I continue to take my art on the road. Eight of my reduction linocuts are part of an exhibition at Prairie State College in Chicago Heights, IL. Titled Art Reflects Science, the exhibition also includes work by Vera Scekic and Hunter Cole. Scekic exploits poured acrylic layers, often scraping, sanding and splicing to create imagery that feels like primordial cells. Geneticist and artist Cole uses bioluminescent bacteria in solution as paint, photographing her work as the bacteria grows stronger and then weaker.
Some of my favorite reduction linocuts and new monoprint collages have been peacefully coexisting in a library this month. It is nice to see that while the techniques can be very different, both the colors and the structures of the work seem to harmonize nicely.
The library is part of the Saint Meinrad Archabbey located in southern Indiana. While most of the abbey architecture is made of local sandstone blocks, the library is a white brutalist structure that nestles unobtrusively into the hillside.
I was delighted to give an artist talk about the work to a group of Indianapolis IB math, music and art students recently. As I challenged myself to explain the why of my work, I could see the many mathematical and scientific phenomena that inspire me. The students gave me quite a gift — a kind, attentive and inquisitive audience for the debut of my combined works. In a place of peace and contemplation, I was grateful indeed.
Bodies of artwork are like siblings. They come from the same source, and you hope they play well together. There are no guarantees.
Some of my linocuts and monoprint collages are getting ready to be featured together at the St. Meinrad Archabbey in Ferdinand, IN. I chose linocuts that explore similar themes to the newer monoprint collages. Both Breath Intertwined (above) and Multiplicative (below) explore the concept of leaf cellular packing, but from different starting points.
What follows is my artist statement for the exhibit — my explanation of my artistic progeny. I hope they behave themselves.
Making a statement
What if what you perceive is related to more than just your immediate experience? Does an image or natural formation remind you of something other than its current form? I often sense that there is a connection across the macrocosm, where patterns and forms tell a story of the underlying laws of our existence.
A century ago, Scottish scientist D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson mused that “everything is what it is because it got that way.” In contrast to the popular Darwinian evolutionary theories of the day, Wentworth thought that living and non-living things (such as in astronomy and geology) were shaped by the requirements of physical forces. Accidents in formation are also part of the process, leading to wide variations within tremendous similarities. In my work, I strive to explore these similarities and consider how the human experience might mirror that of nature itself.
I gather my inspiration with the assistance of science and technology. My personal photographic catalogue is filled with images taken from commercial airplanes, often partly eclipsed by an airplane wing. I delight in the myriad of satellite images available to me, as well as those unveiled by highly sensitive microscopes. Artists from only decades ago would have been amazed at this source material.
The materials and techniques I choose are surprisingly simple in stark contrast to my methods for gathering inspiration. My imagery is created with linseed oil-based inks on cotton rag paper with the assistance of a hand-cranked etching press built with recycled steel. My reduction linocuts are created by a conversation between carving away layers of one linoleum block and printing the resulting pattern in overlapping inked layers, until the block is mostly carved away, or reduced.
My latest work embraces monoprinting, which is a spontaneous and surprising way to create images. Made by printing an inked sheet of smooth polycarbonate, no two monoprints are exactly the same. I develop unique textures on paper (which are themselves monoprints) that are then cut apart and combined with old maps to create monoprint collages. Taking my cues from the paper cut-outs of Henri Matisse as well as the playful exuberance of children’s book artist Eric Carle, the collages seek to create something that feels resonant and familiar in an abstract form. The addition of gold leaf in some collages hints at the reverence I feel toward my subject matter.
One of my latest monoprints is entitled Benediction for an Unlikely Journey. In the global liturgy of which we are all a part, here is the benediction I would give…
As human beings, we are surrounded by wonder. Pay attention, be amazed and feel connected. Then go and work to preserve this wonder.
The New Year has dawned…and I’ve been on the road. I am fortunate to be in several group shows this winter, two of which are in the southern part of greater Chicagoland. Because my work is large and heavy, shipping is not an option.
Woody Guthrie and I
My first car load of work was headed to a show at the Victorian House Art Gallery of Olivet Nazarene University, which is located in Bourbonnais, Illinois — a village of Kankakee. All along my drive, I just couldn’t get the “City of New Orleans” lyrics out of my head.
“All on the southbound odyssey The train pulls out of Kankakee Rolls along past houses, farms and fields…”
With temperatures in the single digits, plus wind and blowing snow, Google Maps took me on a journey across very rural parts of Indiana and Illinois, and got me safely to my destination. The patterns of the corn stubble against the snow gave me ideas for new work, although relying on the white of the paper to represent snow can be tricky….
And more framing!
