Saturday, December 26, 2015

Banff Recollections

I've been enjoying my holiday break, catching up on some studio projects and starting a few new ones. The piece above is an in-process shot of the center panel of a print triptych I'm working on, based on my experience at Banff for the Dard Hunter Conference. The final piece will be a series of reduction linoleum blocks on handmade paper with pulp paint - the blue in the image above is actually a pulp paint stencil.

As the print progresses, I find myself remembering not only the mountains there, but the studios as well, and the integration between inside and outside as an artist's space.

All the studios at Banff either have skylights or large windows that look out towards the mountains. Even the studios for individual artists. It was so bright that the view from the windows in this pictures is overexposed, but the mountains are there.

The print shop is divided into multiple rooms. Below, the screen print area:

The screen print area is part of a long room that also houses the etching area, divided by some enclosed rooms for screen exposure and for acid. Along one side are windows that bring the light and mountains in.

I loved this guide to their ink colors:

A door in the etching area leads to the litho room:

Passing through the litho room leads to letterpress:

Next to letterpress is a clean room that can serve as a bindery or print curating space, which I neglected to photograph. Off of that room is the digital printshop - please excuse the slight blurriness.

The paper studio is in the basement. Radha Pandey was doing an Islamic papermaking demo during the tour, I'll dedicate a post to that soon.

The beater room.

The studio building is built into the side of the mountain. In the paper studio, there is still one wall of windows, but on the other side of the room, the mountain literally comes into the studio.

Raw fibers, half stuff, linters, and odds and ends on the wall of the paper studio:

The print and paper studios are coordinated by Wendy Tokaryk, whose work I was fortunate to see while in Banff.

This is just the studios I saw. The entire three days was so full of energy and revelation, it would be too long a post, so I will have to share the rest in other posts.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Surviving the Final Critique

Image Source

With the semester winding down and critiques heating up, I've been thinking about how to advise students on handling a final critique. One of my recent mentees recently went through her Post-Bac thesis critique, (with flying colors!) but beforehand, I realized I needed to put something together to teach students to prepare for the actual event so as to get the most out of it. After putting the question out to several artists and educators, I've gathered the following. Some readers may find parts of this advice contradictory - there wasn't a consensus on how much a student should speak about the work. From which I'd conclude: it depends on you as the person being critiqued. Do you have a lot to say about the work that you feel is a necessary component of understanding the work? Do you feel the work stands on its own? Consider your specific questions regarding your work and find ways to ask them during the crit.

In addition to all the advice below, I'd add two things. First, if the crits are open, and time permits, take the opportunity to watch others. You will learn much more about art making and also gain some insight into your critics. And secondly, try to avoid being the person critiqued right before lunch.

Ellen Owens
I'd ask them to try to look at their work using the perspectives of 3 other, actual people - maybe one is an art professor, one is a person that knows nothing about what they are doing (an aunt?), and one that's part of an audience that would connect with the topic. What questions would each person have? How would you explain the work differently to each one? And what are their perceived strengths and weaknesses about the work? If they can answer these, then they should be well-prepped.
Also, I'd tell them to bring tissues.

Marie Elcin
Don't be a victim of bad critique! If you just stand there and let people say things it hurts. Take charge of the critique. Be able to explain your intentions and have specific questions of things you want to have help on. Like I was trying to say this but I'm not sure that's how it comes across to the viewer? Or I've been struggling with this technique. What could I do differently? Or I'm not sure if I have the best resources for working out this concept, where should I look next? For notes have someone else take them and record what you say and what others say. Especially since your adrenaline gets worked up, you won't remember anything.

Jenifer Wofford
Yes, own it. If you (the general "you") go in with the understanding that the purpose of critique is to help work grow, it can be easier to be proactive in soliciting and recording feedback that will help you do this. This will make even the harder comments a bit easier to take, and will prevent you from feeling victimized. Also, have a trusted friend grill you first. As far as talking about the work yourself, have a grab bag of active, specific words that really matter to you when you think about your work. You can't (and shouldn't) memorize a monologue to define your work, but you CAN have key words that you can anchor and organize your thoughts around.

Jillian Contreni Sosko
My advice to students is to try to identify what they want from the crit, and to know their work and process well enough to direct the experience and get what they need. I always ask my upper level students to write about their work anytime they make a serious investment of time in the studio (after every session of work)- and to read those notes consistently+ try to distill information prior to having a review with other folks.

Lucy Childs
If you're really nervous, it helps to know the audience's eyes are on what you're presenting and not on you. So, if a student can direct the group to look at the art as they talk that will help them relax. Also to anticipate what questions may be asked, write down the answers to think of pertinent details, and then rehearse the answers to prevent becoming tongue-tied. [Students ahould] think about [their] feet -- this helps to feel grounded, literally. And lastly, find something in the room that is soothing to look at (the view out the window, a picture on the wall, etc.) to look at when feeling stressed. PS. It's one experience in [their lives], not a defining one.

Melissa Jay Craig
Figure out what you really want / need feedback on, and ask for it. Run the meeting: you are chair. (Hopefully by now - a final critique - you have also read and are familiar with The Critique Handbook.)

