So today my tutorial professor Mildred Howard took us to visit Magnolia Editions in Oakland. She really goes above and beyond. What an incredible space! There were notable artworks both carefully displayed in the lobby and scattered, hung, tucked and neatly filed all over the place. Don Farnsworth gave us a tour and struck me as just the sort of person who would get along nicely with the various engineer, rocket scientist, neuroscientist, etc. set of my friends who build crazy things in their spare time.
The thing that clenched that impression (besides his knowledge of the human-eye/brain, color, etc.) was the studio-made coffee roaster. It’s a re-purposed barbeque with a little motor for a rotator to turn the little cage for the beans. We roasted them while he talked about the fine art of coffee-roasting, cooled them over an inverted house fan over a screen, and then he stamped and filled bags for us. Things like this reassure me about the art world. I’m glad I’m not the only geek here.
Magnolia has all kinds of incredible toys I want to play with- a huge laser etcher/cutter that has eye-beam spotting (senses dots on your material to better line things up). They have a print shop, paper making studio, a large scale watercolor printer… so many things. Especially interesting to me is that they also have everything (including the knowledge and skills) for designing large scale digitally designed tapestries like the Pae White piece that blew my mind at the art fair in LA (a smaller version of this). It turned out the Magnolia folks did it with her and everything is printed on the largest loom of this kind in Belgium. Something about soft flexible, untreated fabric looking like metal just does it for me. That it’s in the weave, not any application on the surface.
Anyway- a HUGE printer (more than half the size of my living room huge) that prints on a wide variety of surfaces. While we were there they printed a new piece that will be used for Imagery Winery’s new label (it is an award-winning winery which commissions artists to do their wine labels. The surface of the piece itself was layers of laser-etching, then building up the surface and finally printing over the relief. Wonderful stuff.
Chuck Close’s work features heavily at the studio as they work out processes together (currently tiles for a New York subway installation). He actually called while we were there and asked us over speakerphone if we really wanted to be artists. When we said yes, he said “Keep the faith”.
The whole atmosphere was really a delight. I would love to come back there with a project to do with them and their lovely toys.
On a side note they were doing exactly what I was doing all day yesterday- using the laser cutter as part of the printmaking process. Something that seemed like a natural move to me, one I was not at all surprised to hear that others have already been doing.
I have a lot of mediums under my belt, variously considered art or craft or industry depending on the time period and who you ask and I always want to learn new ones. For my grad program I decided not to add to that list without very good reason. That said, printmaking makes so much sense to so much of what I am working with and when this class came up in my last semester I had to have it. It is a technology bridge between handmade and digital. It is multiplicity with variation, I can print on fabric. I can digitally etch or cut a plate at Techshop and then bring it in and print on it, or continue to work it by hand.
I decided to restrict myself to a simple idea- the weave and the grid, the digital/binary and the organic (part of my fascination with weaving is that it is both an ancient craft and the basis for binary computing). Every plate will be some version of this and I intend to start layering those plates. Inside that there is so much I can do! The two plates I have so far are a “Broken Grid” laser-etched (the black and white image here) and a hand-carved woodblock of a loose and dissolving plain-weave. The joyful discovery of today was that after printing on canvas (to paint on/sew through later) I can use the plate again on paper and get the texture of the canvas cloth in the paper print. I’m loving the layers possible with this. I also came up with a new idea of how to use sewing in the printing process which I haven’t yet seen.
I’ve got two laser-cutter dates this week and PLANS.
The other thing I love about the printmaking experience? It’s community based. Much like a ceramics studio, printmaking takes multiple sets of hands and people pooling resources to have it work. The atmosphere is relaxed, congenial, supportive, and questioning in a positive way. It isn’t every artist for themselves, it’s a place where people are helping each other make art. I really missed that. It happens in other disciplines through collaborative work, but it’s palpable in both ceramics and printmaking, and getting my hands achy with tools and sticky with ink feels like coming home.
Continuing in the thread of the digitally-mediated person (Binary Portraits, the Write me for Art Project, etc.) this idea came to me the other day. I think a series is in order, but it requires the person I’m doing the portrait of to let me take all the ads from their computer that I find as they do their regular day’s navigation online
Advertizing companies get a ton of information about us as we browse (Google) or buy (Amazon). They know what we look at and what we click on, what we are interested in, what movies and shows we watch and what we take home. They know if you watch porn, or give money to charity. It’s all there and they give us ads and “suggestions” based on that activity. The line between “suggestions” and targeted ads is so blurry I think it’s really not there.
So… all this leaves a kind of portrait behind in the ads we get. When I sign into my art-only Facebook I get ads for “mature and intelligent men” because it thinks I’m single because I can’t list my husband as my husband because he’s already married to my personal Facebook identity. I assume I get diet stuff because I’m female (since I never diet), but it may be because I’ve ordered “large” in tights (I’m tall with long legs and not super skinny). I didn’t find any the day I was doing this, but sometimes my husband gets ads targeted at gay men, usually when he’s been looking at a lot of interior design sites. Who knows what all of this is based on? Every click goes into the calculations.
Here you have us both as seen by the advertising computers. This is what they think we are and want.
As we revisit memories they degrade and change and become confused. The time and place one is in now will flavor that memory. This was an exercise of writing “memory” over and over in different handwriting styles which each evoked different times and places for me. Gradually the meaning of the text itself is lost.
