes from a deep immersion in Eastern philosophy, though he resists attempts to place divisions between schools and categories of thought, art, and experience. In the past he has collaborated with poet Allen Ginsberg and artist Keith Haring, and it was this specific intersection in his work - the meeting of writing and painting - that I was interested in discussing for this series. He kindly agreed to this small collaboration with an inquisitive stranger.

Philip: The following is a list of forms in which you have written extensively: journalism; poetry; personal philosophy; memoir (“Reading Lies Dreaming”). You are clearly an artist to whom words matter as much as ‘the image’, however that may be defined. As you reflect on this body of work, what’s the first thing that takes your attention in terms of your creative process?

Tullio: When the question is put in this way, the first thing that strikes me is the persistence of the divide between verbal and visual modes. Even in something as apparently singular as one person’s life and work. So it seems, in terms of my creative process it begins with an awareness of a bifurcated path of possibilities. I can express a thing in either verbal or visual modes. I can combine the two or integrate them in many ways. Yet they remain discrete. There seems to be something ontological – or at least neurological – about this… like the particle/wave duality, perhaps. Very persistent distinctions remain – even though experience, life, the world itself – is clearly just one thing.

“Compassion”, digital painting, 2010

Philip: I am particularly interested in those moments when an artist branches out into creative writing. What do you think is happening when you write a poem, that is or is not happening when you apply a pattern of dots to a canvas?

Tullio: In keeping with what I said above, there just seems to be these two parallel tracks ­– the verbal and the visual. It is a constantly bifurcating path, sort of a fractal branching occurs – or can occur – at any moment. A visual cue can elicit a verbal response and vice-versa. I’m aware of making an initial decision as to which mode I’m using at any one moment, that is, which pathway I’ll start down – either visual or verbal. After that I will often mix them up, combine them, work toward some synthesis. Other than that – the initial decision – I’m not sure there is a lot of difference in terms of what is happening during the creative process.

Philip: In either your writing or your painting, or perhaps in both, what particular quality (image, voice, a sequence of events, memory, a pattern of lines and dots) comes closest to expressing that synthesis and unity that you seem to be striving for?

Tullio: The following conjunction of image and text does contain the synthesis and unity I want to express in my work:

"Intelligent World 11111011011" by Tullio DeSantis, altered ink drawing, 2011

when I stand on this hill with summer in my eyes
the sky shakes within blue-grey banks
a river of wind moves through the valley
lightning happens branches shift rain falls
I can hear the roofs rattle
setting off a trillion sparks in me

and the hill is within me and summer rain and wind
are all at once inside my head and fill my body

I know there is only one thing and never two things
not the world and not me but something else
something that is just one thing
that I can understand and know only for an instant

then it seems in the second half of that same instant
I forget what I know and there are two things again
I am lost
until it rains again
and then I remember
there is only

Philip: I was impressed by the writing in “Nothing Dies”, a creative non-fiction piece which has echoes of Ginsberg and Kerouac. Did the act of writing about the past differ from say your poetry and painting, which seem very much about ‘the present’?

Tullio: Thanks. The question of time never actually occurs to me as ontologically very significant. As far as I can tell, it is always the present. This does call into question a lot of what we seem to take for granted about existence. I’m fine with that, as our explanations really don’t appear very capable of actually describing either existence or experience very well. When writing, I’m aware of the various frames that can be imposed upon experience – one of them being time. But if anything connects my words to the others you mentioned, it may have something to do with the sense of writing (and reading) being something that takes place in the present.

Philip: Do you do much revision or editing of your creative writing?

Tullio: All the time. I’m never finished working on anything. Sometimes I pick up a poem or a piece of writing from years ago and just revise it and republish the new version. There are many versions of individual pieces out there. With visual work, everything I’ve done in traditional media is being reworked and integrated into new digital multimedia pieces. I’m also very aware that the work is actually “completed” within the person receiving it, and that changes from person to person, place to place, and time to time. In that sense, one’s work is never “finished”. This sort of thing is probably as good a reason as any for an artist to die – to actually stop working.

Philip: In a 1986 interview with Keith Haring, you said to him: “That was good. I got you to slow down.”  How do you think that advice might apply to the practice of art-making and story-telling?

Tullio: More and more it has become apparent that “stopping the world” - to borrow a phrase from Castaneda - is how marvelous things are done. Of course, the world is moving even faster now than when I said that to Keith. He was very much able to stop the world. We did that together a few times. This was often the subject of our dialogs. In the years since then, I’ve been involved in various forms of mindfulness practice, from meditation to neurofeedback, in which I’m very involved at present. Slowing down or “stopping the world” refers to an altered state of mind, doesn’t it? I’d say that is what story-telling and art-making are all about.