Emily Bicht
I actually think it best to keep your comments to yourself unless asked directly - you may find yourself in the terrible position of defending something you have said and not talking about the work. It happens all the time. Don't enter the critique with verbal information. You've given them the work and probably a statement - that should be enough. Let the audience lead the conversation and if you don't like the direction ask questions. But be wary of making declarative statements of the conversation stops referencing the work - which ideally speaks for itself.

Shelley Thorstensen
Control the crit if it starts to go south. Two specific things: if you don't like the way conversation is going between the people critting and a certain work, jump in and ask them about a different work. Maybe someone else will have something to say about something else. Some people just like to hear themselves speak. Second, if you are talking and you feel uncomfortable or whatever, maybe you feel you are not making sense, stop. You can stop even in mid-sentence. Usually people won't even know you did it. Just continue on with something else. A lot of times, especially if it is a large group, they are more busy thinking of their next thing to say.

Louise Philips Richborn
[Remember] you are never a victim, you want something from these people- you are a sales person! Sell them, and you can only sell by being positive, receptive and accepting of different opinions, remember everyone comes from a different up bringing and culture. If someone tells you that your work is a piece of shit- ask them why? How? Never be negative- and have a big bottle of wine or bowl of ice cream waiting for you at home.

Kara Petraglia
Have a friend/colleague take notes if at all possible, otherwise try to record the conversation. I agree with Shelley in trying to control the conversation - if it's moving in a useless direction, try ask questions to clarify points or to move the conversation along. Others are providing the feedback, but it's ok to move things along that aren't helpful or have been beaten into the ground. Come in with specific questions about how things work or read to help prompt the others to provide helpful feedback.

Meg Escude
Never apologize. Never talk about what you were gonna do...the direction it didn't take. Just commit to what it is.

Miriam Schear
Listen, try not to be reactive and remember-this is a conversation. So-also have questions YOU have for your audience that you would like feedback on. Don't talk about work you are going to make: that is what I call an 'air crit'. Definitely record the session-use your phone if necessary and have someone take notes if possible. Sometimes things that sound harsh or super critical in the moment are just simply questions. Consider it a barometer about how people are perceiving your work.

More Advice:
How To Survive a Critique: A Guide to Giving and Receiving Feedback
How to Survive an Art Critique
Fine Art Views: How To Survive an Art Critique

Also, for educators, critics, or visiting artists, on giving criticism, I recommend:
Dealing With Unhelpful and Unsolicited Critiques of Creative Work
Liz Lerman Critical Response Process

For other artists' advice in this series, visit here.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Collected thoughts

I have two solo shows coming up next summer, and I've slowly been gathering thoughts and trying to make connections between them as to how they will take form in my work. No resolutions yet, but what I'm considering, in no particular order:

1) Last month the school I teach at was on lockdown for almost two hours due to an active shooter threat. We were slowly evacuated room-by-room. As I was lying on the floor, staring at the ceiling tiles, the responsibility of keeping 35 lives from getting shot descended on me. Thankfully, no one was hurt, all students remained safe, threat was neutralized. But I can't shake that feeling.

2) Saw Sophie Calle speak last week. Her talk can be summed up in this statement she made towards the end, "Absence is motivation."

3) Refugee crisis in Syria, and how it is creating its own absence. Evidence suggests the crisis is directly related to global warming.

4) Does global warming cause other violence, albeit, possibly, indirectly? Is there a link between school violence and global warming? Perhaps in the form of anxiety and poverty?

5) Viewing art leads to an increase in empathy.

6) Shipwrecks, the economy, global exchange.

7) I think violence in any form indicates a lack of connection, to other people, to a community, to nature, to spirituality.

8) How can an artist create connection, or interconnection, between people?

9) One form of connection is stories, but does that build a deep enough connection? Could some form of social practice interaction build on stories to create connections?

Sunday, November 1, 2015

New Print and collaboration about Pluto!

As a usual gap in blogging indicates, a whirlwind of activities happened. I need to sit down and really do a couple of posts about the time at Banff, but because it was just SO MUCH I need to process a bit.

So to get back into the rhythm of blogging, I'm writing today about my recently finished print for the Pluto Print Exchange that Mandy organized. Robert and I ended up collaborating on our piece, and we didn't end up killing each other! (I find it odd that as frequently as I collaborate with others - Marie, Mary, Anne - this was my first time with my husband).

With all the new images of Pluto from New Horizons, I started looking at images of Pluto from mythology, particularly in printed matter. Robert and I both ended up being drawn to this image by Hendrick Goltzius.

Our original intent was to combine the historic and the most recent scientific, perhaps in a sort of like Vitruvian Man. However, the idea developed through our love and respect for papercutting to incorporate that technique. We were also inspired by Allison Smith's Pitcher Collection, and how isolating an image from context makes it both more playful and yet gives it a certain presence.

Using some of the leftover Sekishu from my Small Plates residency (thanks SFCB!) we digitally printed (with archival inks) some images of Pluto's surface. I carved a block based on Goltzius's Pluto (above, inked) which was then printed onto the Sekishu.

The prints were then cut out of the Sekishu.

