One of the greatest things about creating is you never know what is going to happen. I came to the beach with an open, non-judgmental mind, welcoming the materials to speak to me and began collecting. It was only in the action of doing – making – that I knew how I wanted to arrange the long reeds, sticks and crunchy seaweed. The spontaneous connections, the unknown, the creating is what makes this a soulful process. Engaging mind, body, spirit to offer something to the earth. An ephemeral weaving of smelly, twisted, organic lengths of multiple shades of brown. The look of a child’s work – unstructured, spontaneous, loose, rough. An expression of place and time that will fade with the change in weather.
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A periwinkle, a small crustacean with a slug/snail-like living organism protected by its tough granite-like shell, clinging onto rocks and each other underwater to survive. Once the live organism has died the somewhat boring dull brown shell washes ashore cluttering the tidal line with other dead and dried out sea life.
The one beautiful aspect of the periwinkle (besides its very cute name) is the spiral. The perfect swirl forms the little pointy nose (or hat – whatever you prefer) at the pinnacle of the periwinkle. I gathered hundreds of these ‘winkles today. I sat at the tide line sifting and sorting like a gold panner foraging for his precious nugget. Although I came across some delicate, eye-pleasing honey yellow species, these were not the materials for today. The dull, overlooked, normal little winkles that camouflage with the seaweed, filled my hands, my cup, my bag. Wondering what to do with about 3 lbs of these small shells I finally dumped them in between a small crevice formed by two rocks. Measuring my treasure I wondered if the significance of 3 lbs was enough to make any sort of statement…or anything at all.
These small shells already distributed all over the beach had just been redistributed into one condensed area…so what?! They are dull, brown and too many already clutter the beach. Their mass in numbers had drawn them to me and I wanted to put them into every crevice, every hole, every negative space, but even then what? People were also starting to flood the beach ruining my concentration and provoking self-consciousness. I thought of the periwinkles striking feature… the spiral. Should I make it reflect itself? The spiral such a common element in nature’s design, artists work and among doodlers…is it too played out? I suppose, but not enough for me to care. The periwinkles marched in solid formation bouncing off the walls of the stoic rocks and into a form they can call their own. So for those posers, those with flashy colors and unique patterns watch out for these simple shells – this is their truth, their identity and it only made sense to honor it.
How does this speak to me- to the human race? How do we show our truths and identities, reflecting ourselves through an awkward action. How can we take the possibly single thing we may be proud of in ourselves and honor it – letting the dull, potentially mundane things fade away for a day – a tide – a cycle of the moon and give shape to our truths? Perhaps there is only one single positive truth…but it’s there and some of us wear it on our sleeves while for others the spiral lingers deep in the caves of our soul.
With the next tide the spiral will wash away reminding us of the delicate balance between honor, pride and the ego. These dull little ‘winkles have allowed me to harness their one beautiful aesthetic for a tide cycle and then disperse back to their humble selves possessing a new quality and respect for their ultimate truths.
Negative2Positive is a project that I’ve been working on for a couple of years where I collect debris that has washed up on beaches and identify ones that have interesting negative spaces to use in creating images. I use these negative spaces to create positive patterns & designs – taking the negative of this plastic pollution and transforming it into a positive. This past weekend I was able to share this with willing participants at the Peabody Essex Museum, pem.org. I was impressed with the range of work from adults to children and most student artists were impressed with the concept and thought it was an innovative idea to tuck away in the ‘that was interesting’ part of their brains.
How you can do your own negative2positive drawings:
1. Discover an everyday object/package/container with interesting negative shapes that has been discarded in your trash, your neighbors recycling bin, or sadly along the beach, street or park. To clarify, negative shapes are cutouts, the spaces in between and/or the empty areas in an item. For example: the hole in the middle of the cd
2. Use this object (hopefully something more exciting than a cd) with a pencil to trace the negative space. Think about a way that it can be an interesting pattern. Using the pencil fill in the outlines so they are a solid form
3. Then use the same pattern with a different value or color of pencil and trace it again in a way that it relates to the first. This could be through overlapping, touching, repeated alignment
4. Repeat this 3-4 times and see what unique pattern or design you can come up with. Play around with value, color and even multiple negative space objects. Have fun and be creative! Remember there are no mistakes in art.
5. When you feel confident about this take it to a more conceptual level and think about how you can find something you find negative and make it positive!
Below are some photos of the students work at PEM – get inspired!
