Sunday, October 22, 2017

My favorite things 43

We visited Italy in the winter of 2003. With the exception of two taxi rides, we did a whole month depending entirely on public transportation and our own two feet.  We packed light, washed out our clothes in hotel bathtubs and wore the same sweater every day. 

But in Sorrento we strolled through a market street and saw a kitchenware store with a table of sale items on the sidewalk.  We spotted some nice pasta bowls for an amazing 1.25 euros apiece -- at the time, about $1.15 -- and couldn't resist.  We bought four and shlepped them back to the hotel, a long enough walk that we traded off carrying the bag once or twice along the way.

Before we made it home for good we had carried those bowls about four miles, making our way between hotels and railroad stations and through airports.  With every step they got a little bit heavier, and we had to remind ourselves that the bowls were beautiful, a steal, and our only souvenirs of the trip.  We had invested not just the five bucks but a heck of a lot of sweat equity to bring them home.

But it was worth it!  They have become our default bowl for pasta, not to mention the occasional soup or other juicy entree.  I suspect they've been used at least once a week since we returned, and we never fail to think about our wonderful trip when we eat that last bit of food and reveal the red tomato.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Online frustration

Isn't technology wonderful?  With the Internet at our fingertips, we can find out anything we ever need to know in milliseconds.  Well, sometimes it works that way.

After shipping off a quilt to a show yesterday, I was reminded that I should let our local fiber art organization know so they can post the info in their "see our work" announcement page.  But I should also tell them the dates of the show.

Kathleen Loomis, Fading, selected for Mid-States Craft Exhibition, Evansville Museum

The hard copy acceptance letter from the museum was still in my shirt pocket from taking it to Fedex to read off the address.  But the acceptance letter did not say the dates of the show.  I looked up in my email for the notification message, but that did not say the dates of the show.  I typed "Evansville Museum events" in google and found no home page for the museum.  Instead I got a page from a trip planner website telling me that the museum's nice new facility will be opening January 2014, I should allow four hours and would I like to build an itinerary.  No, I wouldn't.  But there was a link to the museum website, which I clicked on. 

Oops.  Got the dreaded exclamation point in the red triangle: "Your connection is not private.  Attackers might be trying to steal your information from (for example, passwords, messages, or credit cards.)"  Well, that's scary but I only want to know the dates of the show.  The web is so concerned about my safety that it won't even let me take the risk and see the site anyway -- my only choice is "Back to safety."  North Korean hackers can infiltrate the site of any place I do business with, steal my social security number, plant ransomware on my computer, but at least I'm not at risk at the Evansville Museum!  What a relief.

I googled Evansville Museum again and found a link to their facebook page.  Under the "events" tab it showed several events in October and November, plus one next March and one next August, but not the December 9 opening reception (they did mention that date in the acceptance email).  I scrolled through their posts, reading as far back as August, but no mention of the show.

Back to those emails.  They show the same website that I'm not allowed to go to, for my own safety.  Hmmm.  I googled "Mid-States Craft Exhibition" and aha -- toward the bottom of the page, founds a listing for "Art Museum, Movie Theater, Attractions: Evansville, IN" and it's the museum's own website!  Not the same URL as the one on their stationery, or the link in the emails, but an actual working SAFE website!

But no listing for my show in the revolving banner on the top of the page.  In a sidebar called "upcoming events,"  no show listed, but up in September was an entry called "Mid-States Call for Entries September 21 - February 16."  Clicked on that, and found a brief description, with the eligibility rules and name of the juror, but no show dates, and a link to the full prospectus on CaFE, which finally revealed the dates: December 10 through February 4.  (Well, actually December 9, since that's the opening reception.)

And it only took me 35 minutes to find it out (that's slightly less than one millimonth).

But anyhow, if you find yourself in the vicinity of Evansville over the winter, drop in and see my flag. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Southern Accent 1 -- unraveling

Last week I went to the Speed Museum in Louisville for the last day of a blockbuster show called "Southern Accent: Seeking the American South in Contemporary Art."  I wish I had gone earlier in the run so I could have gone back again; there was much to see and think about and I will have more posts, but let me start with one artwork, described as a "sculpture and performance piece."

Sonya Clark, Unraveling

It's a found Confederate battle flag which the artist is slowly unraveling by hand.  She started in 2015 on the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War and has been working on it ever since.  For two hours on the last day of the Speed exhibit, visitors were invited to help Clark unravel.

Each person was greeted with a handshake and introduction, and then set to work unraveling, side by side with the artist.  For a couple of minutes each visitor worked, chatting with Clark about the project, then parted with a hug.

Of course I had to be there for this performance, and I said I wanted to work on the white, "to unravel some white privilege."  I was surprised at how difficult it was to take the tightly woven threads apart with no tools -- at home I would have grabbed a seam ripper or awl to grab the weft threads and pull them away, but with only fingernails it was hard to get a grip.  When I commented on this, Clark responded metaphorically that it's hard it is to deconstruct racist history.  I wondered how many times she had made this comment to her visitor/collaborators in the many hours she has spent shoulder-to-shoulder on the project.

