Month: November 2015

Bam!

ornamental 1-3
Oxidation Series #2, Ornamental 1

After weeks of scratching my head and hours of lying in bed at 2:00 a.m. problem solving, I have finally finished three of my scrolls. It really is all about the presentation. I finally came up with the solution to present them in an uncomplicated manner, one which shows off their beauty but doesn’t take over the message.

So what is the message? Well, it starts with the “ingredients”. I start with rolls of Japanese rice paper, a very delicate and fragile base. Add to that steel dust and white vinegar and a complex and somewhat random chemistry experiment begins. Japanese ink finishes off the experiment with a little zing and voilà!

The making of these scrolls began one day when I was tired of making the kangaroo and thought I would search my studio for things I could play with. When I am creating, the first question that comes to mind is…”What happens if I…”? I knew that rust would stain paper and fabric, I knew that rust is accelerated by acid (e.g. vinegar) and I really liked painting with Japanese ink because of its unpredictability. Steel dust was all over the floor, Japanese ink and rice paper were upstairs and a gallon jug of vinegar was under the sink in the bathroom. All I had to do was put them all together.

So here are the things that I love about these scrolls. I have re-used all the dust on my floor which should have been swept up and put in the trash bin. I was able to use simple chemistry to create something (without ever having taken a single chemistry class). I found I could express the idea that something that is culturally “ugly ” (oxidation) can be used in a beautiful way. And finally, I found a way to show that art can be fragile and strong at the same time. That is the message. I hope you like them.

 

 

irony

I had 30 minutes to spare before meeting friends for lunch so I popped into the Barnes and Noble. I didn’t buy anything, mostly because I have too many books as it is and I am a super library freak. If I see a novel that I want, I check first to see if it’s in the library. That way when I am done, I can give it back.

Art/craft books, and picture books of plants and animals are another matter entirely (unsurprisingly). Those adorn my studio bookshelves (and floors and piano) and I love to look at them again and again for inspiration.

Today, as I perused the nature and arts section I found this book. Lately I have had an interest in the concept of recycling and reuse so I pulled it from the shelf. I thought it ironic that every copy was shrink wrapped in plastic (which is why there is a reflection of the lights on it). If it hadn’t been, I might have enjoyed looking through it. I just couldn’t think what I would do with the shrink wrapped plastic…

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looking behind

Have you ever walked through a pile of leaves, then looked behind you to see what kind of trail you left? How about walking through the snow? Ever looked to see where your footprints landed? Were you surprised at how much you scuff your heels on the ground? Are you the kind of person who is aware that other people are behind you when you go through a door so you hold the door open for them?

I recently spent some time in CT seeing my 94 year old dad. He is starting to spend more time in two worlds, this one and the one in his mind. I can’t follow him through the door of the other one, I can only hope to share time with him when he’s in this one. That requires some extraordinary patience on my part, waiting for him to form his thoughts, then waiting for him to put his thoughts into words. Often this is a slow, yet creative endeavor, for he is no longer able to pull words out of the hat in the way that he did for most of his life. Mind you, he can still beat me at Scrabble, it’s just that he is unable to come up with simple sentences to explain what he is thinking. I find I spend my time thinking about what came before, what he was like a few years ago, what he would have said about Donald Trump running for president…and I feel sad. But when I look back at my footsteps of this weekend, I feel that I left behind good feelings, a connection that my father enjoyed, even if he won’t remember all of it.

While I was in CT, I walked on the old railway tracks that were turned into a walking path many years ago. This path runs behind the house that my parents owned. I took pictures of the path ahead, and the one behind me. I took the time to make my homage to Andy Goldsworthy. There are some new benches on the trail and I thought one of them needed to be adorned by the seed pods that decorate the pathway at this time of year.

P.S. As I was writing this post in my head, the events in Paris (and Beirut and Egypt) unraveled and I feel that I must write a postlude of sorts. While I am the type of person who looks behind me to see what my presence has left on this earth, I can’t even fathom the idea of doing so and seeing dead bodies. My mind will not wrap itself around this image. Causing pain, discomfort and death is such an anathema to me that I cannot even begin t0 understand the life experiences that can lead some to do this willingly. However, I also know that if I am not careful, I can absorb the pain and chaos of the last few days into my psyche and become debilitated in my creativity. So to counterattack this, I offer you one last image of what Izzy thinks about all of this.

