Tuesday, November 30, 2010


I have continued the large-scale drawings on glued tracing paper series, and am quite happy with this one- a hovering telephone receiver. It's similar to an earlier drawing, almost a year ago, but it seems to have so much more presence when it is several times larger than life size.

After drawing this, I had a sudden memory of childhood fears and imaginations of anxiety- about strange creatures and mechanical devices that would creep out of dark places: door knobs, buttons and switches that had eyes, etc. It's amazing what strange human qualities these forms have, and how that relates to a sense of the uncanny, automata, and the disembodied voice.

One other change I made is the use of Elmer's glue instead of rice paste. It caused more puckering, and I hope it will start to age and yellow. I'm also pondering a way to walk through them, perhaps involving projection of drawings and animation.

What's next? Perhaps a phonograph horn or speaker, or close up of a phone receiver mouth piece. Disconnected wires seem to be integral as well. Hmmm.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tracing Paper Drawing

Now to post the image of the large drawing. It was suggested by a committee member that I change the scale of the charcoal pieces. Several have taken issue with them, in that they are 18 x 24, or even that they are such a regular, rectangular format that simply suggests photography. They wish to see something that breaks out of the bounds a little bit.

It was also suggested that I alternately project the drawings onto a wall, so that their ephemerality is even more exaggerated than just the fact that they are charcoal "stills".

While still pondering those possibilities, I plan on making several large drawings on tracing paper. This way, the support is very thin and fragile and coated with charcoal dust that threatens to simply brush off. In order to get such a large surface, I tore out sheets from a pad and simply rice-pasted them together. There are obvious seams that pucker and affect the texture of the drawing. I kind of like this attention that is drawn to the support material itself.

The texture behind is of the wallpapered board in my studio used as a prop in the earlier installation piece. It's about 6 ft tall.

I kind of like isolating this image. Perhaps I'll draw it again, and there will be several speakers lined up in succession on a wall. I also plan on a large telephone, electrical wires, and possibly a gramophone horn. More on the meanings of this imagery later... But in the meantime, darn you Kentridge : ) I'm sure I'll get harassed about charcoal speakers for sure. At least I don't have them marching yet.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


I am pleased to report surviving two nights of openings! We had a wonderful crowd, good food and music, but most of all, it was a good experience to get so much work out of the studio and into a new space. I was amazed at how all of our (my two studiomates Brooke and Susana and I) work looks interspersed together. There are so many similarities and nuances I never would have noticed with everything segregated and piled in the studio.

I do also admit to feeling a bit strange about so much work being absent as I'm back in the studio now. It sort of feels like I've lost some dear pets or children and I'm sitting and wondering what to do without them.

So, it is all the more incentive to get new work done, which I am beginning- a large charcoal drawing on glued sections of tracing paper- taking some favorite motifs from the earlier drawings. More on that next time.

The show was interesting to see so many of the drawings installed on a wall from floor to ceiling. I at first almost backed down, still unsure of that idea from an earlier critique. The gallery owner was very interested in that installation, though, and insisted I stick with it. So I climbed the ladder after arranging things in what made the most sense on the floor, and put up a large collage. It was interesting to see this with a print done over the summer that sort of embodies all of those feelings, as well as the projection running my animation of the drawings right next to it. I think that was certainly a favorite part- seeing the animation replay and reinforce all of the work hanging on the wall. The same happened for Brooke with both her dollhouse and painting/collage pieces.

So hopefully there is a way to do that- to put it all together, possibly on separate walls, without it looking all cluttered and not like a "rummage sale." I would like the work to reinforce itself, not negate.

Till then, here are some images...

Friday, November 19, 2010

Grad Crit

This past week involved another crit. I did as suggested and pulled the different installation pieces apart. The first piece shown was the mini projection, but this time I simply projected the hands typing onto paper coming out of the typewriter. I was attempting to see a sort of "ghost in the machine" and to make something ethereal, representing actions that passed before. The camera is hidden underneath a piece of paper in front of the projector that shines into a small shard of mirror.

One person said, however, that I was trying too hard and suggested that I take the paper away. If it's really supposed to be ethereal, then it should barely be seen. I turned out the lights and played with the projection directly on the red velvet interior of the box:

This slight modification seems to be something... Perhaps it truly does need to be more ethereal. The "nostalgia" accusation would come a little less quickly, and the association is more of an acknowledgment of time passing, tradition and technology fading, rather than just preservation.

I've been thinking about this in relation to the drawings as well. Perhaps it does need to be a large-scale drawing, but on something translucent- almost transparent, and one can see a crumbling wall or surface behind. I could piece together tracing paper and enlarge images in charcoal.

Several artists project images of what passed before on abandoned buildings as well. Hopeful visiting artist Shimon Attie is a wonderful example:

More conversations so come, and in the meantime, off to a show opening. Will have pictures soon...