I seem to have become a text artist, at least in part. Today’s offering is me playing. I need to play more. A lot of amazing work can come out of it.
I took a fantastic class last semester entitled Tex(tile). It dealt with Semiotics, fiber art, fashion, symbols as text, text in art and fashion, metaphor in fiber techniques and materials… it was fabulous and right up my alley.
This semester I’ve got a text art class “This is a mirror, you are a written sentence” (after the text art piece by Luis Camniter) exploring text in art both in the studio and in reading. I am also taking my first proper printmaking class at the graduate level. It made sense since I’m interested in the reproduced, evolving, reinterpreted image/text and the craft/art/high tech juxtopositions. Printmaking was high tech and is now almost craft as a medium (in the sense that these things can be automated, but we do them this way for a certain human texture, process, pride in work, quality, etc.). The results of any process can be art, medium has nothing to do with it. Printmaking also has a history of text mixing with image.
I’m going to continue on my large scale projects, but I’m going to make a point of playing with smaller scale ones. Also of doing some painting and drawing more often. One thin I’m looking forward to about printmaking is that it combines drawing and sculpture so neatly. If you paint multiple colors/washes onto a plate you even get an element of painting too.
I love this piece. Religious architecture has always fascinated me. Each structure is approaching the idea of “what is our relationship to the divine/greater universe? Cathedrals tend to tell us that we are tiny in a huge majestic, beautiful world (which is really true in a way). They also have a hierarchy built into them (distance from altar, height, etc.). A Quaker meeting house will reflect the relationship between people and the beauty in simplicity and the small scale of the day-to-day. They tend to have equality built into them- central arrangement, all on same level or very close, etc.
**A pause for reference, I have a BA in the History of Religions, so I use religious terms the members of each religion themselves use in a sociological/historical way, not as a member of that religion.**
As a space to do art in- to add a layer to these kinds of structures in fantastic. Ann Paterson’s piece works amazingly with both the space and the community. The colors of the ribbons mimic the colors in the stained glass windows and the filtered light through them. The shape suggests both rain and rays of light- a shower from heaven in this case. The red ribbons have prayers written on them from members of the congregation and community. A congregation member explained them to me as visualized prayers going upwards from them to heaven.
If you told me I had blacked out for a year and this piece was mine I would totally believe you (if you convinced me they didn’t mind me not sharing their faith). It has some overlap with Dream blanket (where participants are writing their dreams/hopes on stripes of wool fabric). I love this piece.
I came in the late afternoon, when the light was fading and coming sideways into the space, staining the pillars with colored light, making the ribbons seem even more like rain as they broke up within that light. Exquisite.
I reminded me of the Rain Room project, except that instead of the rain falling around you and failing to hit, it was suspended above you.
It makes me want to hang even more things from the ceiling, and to incorporate more hanging fiber into the embroidery project for my thesis piece.
During the holiday I made a snow woman (the little one is my daughter’s snow-child and the space alien thing is my husband’s). The simple act of making something purely for the fun of it brought back all kinds of creative ecstasy that I’ve been missing in the studio. I had an hour and a half of freezing fingers and smiles until the snow got too soft and wet and I had to leave it alone and let the detail go. That feeling of having to be almost physically torn away from one’s work… it’s been missing.
Making something for the joy of making, even knowing it will melt tomorrow- this feeling must not be forgotten.
Mind you- I love intellectual exercise too. I love delving into concepts and history and experimenting with ideas and thinking about how to get the participant/viewer to reach certain points… but it’s not the same as simply playing and finding out what will happen.
Play is important.
Since I create in both Participatory and Interactive work (sometimes in the same piece) and the words are often used interchangeably and can verge on collaboration I’d like to make the distinctions for you.
Participatory work is at least partially created by participants. The work cannot be made or completed without them. For me, meaningful contribution to the work is an important part of it- they are not just a body filling a space in the piece when told to, but they are offering something of themselves to the work- such as an experience, a mark, a gesture, a memory, or opinion.
This is different than a collaboration because I (as the artist) am setting everything up, staging things and building the framework literally or figuratively. The participants contribute within the framework I set up (and sometimes push the boundaries), but they don’t have a share in final decisions about the framework. I do very actively seek out opinions, responses and ideas from people when building the framework for participatory pieces, but in the end I’m the one who decides. If it were collaborative, we would decide together and there would be an extended process of cross-pollination throughout building the piece.
The “Write me for Art” piece is Participatory in that I’ve been asking people to send me their handwritten responses to questions and without those responses there would be no piece. In some sense the final piece will be interactive because people will be able to move and hold the machine-embroidered parts of the piece, but the second phase doesn’t allow for participation in the same way.
Interactive work is something which invites interaction from the viewer and which may change or react when the viewer activates it in some way (by pushing a button, triggering a motion sensor or picking something up). The viewer’s actions create a response in the piece and the piece creates a response in the viewer- on a physical level. All art is potentially interactive on the emotional/psychological level though our impact on the piece is much more abstract (how we frame it, talk about it, place it in history, etc.).
Identity Tapestry and Scales are both simultaneously Interactive and Participatory. Urban Pulse had a participatory phase (collecting stories and pulses) followed by an interactive phase in the Gallery.
It’s an important distinction.