"New Universe", digitized ink drawing, 2010
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Monday, August 22, 2011

Strange Coincidences

Up to last year, I hadn't really thought about Bulgaria much at all -- ever, in my life, really. I knew something about its history, but only a few superficial things, and nothing about its culture or its people. Then, while pondering a Meditation on Art concerning Christo, I vaguely recalled that the great man had spent his formative years in Bulgaria. A little research led me to a blog post about Christo (link here).

Then the coincidences started to occur. Over the summer, it turned out that an artist I found on Facebook spends part of the year in Bulgaria (his native country), and the rest of the time in Chicago, where I now live. So I interviewed him about his own art and his relation to his natal country (link here).

Next coincidence: during his recent summer stay in eastern Europe, Konstantin ran into Christo's brother at a gallery. They posed for a photograph together in a gallery that Konstantin helps run in V. Tarnovo, an ancient town that was once the capital of Bulgaria:

From left: Stefan Christo; Konstantin Ray
And last night, as I was reading Turgenev's "On the Eve", I came across this description of a Bulgarian character, Insarov:
He has one idea: the liberation of his country. His life, too, has been unusual. His father was quite a wealthy merchant in Tirnovo. Tirnovo is now a small town, but in former days it was the capital of Bulgaria, when Bulgaria was still an independent kingdom.
Until talking to Konstantin, I had never heard of Tirnovo/Tarnovo, either. What does this all mean? Probably nothing much, except that the longer one lives and the more one thinks about the world, various strands of it become knitted together in surprising ways.

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Sunday, August 21, 2011

In the Studio: Day 63 (b)

Thinking ahead to the exhibition in October, I tried this way of arranging the accordion book. It would still require a 12-feet long table.

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Saturday, August 20, 2011

In the Studio: Day 63

I'm being interviewed about The Lucerne Project for a magazine next Wednesday, and the photographer asked me to bring along the 100-page accordion book. On my last visit to the studio, I started making a clamshell case to house the book:

The 'flaps' are created by scoring halfway through the bookboard, then bending them upwards (or downwards, depending on how you're looking at them, like if you were in space or something). The upper box gets reinforced with a strip of paper, then I can test how they fit together:

A snug fit! Next stage: covering the boxes with a map of Lucerne. Final stage: cutting and covering the base, then gluing everything together.

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Thursday, August 18, 2011

How it all started

The Journal and Sketchbook class that Patty and I teach began as a five-week summer class in Prague in 2005. I've just rediscovered photos I took during the 2007 session. One of the activities that Patty devised involved our class, with its back and forth between drawing in the sketchbook and writing in the journals, and the Kafka classes, taught because Prague is Kafka's city, and the city where he is buried. Patty asked the students to write a letter to Kafka and to do a drawing to accompany their writing.

For the penultimate class, we would take the tram across town to the Jewish cemetery where Kafka is buried. We men would pick up our yarmulkes from the gatehouse, and walk past the graves (including many bearing the last date of 1943 or 1944, when the Nazi extermination program reached its ghastly peak) until we reached Kafka's tomb.

There, we gathered the students in a circle and asked them to read their letters aloud to us, and to Kafka. It was a simple thing to do, but there was something quietly touching about it, too. It's typical of Patty to think of something like this - I would never have thought of this in a million years.

We are now teaching this class for full 15 week semesters in Chicago, for weekend classes at small art centers, and for four-day intensive classes at Interlochen. I am even going to do a version of it for students in Columbia's film program this fall. But it all began with these great students on the streets of Prague.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Artist-Writer-Artist: Words + Art = Joy

For this latest post in the Artists-Writer-Artist series, I am pleased to present an interview with three artists who have been conducting an ‘Exquisite Corpse’ collaboration on Facebook and a blog. The project is called “Analogue Narratives,” and it relates to Mount Analogue, a classic Surrealist novel by Rene Daumal that was unfinished at the time of the author’s death. In 2010, a group of visual artists, illustrators, and film-makers decided to write their own version of how the novel might continue. Each person would write something in turn, picking up where the previous person left off, adding to the composition in sequence. Being visual artists, they also began adding drawings, paintings, and videos to some of their writing. I asked Mara Thompson, William Evertson, Lee Goldberg, and Susan Shulman about how their creative practice changed during the course of this collaboration.  

Mount Analogue is a classic surrealist novel by Rene Daumal, unfinished at the time of the author’s death. The method you and your collaborators have chosen to ‘continue’ the novel is the ‘Exquisite Corpse’, a form which was also invented by the Surrealists. Can you explain the project, and the notion of ‘exquisite corpse’ creativity?