Saturday, November 13, 2010

4th Quarter Review

I've been busy and MIA with the 4th quarter review. It's optional, of course, and initially thought of as a bad thing, requested by the committee if someone's progress didn't seem adequate. I, however, highly recommend it just to get some great feedback. There's something different about a group dynamic bouncing ideas off one another at once- sometimes contradictory. This helps one realize it really is just opinion, and it's a quick way to debate/negate those contradictory viewpoints or see that both views are possible and valid.

Anyway, this was the original set up, as I had sort of 'exploded' my studio downstairs. I knew I threw in the whole kitchen sink, but just wanted to see what was working or not. Sadly I think a lot of things just canceled each other out:

Yikes! So here are notes from the review:
  • One member focused more on the charcoal drawings and thought something in the earlier video shown was very deadpan- about reaching for phones, trying to plug in and listen, etc.
  • Something about there being any people in the drawings kind of ruins it. The viewer can't just explore the space. It puts up a wall.
  • The drawings all have a strange, and unique perspective. If they were a larger scale, they could really draw the viewer in. This scale just says film/photograph. Slowing down time would be another factor of a larger scale. Just start working on a large roll of paper.
  • The sky with phone and wires and speaker on a pole are open images. Others are closed down.
  • Everything is evenly presented like a rummage sale. You're asking a lot if the viewer.
  • Things need to be pulled out and away from the wall. Nothing is inviting. The viewer is closed out. Typewriters should be up on desks, and phone should be by itself.
  • The drawings themselves could be projected on the wall. That would go with the ethereal nature of your work.
  • One simple image can do all the work. Just focus on what you want to get across.
  • Sadie Benning animated drawings (when her video wasn't yet processed at the Wex) by just walking around and 'panning' and 'zooming in' by literally walking the drawings around in front of the camera with an audience while telling a story.
  • The video projected onto the printmaking plate- is it important that there's an image on the plate? It doesn't really look worked. Maybe ink up the plate partway to show that.
  • All the passages are a quick and even tempo in your video. Still looks like a 'how-to' film. You need to really slow some of them down, make them more pensive.
  • Putting any object in a gallery makes it precious. You're still being nostalgic. Why do you use these objects? I like them because I can see how they function. They're more tactile/materially present and I can understand them. That's not true- I don't know how that phone or electricity works any more than my cell phone. It is still about magic and electricity- telegraphs, spirit photography and communicating with the dead. A way to reach the other side. So what does that mean to use them now? Trying to connect with an earlier history, the past, but it's futile.
  • Maybe the stories on the phone are enough. Maybe that's it right there. I'm trying to figure out what is the process and the byproducts in the background of the work, and what I want to have as the finished product. Is it the drawings? The actions? The retelling of the stories? Which part stands in for all of it?
  • You realize you're under the cloud of Kentridge. That's a pretty huge cloud. I know.
So that's where I'm left. I played in the gallery most of the day today, taking the show apart piece by piece to let each object stand on its own.

First I took down the curtains:

Next, the drawings came down:

There's something I still like about having just one drawing up there, how it interacts with the small moving image. I also paused the video in order to take clearer photographs. In doing this, I realized that I like a simply projected still image. Perhaps that is an answer. Or at least maybe something so slow that the movement is barely perceptible.

I also isolated the phone playing stories by itself:

Then, the typewriters on pedestals with the paper of repeating images draped between:

I lastly placed the drawing behind, just in moving things around, and was curious about that interaction as well:

Afterwards I played a little with 'lo-tech' animation and more on that next time. In the meantime, still a lot to process, but glad to have some time to play and document. Focus focus- what's the most simple means to get what across??

Till then...

Monday, November 8, 2010

Last field trip and unoriginal mirrors

After my latest 'genius' move of hiding the projector with mirrors, I soon discovered that I was really just recreating innovations of early television sets in the 1930s and '40s. But first, we embarked on the first leg of the tour for our last field trip at a Barber museum in Canal Winchester, where we learned all about bloodletting and electrical stimulation. I of course got more candid shots of antique mirrors.

Second, we went to the doll museum nearby, and I had the privilege of seeing one of the first talking dolls that incorporated an Edison cylinder. Too bad I couldn't hear it work. This was one of the closest things I've seen to strange automata portrayed in Czech surrealist films.

The last trip was to the TV museum in Hilliard, a treasure trove of strange, obsolete electronics. I was fascinated by early optical devices using Nipkow discs. One could quickly tune the radio in order to get the television frequency and attempt to make out a blurry image as the announcer described it across the airwaves.

Lastly are the other TV sets, as said, mostly '30s and 40's units that were coming into homes. Apparently the TV tube was so large for a screen bigger than a few inches, that it made the unit terribly bulky. So the solution was instead to mount the tube vertically and project the image onto a mirror fitted into an upper lid, making the best viewing position the floor, I suppose. The image was flipped backwards and supposedly reversed in the signal to compensate for that distortion. My oh my. Funny how I thought about all those things last week. I think I'll leave my video backwards though, as after all, it is projected onto a printmaking plate. Till next time-- more on a big review and installation later this week...

