Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Brancusi in Plastic

Artist Mary Ellen Croteau is showing these columns made from recycled plastic cartons and lids in the window of the Columbia College bookstore on Michigan Avenue. They are a playful homage to Brancusi's "Endless Columns", with a serious environmental message for our times:

Photo of columns made from recycled materials
Image copyright Inhabitat.com and Mary Ellen Croteau
Mary Ellen also runs a wonderful experimental art gallery in a window space in west Chicago, called Art on Armitage. I will be exhibiting a mixed media piece there during August 2012.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Two works in progress

Medium: acrylic paint on printmaking paper.

Medium: acrylic paint and airbrush pigment on printmaking paper.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Meditation on Franz Kafka

After a Christmas hiatus, here is number 94 in this series of 100 short talks on art and artists. Yes, Franz Kafka was an artist, occasionally.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Anabasis: Journey to the Interior: Diary 1/24/12

Drypoint on aluminium, 7" x 5"

"It was hard to breathe, pressed so tightly together against the fleshy walls, our two tiny forms bathed inside and outside by the amniotic fluid, deafened by the hammering thud of a heartbeat, tantalised by the distant sound of music and voices."

Text inspired by writer Patricia Ann McNair's daily journal prompts. Prompt # 16: It was hard to breathe.

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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Film of Barbara Hepworth

Just over three years ago, I visited St. Ives in southwest England when Patty was teaching over there. One of the wonderful treasures there is the studio home of renowned sculptor Barbara Hepworth. She died in the 1980s (I think) in a studio fire, which is rather grotesque. The house has no trace of that tragedy, however. Instead, you can see her tools and her workshop, the beautiful Cornish house, and wander the lush gardens, built on a steep slope, and littered with her distinctive sculptures. Here is a picture I took in the gardens, with a very typical middle-aged English couple (and a cat) wandering around:

And here is a short film from the marvellous Tate Channel, shot at the house, and containing some recently discovered footage of the Dame in her studio:

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Anabasis: Journey to the Interior: Diary 1/18/12

Neo-color pastels
The boys liked to stand with their faces turned towards the sky, near the old church, down in the dene, as the hawk sprang from its nest, sailed in a wide arc towards the smaller birds, and brought its prey to earth in a splash of blood.

(Text derived from writer Patricia Ann McNair's writing prompt series. Prompt #6: "The boys liked..." )

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Anabasis: Journey to the Interior: Diary 1/16/12

Derived from writer Patricia Ann McNair's daily journal prompt: Prompt #4, January 11, 2012: We were never sure what happened.

"We were never sure what happened. They say the army jeep slid on some ice and went out of control. They also said the driver was drunk, and didn't notice how close he was to the truck right in front. The man fast asleep in the passenger seat never had a chance. The personnel from the army base who were charged with giving us the news said that his body was badly scarred and burned from the accident. An ID had already been made, so there was no need to go through the trauma of seeing him in that state."

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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Anabasis: Text # 1

Inspired by author Patricia Ann McNair's 2012 writing prompts. Number 1: On Another Winter Morning.

"On another winter morning I might not have gone to the firing range. It was Arcticly cold, the wind slicing down all the way from Scandinavia and across the North Sea, arriving at our village with an audible whistling, whipping up plumes of snow from the fallow fields around the mines. But Grandad liked shooting, and he said he wanted to teach us, so on a Saturday morning in January my mother piled me, my brother, and my grandfather into the Mini, and we drove to a place about an hour north of the village. I remember a long low building, walls sagging slightly, a dark interior, and the tinny ‘crack’ made by the low caliber pistols. My mother and my grandfather paid their fee, put on the padded earclips, and went up to their allotted firing station. Each station was really one long countertop, separated into booths by flimsy partitions. My brother and I were told we could go in and watch, but we had to stand back, stay still, and stay quiet. My mother and grandfather joined the rank of people taking potshots at targets twenty feet away. The building was unheated, and it was as cold inside as it was outside. I squeezed my mittened hands into my armpits to warm them up, and stamped my feet to try and get some feeling back into them. The floor was so cold and my feet so frozen that it felt like I was standing on ice without any shoes. I looked up at one point to see my grandfather looking at the targets that he had reeled in on the wire: almost all of them bulls’-eyes. His face had a strange look, which I knew was related to the mining accident he had been in many years ago. His back had been crushed in a roof collapse, and though he recovered his strength and most of his mobility, the damage to his spine had left a curious after-effect: whenever he became excited or emotional, his eyes would cloud over, his jaw would go a little slack, and his head would fall slightly forward like he was nodding off to sleep. As he looked at the result of his near-perfect shooting, I couldn’t see his face, but I saw the dip of his head and knew that he was pleased to the point of near-ecstasy. My mother turned and asked if I wanted to have a go, but I was suddenly afraid, and I was colder than I had ever been in my short life, and I shook my head. Grandad was disappointed, but didn’t say anything. Only a little longer, I said to myself. Soon they’ll be finished, and then we can go home. Maybe when it’s not so cold we can come back, on another winter morning, and my grandfather can show me how to hold the pistol, and how to use the sights, how not to be afraid of the noise and the recoil, and I can shoot well for him, well enough for me to look up and see the cloud of happiness fill and then vacate his face."