Mara Thompson: This project's prequel was a shared reading, like a book group but on Facebook, of "The Artist at Work", the short story by Albert Camus.  We enjoyed that so much that I suggested we read Rene Daumal's “Mount Analogue,” which has been a favorite book of mine since the early 70s.  The idea of continuing the story seemed to rise of its own accord, which is the best sort of collaboration.

William Evertson: The artists involved in this collaboration were loosely networked on Facebook and began commenting on threads concerning authors who wrote about artists. If there was enough interest in a particular work we would stay on it, unpacking the meaning and even the author’s relation to the visual arts. 

One of our artists, Mara Thompson, suggested we delve into Daumal’s “Mount Analogue.”  Daumal’s unfinished work uses the work of mountain climbing as a metaphor for the search for enlightenment.  In our case the discussions centered on the similarities to artistic practice as well. It seemed a good fit, and at one point Ria Vanden Eynde from Belgium posted: “We should finish the story ourselves, seriously. Someone starts with a sentence. The next one adds a sentence and so on, ‘till we get a whole damn book."

So off we went, more or less in the manner of ‘exquisite corpse’.  To clarify a bit, if we were strictly working within André Breton’s original surrealist format, the participants would not be privy to the entirety of what the previous author posted.  In our case, we are interrupting our usual narrative process by having to react to how the previous writer has changed the story arc. 

from "Analogue Narratives"
Was this the first time you have worked extensively with writing? If so, what did you discover about the process of writing as you went along?

Mara Thompson: I have long been interested in using words with my art making.   Words inspire me, as does the concept of mail art.  Using Facebook made the flights of fancy easy and instant. Adding illustrations arose like the story did, naturally and celebrated by all involved.

William Evertson: I’m a tentative writer at best, and this is certainly my most prolonged effort.  I’ve made artist’s books that have included small fragments of writing as well as small works that have been submitted to Matthew Rose’s ongoing A Book About Death series of exhibits.  These were short stories or poems tucked into the middle of a double-sided postcard.  I’ve also written on the subject of art.

The experience of writing Analogue Narratives is very different precisely because we are all visual artists trekking into another creative realm.  The work here, if you can call it that, has given me better insight into my creative process in general.  I call attention to the word “work” because I’ve discovered that the writing actually revolves more around play or freedom.  In fact this creative fictional writing approaches the way my visual art making works more than anything I’ve written in the past.  Certainly the deeper and more involved I get into this project, the more I appreciate the actual nuts and bolts craft involved in writing as a creative pursuit.

Lee GoldbergI did participate in one other group writing project many years ago that was not finished. This was a different kind of challenge because of the nature of including visuals along with the story. I became less intimidated by my lack of skills as the story progressed.

Susan Shulman: A few years ago, I wrote extensively for a project called In Our Memories Forever. It took about five years and consisted of a solo exhibition, a book of my reflections and creative process, nine original oil paintings, and the translation of about eighty letters that my grandfather sent my grandmother in 1900 from Russia to New York and Montreal. You can say this was my lead into mail art without being aware of it. I painted, researched and wrote my thoughts about the letters. It has become apparent to me that my art is a way of story telling. My work is very biographical and as I paint or draw, I write my thoughts and weave the story. The writing becomes the extension of the medium I use. It is part of my process. Until you posed this particular question, I was not even conscious of my process. I feel at times like a scribe but with the addition of new technology.

What would make you decide to include a visual element in some of your written contributions, and not others?

Mara Thompson: Mood and humor can be expressed succinctly with images. Some turns of phrase seemed to invite the visual, and eventually we began to create visuals in advance of the story. We made the illustrations first and then wrote the  story to match them.

William Evertson: The art arises very spontaneously. It’s certainly not required, but since all our writers are artists first, certain passages seem to evoke a desire to emphasize a passage with a visual element.  Quite often we are providing a visual comment on someone else’s written passage.  This is one of the few things that we feel comfortable adding at a later date to the blog. 

Lee GoldbergThere seemed to be some things that were a bit beyond my scope but with all the others involved there has been no problem with visuals. My ideas would come from my entries and also from the others. The people in the group are very good writers and paint pictures with their words.

Susan Shulman: A word or sentence would turn a switch in my brain and I would immediately see the idea come to life. Not clearly, but there’d be a hint of colour or imagery and off I would go. Most of my writing is accompanied with a visual. It could be a complex painting or just a simple sketch, but somehow that is how I make my mark or stamp. My contemplations are visual, and necessary to imagine and work out the final piece.

from "Analogue Narratives"
Was the writing process purely spontaneous, or were you ever tempted to revise or rewrite?