(I have to confess, the whole time I was cutting these, I kept thinking about this post from The Toast, and the line, GET THIS ARSE.)

Finally, the cut out images were chine colle'd to Rives BFK.

Click on the images for larger views.

The print needs to be properly documented, still. Next spring, the entire portfolio will be exhibited at UArts in the Printmaking Gallery. Artists from Oakland (me), Seattle, Iowa, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia participated. I've yet to see the rest of the portfolio, but have heard good things about the other pieces - trying to be patient but very excited!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Paper in Nature

This past weekend I was part of the Art In Nature festival in Redwood Regional Park. Redwood Regional Park, which is about fifteen minutes away from where I live, is one of the places I go walking. Judy had mentioned something about being part of last year's festival and how much she enjoyed it, and so I applied and was accepted to make a piece, as a chance to honor a place that fulfills me so much. The work I exhibited was developed in the cast paper street art I did recently.

(For larger images, click on the pictures.)

The park is notable for Redwood Creek; its native rainbow trout have been cross-bred with other struggling trout populations throughout the US. Redwood Creek's trout are a genetically pure population that is under critical study in order to reveal new understandings about trout populations. With California's extreme drought the creek appears to be dried up completely; I'm not sure what this means for the population. This idea was the basis for this work I'm calling Upstream.

It was an insanely hot day, and yet they clocked around 5000 visitors to the event. For me, the best part was to sit (or lay) near my piece, and listen to the musicians play, and let their songs become a soundtrack of sorts. I didn't get to photograph many of the other works and performances, but here's a few!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Blue on the street

Last Sunday, I was part of the Sunday Streets festival in the Excelsior, which for non-San Francisco people is one of the last working-class neighborhoods in San Fran. I was invited by the Youth Art Exchange to do a short-term installation and activity.

I've had cast paper on the brain, since I'm building an installation with it for the Art and Nature Festival in September. So I decided to experiment, and ended up with cast paper street art.

The work is up for the next few weeks near the intersection of Mission and Russia. Click on the images for larger pictures.

For a street-based art-making activity, I proposed to do Gyotaku prints. I wanted something that connected to the installation. Since the street was closed, I originally started out in the street itself. For those unfamiliar with the Excelsior, typically it's one of San Francisco's foggy and chilly neighborhoods. Not last week - the sun was out in full force. In the street, ink was drying before we could print, and my crayons literally began to melt. So ended up moving onto the sidewalk, sharing shade with the Youth Art Exchange and their partner on another project, Green Art Workshops.

A gentleman by the name of Melxin Whartnaby came by during the event. He was documenting it for the Friends of the Excelsior Public Library, and shared his photos with me.

Due to the heat, the day was fairly low-key, compared to say, some of my past projects in which there was a constant stream of people. However, it reminded me of how energizing it is to make art on the street, with the public. More importantly, it affirms how much there is a need for such projects.

Green Art Workshops was also doing a participatory project. Using some silver mat board donated from SCRAP and the laser cutter from the Youth Art Exchange, they made a series of water droplets. The public was invited to write ways to save water on the drops, which were then hammered into the wall loosely. When the wind blew, the entire installation swayed. This piece will also be up for a few weeks, and is right next to mine.

Some of the suggestions were pretty intricate, as this drawing of a de-salination system.

Some tried for humor.

I owe a debt of gratitude for this experience to the Youth Art Exchange, particularly Reed Davaz McGowen.

The sun and heat took a lot out of me that day, but the event gave me a renewed energy for the studio. Since completing The Last Color, I'd been a little postpartum. That day I realized how much I've missed doing street art and public interventions. Now, with this renewed energy, I'm returning to the studio to try some experiments. As John Cage would say, I welcome what happens next.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Last Color, a new artist book

Finally some good documentation of my Small Plate book, The Last Color. This book was inspired by my interest in the history of color, particularly by listening to this. For larger pictures, just click on the images.

Due to the brevity of the residency, I didn't have time to make the paper. So I decided to pass on the good fortune, and support other papermakers. The book includes Sekishu Washi and Multi-dipped Indigo Cave Paper. The imagery was printed from two-color reduction woodblocks.

The book is a variation on the flag book structure invented by Hedi Kyle. In the front of the book is a short pamphlet with the text, printed in Garamond from hand-set type.

To purchase a copy, contact Malgosia Kostecka, Program Coordinator for the San Francisco Center for the Book, at (415)-565-0545, or visit the center. Copies are also available from Mrs. Dalloway's Bookstore at 2904 College Avenue in Berkeley, or by calling them at 510-704-8222. And if those don't work, a small number are available from me directly, shoot me at email at michelle(at)michellewilsonprojects(dot)com to inquire.

My book, along with the other Small Plates editions, is currently on display at the Center in one of their beautiful new display cases!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Printmakers for the Ayotzinapa 43 at the Santa Cruz Public Library

The Printmakers for the Ayotzinapa 43 portfolio is currently on display at the downtown branch of the Santa Cruz Public Library. There will be reception with a poetry reading and performance on Friday, August 7.

My print is the first on the left in the middle row. You can see a earlier post about the making of it here.