From the Studio

thoughts on art and process in action from a contemporary artist

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Natural Dyeing for Sukkah Project

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I’ve been invited to inhabit the Sukkah at the Contemporary Jewish Museum (San Francisco) on October 8th for one day of the holiday of Sukkot.  They invited six artists to each take a day to create an open studio or installation project inside the frame of the Sukkah.  I decided to take the opportunity to do a new Participatory Installation piece within that frame entitled Refuge of Leaves.

Process

These are photos of the dyeing process for this new project.  These are the first three batches, using pomegranate dye, rhubarb dye and artichoke dye.  Each dye changes depending on if I scour the paper first, or if I add a mordant, or if I add iron.  I did every combination on four kinds of paper to get a wider variety.

As I’m going, I allow the paper to show some marks- wrinkles, the mark of the iron, irregularities, etc.  Showing their history, that they have been through something, a difficult process that may even damage them seemed like a perfect parallel to individuals seeking refuge, to people who had a story to tell.

About the Piece

Traditionally a Sukkah is a symbolic ritual space of refuge in the wilderness created for the holiday of Sukkot in the Jewish faith and tradition. “Refuge of Leaves” creates a Sukkah as a space for reflection where people from many backgrounds can reflect on and share their personal experiences of refuge from “wildernesses”, whether physical or metaphorical. As a Sukkah it symbolizes a liminal space of safety within the wilderness between worlds.

I followed traditional aspects of the Sukkah in using natural plant-based materials in the form of a variety of papers from different places and times, including papyrus as well as paper that could be put through a modern printer.  These are for participants to write responses to their choice of prompts on the subject of refuge.  I am hand-dyeing the papers with natural dyes to mimic the color range of plants one might build a traditional sukkah from. The dyeing processes also makes each piece of paper individual in color and texture, just like the people writing their responses.

The word “leaves” in the title functions in a number of ways.  The individual leaves of paper in a larger book, the plant leaves that form a traditional Sukkah, and the nature of a this kind of refuge as a temporary shelter (not a home) that eventually requires one to leave.  The structure is very literally a refuge made of leaves that each participant leaves behind.

As part of this project I will be there from 10AM until 4PM to discuss my work and facilitate the process.  Please join me.

#DadaTaroT @ open studios

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I did a less formal version of the #DadaTaroT piece at this fall’s open studios.  I am really enjoying this piece!  A lot of people asked some pretty intense questions, and many interesting interpretations and conversations arose.

A few odd things keep happening:  out of the (4?) times people have asked about Trump winning the election (the piece was made during the primaries), Elvis has been drawn three times out of the nearly 100 media cards.  What is one to make of that?

Another thing that has happened at least three times is that pairs of friends have picked the same card after the entire deck was shuffled.

Two groups went as three people together instead of a pair.

In this iteration, a questioner asked about the nature of the artist as a child, and the person answering was actually quite right.  Another person made an offhand comment that the questioner would get a tattoo on their hand… which it turned out they already had.  A surprising number of people asking about their own mortality.

Narratives upon narratives.

Apologies… the notes on the  two responses seems to be lost.  I’m working on recovery and will post them when and if I get them.

Hidden Processes

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display sketchMy sketches are always like this- rough, scribbly, and somehow they work the best for me- loose enough for me to imagine different details.  But until the other  even the loosest sketch of the physical part of my Endangered Languages piece weren’t jelling enough for any sketch to make me happy.

I had been hitting a major wall with the work and it was keeping me up at night for weeks as I tossed image after image and idea after idea in my head.  Two days ago I had a great conversation with a friend that helped me break through.  He has helped me document my work in video and photography but more importantly he is always  a great person to brainstorm with (there are two pieces we’ve thought out together that I think need to be made as collaborative works).

The thing is the process is so often in the mind.  I visualize and discard so much before I start making these days.  Now without having physically built anything, I suddenly have a pretty clear picture of the finished piece.  Now that it’s there I can sketch and mock up and I can start building like a maniac.  I’m going to build a mock-up for size and relationship to the body before I build the main object.  I want to get the height and tilt angle that way.  It should recall natural history museum displays… but with some unexpected twists in action.

Another thing hidden (besides things in my brain) is the thoughts and concepts behind the work.  You will notice I don’t tend to explain my concepts here.  I have them, usually intensely thought out (what some people would consider over-thought out), but I want the concept to be experienced and seen and heard, not just explained before people see the actual work.  I want them to walk up and discover it, not come in with a thesis on it.  There is also a sort of delicacy in certain stages of creation, where if you explain too much (especially to the wrong people at the wrong time) it leeches the life out of it in your mind, or it kills your drive to make it.

At the same time, I love revealing the physical process.  I like to show the beauty and madness of the actual objects-in-progress and the physical experience of making the thing rather than explain everything up front.

You’ll notice the Academy of Sciences sticker in my sketchbook.  I went with my daughter after school to get a look at the display cases, both old and new.  When I go into a museums or place with the intent to take notes I always put the ticket or sticker or write the place at the top.  Sometimes the page is otherwise blank.

 

Written by Mary Corey March

November 22, 2014 at 12:59 am

Because I can, and Open Studios

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Setting up a test version of “Write Me For Art”. Really, this was the perfect height for setting up on stilts, which is way easier and faster. Sadly I’ll be hanging much higher at the Mint in a few weeks.

Tomorrow I’ll be at Open Studios at SFAI’s graduate center.

There will be the usual nibbles and drinks, but in my case there will be an interactive sound piece “Pulse”, created from the stories of San Franciscans.  What story will your pulse tell?

Also I will be working on a new Participatory piece, so if you choose you can become a part of it!

