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!