I was thrilled with this idea of taking the flag apart.  The project hits all my hot buttons: U.S. history, lingering racism in the south, flags, and of course, fabric.  During the time I waited in line for my turn at the flag, I couldn't help but think about the art project that I participated in a couple of years ago at a museum across town, where volunteer artists mended people's clothes.  In both cases, the time spent in conversation between artist and visitor was intended to be meditative and connective.

I don't think the flag unraveling was conducive to much meditation.  It turned into quite the mob scene (which is wonderful in itself, because how frequently do you find mobs in museums, but I wondered how much time many of the visitors spent looking at the art).  With a long line of people waiting behind, there was pressure to unravel for a very short bit and then move on. 

As you approached the head of the line, museum staff with clipboards took your name.  As you worked, photographers came in close.

After you departed, reporters asked for your reactions.

By contrast, the mending project offered much more intimate time for conversation -- simply because there were so few people who came by.  But there were more than 100 hours of artist-on-duty time in that project, compared to only two hours for the flag.

We asked one of the guards who herded us into line whether the crowd was bigger than they had expected; he said nobody had any advance idea what was going to happen.  He seemed cheerfully overwhelmed, but I wondered whether he would be equally cheerful at closing time when dozens of people still in line would have to be turned away.

I would have loved more time with my hands in the threads, and more time to talk with the artist, but when the museum presents a "relational" project as merely a two-hour event there isn't much relating that's going to happen.  As we waited in line we also talked about Marina Abromovic's massive relational project at the Museum of Modern Art in 2010, where she sat in a chair silently contemplating a visitor sitting across from her -- seven hours a day, six days a week, for 700 hours in total.

I'm sorry Sonya Clark didn't have the chance to spend more time with her art piece and with museum visitors, just as I was unhappy that Lee Mingwei hopped a plane to Tokyo after installing the mending project, delegating the visitor-relating to us volunteer artists.  Strikes me that both of these projects, brilliant in concept, suffered for want of boots on the ground.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

My favorite things 42

As a professor of graphic arts, my father was an inveterate collector of all things related to printing, an enthusiasm that washed down to my own generation.  Our favorite method was letterpress -- where the letters or images are raised above the surface of the printing plate to accept ink rolled or pounced over the top, like a rubber stamp.  But just to make the collection comprehensive, Dad acquired some lithographic stones.

Lithography works in a non-intuitive manner: the image and the printing plate are perfectly flat.  The ink adheres to the image and not to the rest of the plate through basic chemistry -- because oil and water don't mix.  Start with a porous stone, perfectly flat.  Draw on it with a greasy crayon or paint.  Slosh water over the entire stone; it will be repelled by the crayon but absorbed into the background areas.  Roll greasy ink over the entire stone; it will be deposited onto the greasy area of the image but repelled by the water-wet background.  Now you can print the image onto a piece of paper.

Commercial printers were apparently quite frugal with their raw material, the heavy and painstakingly milled stones.  Both of these stones have several letterheads and documents crammed as closely together as possible.  Apparently the cost of making a separate stone would far outweigh the extra care it would take to print just the one you want.

One of the stones was from Georgia, blank checks from banks in Wrightsville, Savannah, Maysville, Senola, Colquette and Fitzgerald.  (I flipped and lightened the images in photoshop so you can read the type.)

The printer must have had to do a lot of tricky masking to make sure just the right one got printed!  In those days, financial papers typically included a blank space for the date, printed like this:  _______________ 190__.     Maybe a clever way for the printer to insure that people came back and had new letterheads printed at least once per decade.

The other stone came from Paris; it has letterheads for a dressmaker, an electrician, and a stockbroker, if my bad French is correct.  It was a decade later, 191__.

I was reminded when I pulled the stones out for photography just how heavy they are!!  My brother, who lives in Australia, reminded me the last time he visited that one of the stones actually belongs to him.  I told him he was welcome to take it home with him, but since he's always just a nanogram this side of the weight limit, he declined.  So I think both stones are going to stay with me forever.

Friday, October 13, 2017

The people have assembled

The first amendment installation is finished -- awaiting transport to the banquet site next week. 

I hope the people are all firmly enough anchored into the base so they can survive the trip.  I'll drive slowly.  But if not, I'll take some extra wire along so I can jam the armatures more snugly into the holes on site.

I love the way they're crowded together, peaceably, just like it says in the constitution.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The people -- Plan B

When I started making daily people in January, I was intrigued by the way limp fabric could become firm simply through wrapping and tying.  A few friends to whom I showed the project were surprised to find that the people had no armatures, because they had a lot of structural strength -- that was the whole point of my exploration.  But most of the little guys didn't have enough structural strength or balance to stand on their own.

So when I got the opportunity to put them all into an installation, I needed to retrofit some skeletons into practically everybody, extending into a peg that could be fit into a drilled hole on the base. 

Some of the people were constructed so I could easily run a support wire up under their skirts or thread it up inside their legs.  Others had been wrapped so tightly, and perhaps had some internal folds and creases, that I couldn't force wire through the center of a leg, so I had to snake an external wire up the back of the body, secured by their original wrappings.

That's how I spent my weekend, with wires and wirecutters.  I could have saved a lot of time by putting the wire inside in the first place, but would that have been any fun?  Heck no!

I'm almost done with the installation -- I'll show it to you soon.