Mara Thompson: Sometimes my contributions were worked out first, and copied or pasted into the Facebook Note which initially captures our story.  But this was done only for the ease of working outside of Facebook and its sometimes annoying habit of posting things before you are done with writing them.  Sometimes I'd type directly into the Note.  I liken this writing to how I approach mail art -- using the spontaneity as a loosening of the inner critic, a way of circumventing the tendency to edit.

William Evertson: The writing is very spontaneous and despite some of the completely deus ex machina resolutions to situations we simply move forward with the understanding that we are completing a Surrealist’s tale.  Very little re-writing is done.  To back up a moment: the story still continues to be written on the same Facebook Note where it started. Periodically, it gets cut and pasted into a blog post.  The blog was begun simply as a way to archive the work on Facebook as well as to place the visual elements that are created along the way.  Spelling is sometimes corrected, although with our group puns and deliberate misspellings seem to be common.

Lee Goldberg: Mostly spontaneous, though there were times I'd get an idea and work it over in my mind until it was ready to enter the story.

Susan Shulman: My writing is usually spontaneous. I may check some spellings and I have to admit that in "Analogue Narratives - Tales of the Blues" I use the thesaurus more than I ever did! It has been a great excuse to enhance my vocabulary. I am always writing about my symbolism and ideas in most of my creations. Another example would be the current exhibitions of "A Book About Death," which you can say is a global collaboration of artists from around the world united with the theme of death. I have been a contributor since 2009, since its launch in New York City and have contributed to over 20 shows. All the original mail art pieces that I create have imagery on one side and text on the reverse. Again, this is part of my process to express my art and my world to others figuratively and literally.

What did you discover about collaboration?

Mara Thompson: That it's incredible fun!  We all met, or most of us did, through the project "A Book About Death" by Matthew Rose.   After the initial ABAD show in New York City there were lots of extra postcards left.  I volunteered to take those cards and stage a Los Angeles show with them.  This was the beginning of the multiple ABAD shows around the world.  Many close artistic friendships arose from that involvement.

William Evertson: For the most part this group is used to the trust involved in collaborative work.  Or perhaps there is no dominant ego driving the project in a particular direction.  This particular group came together as a result of group shows or a prior history of collaboration.  Three of us (Susan Shulman of Canada, Ria Vanden Eynde of Belgium and myself) already collaborate as The Seeking Kali Artist Collective.  I think of particular interest here is the fact that we have collaborators of different nationalities and countries working with social media platforms, including Facebook, Skype and now G+ to create this body of fiction.

Lee Goldberg: Collaborating can be a very rewarding, creative process. It could also go all over the place and become very disjointed at times. The surrealistic nature of the story allowed the narrative to take many twists and turns that would not work in any other format.

Susan Shulman: I discovered that collaborating with the right people is exciting and gets my creative juices flowing! It is so exhilarating to share ideas and express art together in a warm and inspiring environment with authentic people whose only modus operandi is the sharing of art and creativity. The biggest collaboration I have is with William Evertson and Ria Vanden Eynde in the Seeking Kali Project. We have been collaborating from Belgium, USA and Canada for over a year seamlessly and with passion and vim. The creative energy between us is electrifying.

from "Analogue Narratives"
When you returned to your studio work after contributing to this project, what did you notice about your process of making visual art?

Mara Thompson: My ideas that arise in the story are continued in longer form in my studio work.

William Evertson: Lately I’ve been much more aware of my role as part of the ecosystem of art making.  Personally I seem to be moving in a direction where, while I’m satisfied with my own practice and the products of my own hand, I am learning to embrace the random and chance elements that creep into projects that evolve over months and years. 

Lee Goldberg: I've changed many things for this work and in some of the other work I'm doing. I'm learning (slowly) to use the computer to do more of my work. My printer has always been an important tool, now it is even more so.

Susan Shulman: I notice that there is overlap. That now when I am creating new art, I am influenced by the creativity of other artists. I am thinking of how each piece can be seen in different lights and the impact these other artists have had on my world. I am constantly exploring and learning about new mediums and media as well as my own artistic transitions.

What are some things you have learned about your own creative process (written and visual) and the creative process in general as a result of this project? 

Mara Thompson: To trust the muse even more, to stay loose in the process of creation.  I am a process artist, enjoying the making as much as or more than the finished project.