Back at home and I need to get more work framed. Because of the expense of the large frames, I will often switch out the work depending on what is required for a show. I use acrylic (or plexiglass) to frame the largest work, requiring the use of our dining room table to open things up, switch the work, and seal things up again. It has been tremendously cold in the midwest this month, making the house so dry that I would swear lint from the neighbors’ house wanted to leap into the frame. Quite an exercise in patience for me, and my mensch of a husband.
Another trip north…
With the RAV4 loaded with three large works and six medium-sized, I set off another morning for the Tall Grass Arts Association Gallery in Park Forest, Illinois. Warming temperatures and snow covered fields meant most of the eight-hour journey was completely white with fog and clouds. Thankfully the sun finally broke through during my last hour of the drive.
With everything settled in their galleries, I now have time to devote to a new commissioned work instead of heading out on the highway again. I’ll be watching the weather carefully, hopefully driving again on January 20th for openings for both exhibits. If you are in the greater Chicagoland area, here are all the details:
We’ve been redecorating at my house this summer. Redecorating is not for the faint of heart. You change one thing, then another. Suddenly you are down the rabbit hole of what we call “home change” — and there is no end in sight. But there is one thing people can do relatively quickly, without new paint or subway tile… and that is rearrange your artwork.
At this point people (gasp!) People seem to assume that art placement in their house is something sacred, that can never be changed unless they move. I think this is a recipe for personal stagnation. But I am sympathetic to these feelings, in that I have a dear spouse who is convinced that everything I hang on our drywall walls requires a screw and an expansion bolt. I stand before you today and say – that is simply not true. You either need some different nails (more about that later) or better yet, your own hanging system.
My birthday present from 2016 was a hanging system for several walls on our main level. It took until the summer for repainting to be completed, and then I ordered my system from Systematic Art. Some details:
• Four white metal channels are now installed on three different walls, just below the ceiling.
• I chose stainless steel cables, because I have had experience with the clear nylon cables getting nicked and worn.
• Self gripping hooks with safety guards were my choice for hangers.
• I made sure to order enough cables and hooks so that the work could be hung from the D-rings on the back of my frames. This helps to hold the work close to the wall, and resist shifting when someone slams the mudroom door.
A hanging system requires no hammer and no math. Just your keen eye, an assistant and maybe a level.
Now it is easy to change the decor of the majority of our living space without nail holes and pesky measuring. A delight!
Admittedly this system wasn’t inexpensive, costing about $250. But since I was hanging heavy work framed in glass, I was willing to invest a bit more in something that will probably be installed long after we no longer live here.
What can you do if you can’t make this investment? Get some OOK nails from the hardware store. These nail and hook sets are easy to use, and twist out when you want to remove them. They leave a small hole that will need to be filled, but don’t require removal with the claw of a hammer which then further damages your walls. I used them to hang my gallery show in April, and they were flawless. Be sure to use two for very long horizontals so your frame doesn’t shift constantly.
So please, do your home a favor and mix up the artwork. It is much cheaper than moving.
April is a month of exhibits for me. My solo show “Ephemeral and Enduring” at the Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center features my cloudscapes and landscapes. One of my cloudscapes — Cantata for Eventide — was accepted as part of the Indiana Artists Annual Exhibition at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.
The dreaded artist statement
All of this exhibiting requires not only artwork, but also words. For the solo show, I needed to write an artist statement to explain why in the world I made these massive linocuts. As a rule, I find artist statements an exercise in hyperbole where the reader feels inadequate to even be viewing the artwork.
Late summer is a time of letting go in the college town where I live. Parents drop off their students and have to walk away. They must trust that their children will eventually find their way by themselves. From experience, I know this is difficult to do — so much is unknown. It turns out that this experience is similar in showing my artwork.
Letting go of artwork
I have been invited to show work in two upcoming shows, located in Lafayette, IN and southwest Chicago. I loaded my RAV4 with three large works laying flat, and five small pieces tucked behind the front seats. I set off with a friend to begin delivering this work. Instead of speeding north, we were eventually detoured onto back country roads, where we spent an hour with intermittent cell service, snaking our way past orchards and through state forests. “What does this have to do with making art?” I thought to myself.
Delayed more than an hour, we finally drop off one piece and begin the longer part of the journey toward the Argonne National Lab outside of Chicago. Instead of the swift journey forecast by Google Maps, we experienced more delays… and trucks!
After seven hours, we finally pull into the Argonne National Lab, and are greeted by large brick gates, lots of fencing, and a tiny visitor’s center. This is as far as I can go with my art. There is a small area to leave the artwork, which will be moved to the lab’s gallery later in the week.
