Sunday, December 16, 2012

Carbon Corpus and what's coming up in 2013

The Carbon Corpus project is gearing up to launch in January as part of the exhibition Beyond... at Moore College of Art and Design. Above is the IPO letter for the project - click on it for a larger image.

In other exhibition news - I'm part of the Artists Annual at the Kala Art Gallery - the exhibition is up till February 2, and can be seen online here.

January is getting closer and closer - I will be part of the show at Moore, as well as part of a show called Proof of Some Existence at ECHO Gallery in Calistoga....and in February, I will have my own half-table at the Codex International Book Fair! 2013 is looking busy.

Friday, November 23, 2012

"Clarity" at Napa Art on First

Some photos from the opening for Napa's "Art on First" event this week. For the event, artists take over the empty storefronts in downtown Napa, and the installations will be up for the next year, barring any spaces getting rented.

These are shots of my installation, Clarity. The panels are made from Schoenoplectus californicus, better known as tule or California bulrush, harvested from the shores of Winery Lake.

(Click on images for enlargements).

To me, this is an example of how handmade paper art can transcend being just a an art object made in a craft tradition, to becoming site-specific and a form of Land Art. Clarity is made out of the land itself, and is being shown only a few miles from where the plants that it originated from grew.

As I said in my statement, I called the piece Clarity in reference to the "transparency and purity of the Napa River, but also [to suggest] the insight gained when we understand its value." Today, as I look at these photos, I can't help thinking about my conversation earlier this week with Jill about water usage in handmade paper, and how water will play out politics and survival in the future.

I love the Napa Art community, such wonderful, inspiring and amazing folks. Some very sweet friends from Napa told me that this piece was "poetry on paper, in this little context it is a huge continent."

Special thanks goes to the Arts Council of Napa Valley, particularly Christy Bors for all her organizing, and Cohan Sculley, for coordinating installation, general helpfulness, and above all, patience with me as installing dragged on and I kept saying I was almost done....thank you.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Printmaking and Street Art As Activist Art Tools

This summer, I proposed and was fortunate to teach a class to a remarkable group of women at the UC Berkeley Art Extension. The students all made some incredible work, and have given me permission to post some of it here.

Going in alphabetical order, the first is Alexandra Corcoran. Alex was working on expressing the lack of jobs and opportunities for college graduates in the current economic situation.

Lina Janusas was interested in expressing the lack of vitality in corporate culture, sort of along the lines of the "Occupy Your Life" movement, with shades of Posada.

Ka Gan Cheung, winner of the fastest printmaker award for the class, was focused on immigrant rights and exploitation.

Priscilla Read
wanted to explore her environmental interests, but found that subject too broad. She ended up focusing on the idea of reducing plastic use, which led her from printmaking to printing on bags to provide vehicles for reducing plastic use.

Susan Richardson took on global warming, and integrated the ideas into an already established body of work that incorporated calligraphy, typography, narrative, experimentation, and other various forms of markmaking.

Katrina Zappala was interested in expressing honeybee issues, such as Colony Collapse Disorder.

It was an amazing and energetic class. And it looks like I will be returning next summer to teach it again next summer!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Riding the waves

This past week has had a strange melancholy to it. The previous week, Robert was in Stanford Hospital receiving an experimental treatment, which so far has proved to be inconclusive at best, but was most likely unsuccessful. At the same time, Hurricane Sandy pummeled the East Coast, and several friends have been without power or electricity for days.

It's so odd to be here, in beautiful, sunny California, while 3000 miles away people are cold and hungry, in places like lower Manhattan, the richest city in the world. Complicated by my personal struggle as a caretaker/my partner's health issues, I end up feeling isolated and guilty. My troubles are not shared, and do not have a an end in sight, yet at the same time, are not immediately pressing like those of people in Hoboken or Staten Island.

Last year, my in-laws lost all their belongings when their house was flooded by Hurricane Irene. As fundraiser for them, I ended up selling the print above, and I've found myself thinking about it a great deal this week. Fortunately, this year, for them, the creek didn't rise enough to flood their home, although they have been without heat or electricity for a week.