William Evertson: "Analogue Narratives" has proven to be a wonderful escape hatch.  I think it’s important for our growth as visual artists to look around the rest of the creative landscape and see what’s out there.  Try a different medium, combine different media, explore and keep a beginners mind to our art practice.

Lee Goldberg: I've learned that I'm more compulsive than I'd previously thought. I believe that's a good thing, as it allows me to get a lot more work done, and it'salso leading me to other avenues in my work.  As far as my writing goes, I still do not consider myself a writer -- there are just things I need to say that I don't have images available to make the same point.

Susan Shulman: I am eagerly involved in the "Analogue Narratives" collaboration. I am testing my creativity each week in words or visuals. It is a rich experience. It pushes the envelope for me, edging me outside my limitations. I feel like I am going to the school of Mount Analogue and it’s amazing! I can draw, animate, create videos, oil paint, use Photoshop, write, and experiment. That is the key word for me: experimentation. We all give each other encouragement. We are comrades in art. Analogue Narratives is a creative platform that we all bounce off of safely. The other collaborators are the nets. I look forward to writing twists and turns and waiting for the other artists to direct it into another place. It is exhilarating and full of surprises. There is never a dull moment on the mountain.  It is stimulating and uplifting to be collaborating with such a versatile and generous group of artists. This collaboration has created positive endorphins for all of us in the group. I feel that this project could be classified as my performance piece. It crosses all mediums and uses all parts of the body, as if I am artistically dancing with a new art form. It feels like I have transcended into a well-crafted virtual world, where I can play with the process of art in visual presentation as well as storytelling forms, granting me the greatest gift. Words + Art = Joy

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

And the Winner Is ...

To mark my 700th blog post on "Praeterita", I announced that I was giving away an artist's book that I made, which satirizes someone who was spamming a bunch of us on Google Plus. The winner of the book, selected at random from the list of people who answered the call to 'Follow' this blog, is:

Daniel Hill (link to his website here.)

This (ahem) beautiful book will be winging its way to NYC en seguida. Thanks to all who entered their names. I look forward to conversing with you either here or on G+.

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In the Studio: Day 62

A studio drying out from a recent flood; a sore back that made it difficult to do much printmaking; flies coming through the window that I opened to let in some much needed ventilation. These were some small challenges I overcame to continue printing images onto the 100 page accordion book for the Lucerne Project:

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Monday, August 15, 2011

"In Urbana, I ...": Day 1

On Friday night, I drove down from Chicago to Urbana, IL, with Patty, in order to get to the farmer's market early on Saturday morning. After talking to the public arts co-ordinator and the city officials who run the Market on the Square, we were allocated a a spot near the north-west entrance to this vibrant market. Here are a few shots of the market in progress:

We looked the part with black clothing and lanyards that I had made for us. I also had the idea on the way down of bringing a whiteboard, to which I stuck the words "IN URBANA, I..." in blue letters. This introduced an element of play, as people could write their ending to the project's phrase on the board, hold the board up in front of them while I took a photo, and the next person to take part could wipe the board clean and start again.

"Our fish special tonight is ..."
Although we weren't permitted to solicit volunteers, dozens of people came up to us voluntarily to write their phrase and pose for their photo. One chap in particular liked the idea of the project so much that he rounded up several of his friends to sign up. Here is one photo of a family who did a collective phrase:

There are more on the project Facebook page.

My aim for the project was to get at least 100 participants, in order to fulfill the idea of creating a community portrait through the pictures and responses. In four hours, I got up to 30% of that total. Everyone was very pleasant, the sun was shining (I got bad sunburn, because of course the one thing I forgot to bring was an awning). And Urbana is really a very nice place to visit. I can't wait to go back.

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Friday, August 12, 2011

A ceramic adventure

For our ninth wedding anniversary in May, Patty bought us a joint gift of a 4-week course in hand building at Chicago's Lill Street Art Center (because pottery is one of the gifts that goes with the ninth). I finally got my hand built stoneware pot back from the kiln, and it looks like this:

Hardly the best thing you've ever seen, I'm sure, but I'm putting it up here because, well, it's my blog. And the glazes are really quite lovely. It has two contrasting glazes of antique white, one on the outside and the other on the interior. The 'coal circle' pattern is one of those Asian iron-based pigments, which fired to a nice green-brown colour.

The surface is very smooth, and glassy, but with the suggestion of a lot of texture. And the circles, which when painted on looked like dark red, almost black-red smudges, fired to this set of patterns with interesting variations in tone.

It's nine inches high, and about 3.5 inches in diameter. If I ever get the time, I would like to try and make more of these, and perhaps with more refined shapes (though that is not so important to me aesthetically).

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