Now I’m nervous. I have carefully transported my larger work flat, to avoid stress on the frame’s corners. All I can do now is prop them gently against a wall, and pin a note explaining how they need to be moved.
Letting go and trusting the process
When I deliver artwork, I usually bring the work into the space and meet the people who will be installing the exhibit. Argonne National Labs is a collaboration between the University of Chicago and the U.S. Department of Energy so in retrospect it makes sense that we left the artwork outside the facility as we were not cleared by security nor escorted. My friend later suggested that the art would be inspected as well. Just as parents cannot find out information about their student’s classes, professors and grades, I must trust my artwork in the hands of others. Not an easy thing to do.
Dealing with loss and change
What do you do when you must let go? Empty nesting parents redecorate, or go on a much needed vacation. The accidents and congestion faded away for our return drive, and we were treated to Simpson’s clouds as we neared the Indiana line. A stop at the Albanese Candy Factory — home of the world’s best gummy bears — lifted our spirits and made the journey home a bit sweeter.
I hope to get back up to the Argonne National Lab to attend the opening. Like Parent’s Weekend this will be my opportunity to convince myself that the artwork is doing just fine without me.
I took a break from my studio routine recently to visit the Indianapolis Museum of Art’s exhibit entitled Gustave Baumann: German Craftsman — American Artist. Baumann actually began his career printing the landscape right near where I live. He joined painter T.C. Steele in Brown County, Indiana carving and printing the hills, forests, fields and quaint rural buildings. Baumann’s relocations and travels truly informed his work — from the browns and oranges of a midwestern fall, to the blues and purples of the Pacific Ocean.
Each period in Baumann’s career was covered extensively in this exhibit. I was most drawn to some of his later work from the mountain west, where he uses brilliant greens, yellows and purples in dramatic ways. Baumann used multiple blocks to create his imagery, and the resulting color combinations are spectacular. It makes me wonder if I should use a few more blocks! Continue reading “An Afternoon with Gustave”
In every person’s professional life there are milestones. For some it is a promotion, for others a large grant or publication in a prestigious journal. For still others it is simply making a profit. For me it was seeing my work installed in a public location, complete with museum tag.
The Bloomington/Monroe County Convention Center purchased my linocut An Echo of Beginnings, after my two-month show at the center in June and July of 2015. During a visit with my daughter to the annual Artisan Guilds of Bloomington (IN) show, I spotted my work, installed and professionally labeled.
I’ve made plenty of labels for my own work, but seeing my name, plus “American, 1967” — why that was what they put on the labels for real artists! A bit of emotion choked me as I read this. I am so thankful (on this Thanksgiving Day in the United States) that my work can be seen by lots of visitors at the Convention Center. I feel like I have arrived.
I ventured two hours south last Friday to bring my work to the Roberta Marx Gallery at the Thomas Jefferson Unitarian Church in Louisville, Kentucky. I crossed snowy fields covered with a strange fog — even though the air temperature hovered around 10 degrees F. Other fields had rows of corn stubble peaking up, fodder for future prints.
The Roberta Marx Gallery at Thomas Jefferson Unitarian Church.
Photo by Jill Baker
The atmosphere at the church felt much warmer, with modern architecture and a clear appreciation for the natural world. The late winter sun streamed in through a round skylight.
I titled this exhibit: Incomparable Wonder: The Intersection of Spirit, Science and Art. The idea of exhibiting in a place of worship appeals to me. In centuries past, places of worship used stone carvings and later stained glass windows to communicate important stories to the congregation. Today, everyone can read stories from sacred texts. Art can take on a whole new role of asking what we value today. In my mind, what could be more important
than considering our natural world – both its beauty and fragility?
My newest work finds a bright wall. Photo by Jill Baker.
I had intended to make a return trip to Louisville two day later to join the congregation for its service, and a pot-luck reception afterwards. I even baked my white cheddar cheese biscuits with sage. (Full disclosure, this is a Martha Stewart recipe, and I am happy to share it.)
Alas, even though I make work considering the forces of nature, I am still amazed when nature affects me directly. The morning of the reception dawned with seven inches of new snow outside our window and travel advisories issued for the counties we needed to cross. The threat of freezing rain later made even my Montana-born husband demur from making the trip.
Bubble images are brightly lit by the round skylight and late
winter’s sun. Photo by Jill Baker.
Thankfully my work was wonderfully introduced to the congregation by artist and member Jill Baker. I enjoyed hanging the work with Jill on Friday and hearing about her journey as an artist. Advice from successful artists is priceless. I was sorry to miss meeting the good people of Thomas Jefferson, but am glad that my work can have a home in their gallery for the month.
Time to head back to the studio for a new series…and to try to forget that the cheese biscuits are residing very close by in the basement freezer.