I find myself turning to poetry for comfort, guidance, insight. Poets like Mary Oliver, Pablo Neruda, Rainer Maria Rilke. And then, today, the poem below caught my eye. I have a copy of it on my fridge. It's been there for years, ever since my senior year of college when my teacher, Shelley Thorstensen, gave it to me. I just noticed it again after being blind to it. Shelley didn't know the author, or even the title, and I can't see to find it on Google. It may actually not be a poem, just a list of lifeboat survival techniques. But it can be an overall metaphor for getting through a tough time.

Keep riding the waves.
When there's a lull, take a rest.
If you have crackers, eat them sparingly.
Icebergs are dangerous, but are a source of pure water.
Eventually, you might see a ship. Fire off the flare gun, toward it.
Wave at all aircraft, but do not yell; they cannot hear.
If raft overturns, hold ropes on all sides.
All parties must be on the same side, to turn raft upright.
Be sure the automatic harpoon is pointed towards the water.
Rebroadcast your current location at regular intervals.
If you see birds, row toward where they fly.
Beware of using sharp objects inside raft.
Do not eat any species of blowfish.
When you hear the sound of breaking waves, be ready to make landfall.
The Bermuda Triangle is populated with giant squid, a source of protein, which will feed two people for many days.
Rest as often as possible, but keep an eye on the horizon.

If anyone knows who or where this is from, please let me know in the comments.

In related news, if you feel like helping and are far away like me, text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10 to go specifically to Hurricane Sandy relief.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Screenprinting On Glass With Glass

Earlier this fall, Bullseye Glass contacted SF State with an offer for Stacy Lynn Smith (examples of her work above) to come visit and demonstrate her technique of glass powder screen printing. The offer was too good to resist and I eagerly took them up on it.

Stacy has a background in printmaking and book art, and discovered along the peripatetic artist's path we all take how to incorporate those techniques with kiln-fired glass. Using an exposed screen with a mesh no tighter than 170, she pours out a small amount of glass powder above her image, much as a screen printer would lay out ink. This powder is than squeezed through the mesh, not with a printer's squeegee, but with a simple piece of cardboard. However, instead of one downward pass, she makes about ten rhythmic passes up and down over her image.

The glass is printed while resting on cups so as to enable easy lifting and moving - the glass goes into a kiln to fuse the powder into glass. If the glass was printed on the table surface, she would have to tilt it to lift it, and would lose her image. The screen is printed off-contact as well. Here, the first layer:

According to Stacy, two to three layers can be printed before she recommends firing the glass. However, more layers can be printed over those that a fired, and fired again. Here, two layers of powder printing:

The process also involves understanding temperature in regards to kiln firing and glass chemistry. As I understand it, lower temperatures produce glass that is rougher in texture and more opaque. Higher temperatures make glass smoother, glossier, and more transparent.

Some of Stacy's color samples:

More samples of Stacy's experiments:

Stacy also teaches a number of workshops at various Bullseye locations where an interested person can learn her technique and screen print their own images onto glass. I'd highly recommend her, and her technique sets the mind a whirl with possibilities!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

"Rag Men" at the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art

Last Sunday I went to the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art for their presentation, "Rag Men," part of The Art of Handmade Paper exhibition (see my previous post here). It featured the curator, Simon Blattner, and Bryce Seidl, director of the Pacific Science Center, who is a also a paper historian and collector, as well as responsible for loaning many of the objects to the museum of the exhibition.

Most of Bryce's objects were left to him by his father, Roger Seidl, who was assigned by the US Government to assist and coordinate the rebuilding of the Japanese paper industry after WWII. Our country had bombed most of the paper mills, and during the reconstruction Roger Seidl ended up befriending many papermakers, who gifted him with some of the objects that were on display as part of the show.