Graduate Open Studios
Saturday, April 19, 2014 – 12:00pm5:00pm
Third Street Graduate Center
2565 Third Street (between 22nd and 23rd)
San Francisco, CA
We are on the second floor.  Every Orange door is SFAI.  I’m in C7 (C -bay is just right of the lounge, 7 is the back right-hand studio). I find it easiest to take the entrance on 22nd St.
I hope to see you there!
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If you want to see the finished “Write me for Art” you’ll just have to come to the show next month at the Mint.

Written by Mary Corey March

April 19, 2014 at 11:12 am

Spring Shows and Events!

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     April 19th:         Open Studios 12-5PM   2565 Third Street (between 22nd and 23rd), SF, CA
                                   
May 2-4th:             Print Show at Mullowney Printing   933 Treat Street, SF, CA 94110

                                    * Opening on Friday the 2nd.

     May 14th-18th:      PRINCIPAL:  SFAI’s Graduate Thesis Exhibition


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SFAI Graduate Open Studios: http://www.sfai.edu/openstudios

This is your chance to get a peek into the process.

Navigational Tip:   There is an entrance at 22nd street.  Go to the second floor.  Every Orange door on the floor is an SFAI facility. 

I am in Bay C (just to the right of the lounge) in a lovely corner spot in #7 in the back right. 

I will send out more information on the second two events as they approach.  I hope to see you at the Open Studios!  I will have an interactive piece running in the studio as well as a Participatory piece you can contribute to.

The Grid and the Weave

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disrupted grid1smIn entering a new media I’ve given myself the focus of concentrating on the abstract forms of the Weave and the Grid in an exploration of the digital and the organic, order and disorder, structure and entropy.  I’m also sticking to plates of a 18″ x 24″ (the size of both the largest acid bath and laser bed.

I’m LOVING this project. It’s very freeing to explore ideas in a purely abstract form.  So far I have 3 laser-cut plates I’m happy with (one etch on acrylic, one grid cut out of acrylic and one block out of MDF).  I’ve also hand-carved a weave in wood.

It’s so refreshing to enter a new media without knowing the “rules” of that medium.  Today I experimented with adding ink in gestural marks onto the plate after the nice clean layer was put on with the roller. Once it goes through once and then gets rollered over again you get this gorgeous ghostly watercolor look (in the dark grey layer here).  I’m also loving adding string resist into the work.

So far I have around 30 individual pieces, many of them still getting layered up.  I’m not doing nearly identical “editions” in the convention of printmaking.  I don’t see the point.  Each of these is absolutely original.  I’ll be painting over some of the ones I’ve printed on canvas, sewing through them… there really aren’t limits to this.

The next plate that will enter this mix will be on copper- layers of cloth texture in soft ground, spit-bite and hand etching a delicate weave.  weave2sm

Written by Mary Corey March

March 15, 2014 at 10:26 am

New Love

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IMG_4546I finally tried printmaking and I’m in love.  This semester I have a graduate level class with a master printer and printmaking has me.

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 good reason.  That said, printmaking makes so much sense to so much of what I am working with that 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.

Written by Mary Corey March

February 15, 2014 at 11:22 am

Playing with text

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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.

14memory

Written by Mary Corey March

January 28, 2014 at 1:36 am

Write me for Art, floating…

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french letters Life in the studio goes well!  I had hit a bit of a slump, but getting these actually in the air the other day to see what they felt like was a great step.  Once I work out some technical kinks (heavier paper, attachment methods, different adhesive to hold together the envelopes…) it will just be a matter of doing it.  The embroidery continues and I will continue collecting responses for “Write me for Art” until the the new year.

All is going well for this project and I have decided that it will be my MFA thesis show piece at the Vernasage show this coming May.

Speaking of shows, I will be in a sound art show at the Lab during the first week of December, opening is on Thursday the 5th.  I haven’t shown you this piece in progress yet, but perhaps you’ll get a peek soon.

 

Written by Mary Corey March

November 23, 2013 at 5:12 am

My studio is Haunted

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I’ve been avoiding my studio.  I only realized it today.  I had plenty of excuse to work at home and wherever I was, so I did.  Now I know that it’s haunting me.

It’s full of work which is not alive to me in this moment.  I need to get the finished pieces out of my field of view for now.  I need to put some of the unfinished work that isn’t in my immediate path aside while I work out new ideas before it tugs me off course.  I still intend to finish those pieces, but with one year left to my program I want my focus to be entirely on new ideas rather than wrapping up the execution of old ones.

“Execution”.  No accident to the double meaning there.  To finish a piece that is already in your mind, where there are no more surprises… to me that is the execution.  It finishes the piece, but it is also robbed of life that way.  Where is the space between creation and execution?

I need the process to stay alive throughout the arc of a piece.

In the case of the studio I need to move all this to some other storage space so that I see possibility instead.  Blank walls and space for the new ideas to take shape.  Laying here in the middle of it, the walls feel heavy to me.  They pull on my mind when it wants to be light and nimble. The new art I’m making in my mind is so different from what is on my walls (more traditional work- the participatory installations are all ephemeral, aquired and elsewhere or in storage).  The work that is the least where I’m at right now is most in my space.  That is why I have been staying away- I felt it’s influence on me and rejected it without thinking it out.  I cannot start making tht new art in this space while the other art is in here.

Even just staring at blank walls helps me create.  When they are blank white even the scale disappears.  I can draw on them with my mind and go through a thousand sketches before I even lift a pencil.

…now where can I get a truck and some storage space I trust?

Written by Mary Corey March

September 20, 2013 at 3:57 am