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Monday, January 9, 2012

Anabasis: Photo # 1

I want to take a photograph of the past. I want to capture the streaming photons of a long-dead event. But what lens could I use? Which direction would I point the camera? How long would the exposure need to be? Supposing such a piece of equipment existed, what would I end up with anyway?

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Thursday, January 5, 2012

Anabasis: A Journey to the Interior: Diary 1/5/12

"Surrounding the mining town where I grew up were mountains of coal, rising like ziggurats against the grey skies. Some of them were so big they had smouldering fires buried deep within them fires that never went out."

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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Anabasis: A Journey to the Interior: Diary 1/3/12

"A journey into the undiscovered country, the cavern deep inside the mountain, the labyrinth where monsters lurk, the cave at the ocean's floor, the door into the attic, a place of secrets, a place of danger: ourselves."

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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Anabasis: Journey to the Interior: Diary 1/2/12

"I dreamed about a swirling vortex, a whirlpool of black water that filled my field of vision entirely, and as I dreamed I felt that I was being sucked towards the gaping tunnel, whirling around in descending circles, pulling me by the legs until I could no longer resist and finally sucking me into its dark, terrifying maw as if I were a fly being flushed down a sink."

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Monday, January 2, 2012

It's 2012, and it's Florida

Well, this is my first blog post of 2012, and I'm still in Florida. Not much art to see here, but plenty of pelicans, cormorants, seagulls, black skimmers, ospreys, herons. I made some art of my own, in a sketchbook and with some NeoColor crayons that I brought along. These two were each done in a couple of minutes, from a boat sailing around the bay at St Augustine:

It's an opportunity for me to do some observational drawing, which I used to do a lot more, and which I only seem to do in vacations like this one. It's fun to keep my hand in (particularly as I am about to start teaching my drawing class again soon), even if my studio work is not really like this.

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Sunday, January 1, 2012

On the goals I set myself for 2011, and how I did

It's the first day of the new year, 2012, and I spent the first part of it taking a walk on the shoreline of Vilano Beach, Florida, with the fog rising off the Atlantic Ocean and all kinds of birds swooping and circling above the waves. Technically, I spent the first minutes of 2012 standing on the balcony of our rented house, a glass of wine in my hand, watching some fireworks scattering in the air a mile away. On my morning walk, I took that picture above of a starfish, and I am trying to think of a way to make it an emblem of a new year. Maybe this creature, like a star, lights up the way forward in the darkness of night, leading us towards an unknown and yet promising future.

Hmm. In the first blog post of a new year, it's the custom to look back as well as forward, so I've retrieved my post from a year ago, reviewing the completed and unfinished goals from 2010. The link is here:


And the list of things I wanted to accomplish in 2011 was as follows:

  • Get the mailing list up to at least 200 useful names (I find this the hardest thing to do, probably given that I haven’t really made sellable work for a while).
  • Get 500 postcards printed and sent out to the museums, galleries, art consultants and potential buyers on my mailing list.
  • Start sending out a newsletter.
  • Take a class at Columbia College Chicago (I get a discount as an adjunct faculty member).
  • Obtain at least one more public art project.
  • Meet a Chicago museum curator.
  • Get at least one gallery and one art consultant to handle my new work.
  • Create a printed and online PR book about me and my work.
  • And by the end of 2012, earn all of my (very very small) income from art and art-related activity.

I've only done one of those things, shockingly: obtain another public art project. And it was a good one -- the Envision 365 grant from the City of Urbana. I think one reason that I didn't tick more of them from the list is that they are things I could do in a day (like the online PR kit), and of course I just kept postponing that day until the year ran out.

On the other hand, there are things I achieved in 2011 that were not even on that list, and which are a good substitute for the list unachieved. For example:

  • Obtained more teaching gigs, which puts me on the road to the last item above (earning all of my income from art related activity).
  • Starting to post regularly for Hyperallergic.com (and by the way, they pay for each post).
  • Meeting and interviewing even more artists.
  • Completing The Lucerne Project and discovering the possibility of future collaborations and residencies.
  • Being invited to be one of the earliest users of G+.

The last one was totally unexpected. It didn't even exist until June or July, and like many people, I liked the idea of it but didn't get the point of it at first. But in just six months it has transformed how I use social media, put me in touch with lots of very interesting artists who I intend to meet in real life, and opened up a way for me to completely change how I blog. Oh, and indirectly it led to my already being offered a show at Art on Armitage, a cool non-commercial gallery in west Chicago, in August 2012.

My aims for 2012, therefore:

  • Complete the 2011 list!
  • Get another public art project/grant.
  • Use the G+ Hangout feature more.
  • Gradually make G+ my main blogging platform.
  • Obtain a residency for one month or more.
  • Start going out again to Chicago art openings (mainly for Hyperallergic, partly for my own ends).
  • Go deeper into the 'personal narrative' aspect of my recent studio work.
  • Work on an 'Artists of Praeterita' group show.

Fingers crossed. Ready? Then I'll begin.

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