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Izzy

 

the kitchen sink

There are days when I sit down to write a post and it flows like water from a faucet. This is not one of those days. Not because I have nothing to say. Au contraire. I have too much to talk about. All these thoughts are running around in my head and I can’t corral them enough to provide a coherent theme. Sometimes it helps to post a few pix and that starts to visually explain what’s going on in my weird little head. So here are some pix from the studio. Lots of stuff is happening there…of course it doesn’t require that I actually talk or communicate anything verbally. All I have to do is weld or paint…

sneak peek at the beginning of the next sculpture.
sneak peek at the beginning of the next sculpture.
sneak peek at the beginning of a rust painting
sneak peek at the beginning of a rust painting
studio abstract
studio abstract with steel dust, a steel circle and other detritus

Okay, that didn’t help very much.

I’m still having trouble pulling the words together.

Sad to say, I think you’re going to have to wait for another post to read anything edifying.

Sigh.

confused

Decay, death, rebirth…If you are in a position to observe the natural world you see it everyday, especially at this time of year in the northern hemisphere. Life, which was in abundance during the spring and summer, is now coming to a close for many species of plant and animal life. Pollinators, who worked hard for months doing what they do best, are now struggling and dying. The good news is that their bodies will decay and feed the earth in multiple ways.

dead insect
dead on the sidewalk.
live insect
live but struggling on the heuchera leaf. which will also be on its way out in another month or so.

It all makes perfect sense, so why am I so confused?

Well, it has to do with a book that I just finished called “Junkyard Planet: Travels in the Billion-Dollar Trash Trade” by Adam Minter. I won’t go into details, other than to tell you that Adam grew up in the junkyard trade and then became a journalist in China covering the junk/recycling business. He has a handle on the business of recycling and the history of how it developed, both in this country and in China. His main theme is that it is a money driven business…it’s all about what material do you have and who wants it and what they are willing to pay for it and how cheaply can you get it to them…regardless of environment, human rights, and ethical concerns.

At the heart of the matter is that humans now buy lots of shit. Tons of it. And then throw it out. Or put it into the recycle bins at the end of the driveway and feel less guilt because it isn’t going into a landfill. When talking about paper, this is not a big deal. If worse comes to worse, most paper will bio-degrade. Put it into a compost pile and it will eventually become dirt. I get that. Newspapers are actually useful in my compost pile, they are a source of dry material to counter the slimy tomatoes and melons that I throw in it regularly. Glass bottles and aluminum cans I understand, they can be crushed, melted and made into new bottles and cans. Steel is also something that can be reused, it’s one of the reasons that I like working with it. If I have scrap, I know that it will go back to the steel yard to become another rod of rebar.

Unfortunately, us humans have begun creating waste that is more difficult to repurpose. Cell phones, TV’s, computers, and pretty much anything with plastic changes the whole game. Plastic coated copper wiring? These things find their way to China where they are taken apart by hand, millions of hands, unprotected hands. And here is where the money comes in. Copper has a price, and a very good one at that. But plastic? The plastic coating copper wires does not meet the strict requirements in this country so for a long time it got thrown away, until someone in China (where the requirements are lower) got the great idea to use it to make the soles for slippers.

I could go on and on but I would suggest that you read the book if you want to know more. My point is this…there is absolutely nothing that humans do during the day that does not make some form of waste. Eating, driving, talking on the phone…all of these things require some form of waste. It is impossible (unless you’re that guy living in the forest in Washington State) to live without generating some waste. The author himself says:

“Placing a box or a can or a bottle in a recycling bin doesn’t mean you’ve recycled anything, and it doesn’t make you a better, greener person: it just means you’ve outsourced your problem. Sometimes that outsourcing is near home; and sometimes it’s overseas. But wherever it goes, the global market and demand for raw materials is the ultimate arbiter.

Fortunately, if that realization leaves you feeling bad, there’s always the alternative: stop buying so much crap in the first place.”

Well, I can tell you in all honesty that that is unlikely to happen. I, like everyone else, am addicted to buying stuff in the hopes that it will make my life better, easier, longer, more beautiful…I look at my house and feel despair at all the unused stuff that will find its way to China eventually, simply because I didn’t need it in the first place.

And I won’t even go into how it affects me as an artist. Yet.

So, for now, I will just have these thoughts rolling around my head. I am not going to become the latest self-styled ascetic, living the simplest of lives with no computer, phone, hairdryer, or any of the other modern conveniences. But I will start questioning a little more the purchases I make…perhaps I can save a few things from entering that weird back and forth recycling rollercoaster.