Their discussion centered around the history of the commercial paper industry, which Bryce had worked in for years before his time at the Pacific Science Center. Much of it was just explaining the basics of how paper is made to those who were unfamiliar in the audience, but Bryce was able to rattle off facts - such as each person in the US still goes through 700 pounds of paper a year - that would have eluded me. He stressed that the paper industry has actually become much more environmentally friendly, with abilities to do things like recycle heat from the manufacturing for drying the paper, recycling the processing chemicals, and recycling paper in general. He stressed that the alternative to paper in most situations is plastics, from the petroleum industry, and that tree-based paper is a much more environmentally friendly alternative. Which, I guess when you think about it that way, is true. Although I will argue that that doesn't mean we shouldn't make intelligent choices about how we use paper.

Towards the end of the discussion, someone asked if either of these men thought that we would ever be a totally paper-free society, as the digital age progressed. Bryce said he didn't believe so, and also pointed out that as use of paper declines for things like books or business memos or whatever, we will still use it for toliet paper or tissues, and asked the audience to imagine a world without toliet paper. It was a very cogent point.

It was a good discussion, however I wished they had touched on the relevance, vitality, and importance of handmade paper as a contemporary art form.

I was fortunate to talk to Bryce a bit after the discussion, and he was excited to learn that I as an artist who was working with watermarks. Our discussion led him to ask the museum to pull out one of the objects they had chosen not to display out of storage, a large watermark his former paper company had produced that he wanted to show me.

I also had a chance to see the parts of the exhibition I'd missed in the crowd, such as this piece by Helen Hiebert:

Finally, I got to spend some time with the installation of Tibetan prayer flags and paper in the front of the museum. I forgot to note the information down about the story behind the piece, but nonetheless, it was beautiful.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Fibershed Papermaking Workshop

This month has been a whirlwind, and I've barely been able to keep up with this blog, as exemplified by the tardiness of this post. Two weeks ago I taught an intensive papermaking workshop for the Fibershed. Specifically, it involved a group of teachers from the Marin County school system who are incorporating sustainable and bio-regional art making activities into their curriculum.

The class covered how to paper from vegetables, invasive plants, and clothing. Here, some students harvest Andean Pampas Grass seed hair.

The class also covered various preparation methods, from hand beating, to blenders, to the beater itself. Many of the teachers really liked the idea of a classroom full of kids expending their energy by hand beating fiber, but to me it sounds like a cacophonous nightmare.

After learning about prep, we moved on to actual sheet forming. I also discussed techniques on preventing water from getting everywhere in a classroom situation. Over the course of the day, I kept making jokes about kids and how they react to various art classroom situations, and how I tend to handle them, which kept the teachers amused. One even commented that it would be very entertaining to watch me handle a group of kids making paper.

It was a great class, and great to share papermaking with a group of enthusiastic people who asked so many good questions, danced around my studio, and kept me on my toes the entire day.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Studio Photos

I recently taught a papermaking class through the Fibershed in my studio. In preparation, I had asked Robert to organize his tool corner of the studio. Instead, he went above and beyond and organized the entire space for me, winning the Ultimate Husband of All Time Award, I think. Before the workshop, while it was set up in preparation for the class, we shot some photos of the space. Above, you can get a good idea of the size - it's about 900 square feet or so, and the reason we decided to rent this house.

The drying area, for prints and pellon. We had built the drying racks back in Philly, using nylon window screening and cheap stretcher bars bought with a coupon at Jerry's Art-A-Rama.

Organized printing and inking tools:

The glowing portal in the back of this photo is the door to our garden, a space I often use for the very wet part of my projects, as well as cooking fiber:

Of course, now that it's all organized, I can't find anything!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Shifting Margins at Red Poppy

Some readers of this blog may not be aware that I am the art instructor for Southern Exposure's partnership with The Beat Within. In this program, I visit the Alameda County Juvenile Hall once a week to teach art and writing workshops.

Recently, some work by my students there was selected for the exhibition, Shifting Margins, curated and organized by OFFSpace. OFFSpace is the brainchild of Kathrine Worel and Emmanuelle Namont Kouznetsov. The exhibition is running in two parts, my students' work is on display at Red Poppy Art House.

Due to the complications and unpredictability that youth in juvenile detention experience, it was decided to exhibit digital reproductions of their artwork, rather than originals. This way, if they were released, sent to a group home, aged out of juvenile detention, or something else, their drawings would not be lost to them.

The work is up till November 10.