Friday, November 5, 2010

Curtains up, more visitations

More discussions in the studio- this time about the book format as well. I'm applying for a book residency and would like to attempt to put together a sort of concertina-style book, white lettering on black and semi-transparent with map inserts. This way it will resemble intertitles and film stills, and one will have to view the book while open in order to let light through and see the text separated, each page not layered on top of each other.

This was interesting to place in front of the rest of the installation, some reflected in the mirror. Of course this dummy needs to get shipped off for the residency proposal, so today I sat down to string together a whole series of images, accordion-style. Some interesting possibilities were suggested, such as folding in the middle of images, so that text and landscape would continue to wrap around the bend, and other fold-outs could happen overtop. At first I thought I would have to spend a lot of time with the copy machine, but then realized that I already have a whole stack of prints from all my source imagery- plus other photographs and negatives.

More images next time....

For now, I will post the latest of the film with curtains around and mirror in front so that the projector is completely hidden in the accordion box. I also added some transitions in the video instead of each segment fading to completely black.

Here goes-

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Studio visit with Art Historian

It's wonderful to get some art historical perspective on one's work. Surprisingly, after getting curtains together for the video projection, most of the focus of the studio visit was on the charcoal drawings. (But there were great ideas for the video, including using a mirror, which I promptly put in place- more on that next time).

There was a nice confirmation that art is not required to be self-reflexive, and not all about me. She was baffled about prior questions of 'what this all has to do with me', which is not necessary. In fact, if "it's about me, then ugh, I'm bored, lemme outta here!"
Luckily that was understood, but then came the usual perplexed question- "Well why this era? Why does everything seem to be a few generations before you? (As another said, all the 1930s.) That's not your childhood. It's all out of time, unless you grew up in a really weird house."

"I did." I am able to respond. Well, not weird so much, but the ole growin' up in a log cabin off the Appalachian mountains tale always resurfaces. Yes, a log home surrounded by old objects and frequent trips to look at antiques when I was a child, which, quite frankly, usually freaked me out a bit. And now I must return to face them. That's my answer for now (besides the aspect of analog technology being much more physically present and tactile).

Back to the drawings- I had questions about them all being pieces of a narrative. They look like film stills. Cindy Sherman must be dealt with. And it's good that they are fragments. It would be boring if you knew the whole tale (so she also thought that picking up the phone to just hear excerpts from the stories was a good idea).

William Kentridge also a mention of course, his "Five Themes" at MoMA- always getting close to just a shtick, but them comes around and really amazes you.

The last reference was a bit of a surprise: Robert Longo. I mostly know his "Men in the Cities" series and didn't pick up a connection right away. Yes, they're photographic drawings... oh! I get it.

Men In the Cities

The main reason to look at his work is to find the connection between charcoal drawing and photography- what is the reason for re-drawing a photograph rather than just printing it out? What does that mean?

I found some good references in Joyce Korotkin's article, ROBERT LONGO'S DRAWINGS OF DISASTERS, originally published by Galeria Soledad Lorenzo, Orfila, 5. 28010 Madrid, in a catalogue for Robert Longo's exhibition at the gallery in 2003.

Joyce says, "For Longo, the rush is in the drawing of each layer of the work, rather than in the finished, sedimentary image. Being in his studio and seeing his process is like watching sedimentation in action. Charcoal is applied, wiped off, applied again, finessed with more wiping and subtle touches, then sprayed with fixative. This layer is then worked and reworked again and again, until the build-up of successive layers achieves a pictorially complex velvety depth, one that would be impossible to achieve in a single pass."

Longo says, "Drawing from photos is a way of reclaiming the images that haunt us. By drawing them, I make them become not just something I am looking at but something that becomes part of me, every molecule of my being… Art is not so much about emotions but more about experience… It's like when a photograph develops. I'm so fascinated with the image that I find myself orchestrating elements within the picture, amplifying them or decreasing them, customizing them, like in the tradition of Caravaggio. I'm not concerned with keeping true to the original. The original gives me the ground to work with. Take the shaft of the column of the bomb, for instance, that's not the way it is, really."

More interesting examples of charcoal renderings of photography are seen in the "Magellan" series of pop culture imagery and the "Disaster Drawings", many images gleaned from newspapers, ads and historical archives.

Magellan Series

So much to think about- although I am not going the pop culture and national disaster route, there is certainly a common cinematic and apocalyptic theme, as well as using charcoal to reclaim the imagery as one's own.

I will last post the latest drawing, tentatively titled "Child Bed" (self-explanatory) in which I just couldn't get myself to resolve the figure. It has to remain unfinished for some reason, perhaps because it is such an unformed age, and not a full memory.