Last weekend there was a small flurry of excitement about winter as the ice sculptures arrived despite the warmish temperatures. Local shops sponsored an ice sculpture to promote business, local culture and to celebrate the season! There were frogs with candy hearts, toy trains, musical instruments, pin-up models and two headed mice to represent the diversity of downtown. I was surprised by the detail and color inlay that most had. It seemed a somewhat extravagant expense considering the only real fate of an ice sculpture, to melt. However the immortality attached to ice is what draws you in, freezes your attention, if you will. How can this shiny, translucent material that you usually find clinking around in your water glass be transformed into the fierce cold-blooded dragon in front of you? It’s fascinating, but needless to say slowly but surely it will melt with all the hard work and craftsmanship that goes into it.
It is not only an amateur carnival trick either. Professional artists have adopted ice as a dramatic material and natural resource to work with, scoffing at the predictable outcome. Our environmental art superstar Andy Goldsworthy probably takes the cake with his seemingly unnatural spiraling ice sculptures attached together with his own saliva. What can he be learning about the earths wintry forces through these early morning explorations with this frozen substance? Jim Denevan, another artist uses the solid landmass ice forms as his canvas to draw large-scale perfect circular patterns through the snow. These ‘drawings’, I don’t doubt, may be interpreted by aliens as our attempt to communicate with them.
Science makes an appearance here as well. There have been science expeditions to Antarctica that invite artists who will use their art to make a statement about climate change and/or other interpretations of what they observe. In Copenhagen one artist sculpted a polar bear skeleton out of bronze and then used ice to form the outer layer of the body. As the temperatures warm the ice melts revealing what will eventually happen to the bears at the Poles if somehow climate change is not halted.
So from one town’s hallmark of a winter celebration, to an artist’s introspective lair and to highlight some of our worlds environmental issues I say ‘Here’s to Ice!’… now if it will only get cold enough for me to try my hand at it…
There’s nothing more exciting in the art world for me than heading to NYC for the weekend to visit my creative friends and see in person big name and emerging artists.
Chelsea always makes it on my annual list of ‘must see’ places with blocks of art galleries showing the latest and greatest. This year we walked there via the High Line, an elevated pedestrian walk and recent addition to Manhattan’s glamour and sightseeing. Walking literally through buildings and along billboards I admired the landscape design and the built-in contemporary wooden lounge chairs – making a mental note that this is one reason to come to the city in the nicer months.
Galleries in Chelsea are either hit or miss. They host names that are making a debut or controversial and questionable artists that haven’t quite broke into the museum world…yet. A few exhibits that sent the cognitive gears whirring started with the Mike Weiss Gallery showing the work of Will Kurtz, titled nothing but the respectable Extra Fucking Ordinary. At first glance my friends shied away from the peculiar sculptures seen through the display windows – but that is exactly why I wanted to go in. I don’t go to these galleries to see tame, pleasing work – I want my right & left brains to be stimulated, repulsed, interrogated and energized. And yes this show was quite repulsive. Consider the first two life-size sculptures of dogs in their worst states, taking a shit and discreetly becoming erect. The natural habits of animals that we in all instances try to avoid this artist has immortalized. Yet somehow we see this as art because he is capturing the essence of a moment – of the ordinary. Through torn newspaper collage, wood, wire, screw and tape Kurtz captures disturbing poses and scenes from everyday life that we try to avoid or go unnoticed; a crude half-naked woman pulling on her nylons with a cigarette dangling from her mouth while a dog sniffs her ass; a sad sleeping ragged old man; unruly, overweight friends posing together as if at a tourist attraction. Upon closer observation you notice the colorful newspaper images that have been randomly slapped together – may not be random at all. Pop-culture references, political images, and text placed just so remind us that even in those ordinary, unglamorous moments the media and our society impress us with these unattainable notions of beauty, sex, money and intellect. Maybe Kurtz is asking ‘what’s so bad with being extra fucking ordinary anyway?’
Slushing through the snow to our next visual experience we had to check in at the Gagosian Gallery for big name artist Damien Hirst’s, The Complete Spot Paintings 1986 – 2011. Imagine being in a room as large or even BIGGER than a two-story house surrounded by spots. Perfectly round spots two times the size of you in vibrant hues and subtle tones, lurching off the stretched white canvas onto the wall. How does he find brushes so big and so precise to create the perfect circle? I felt like I was back in art school learning the meaning of the color wheel for the first time. Primary, secondary – wait what’s in between that…tertiary?! Where does Hirst mean to take us with these colors? Is there a formula, a mathematical equation? Leaving the large-scale paintings before I became trapped in the solution, led me to another room filled with a maze of smaller spots. The illusions tripled with hundreds of round circles in varying degrees of colors illuminating from a central point. Taking a step to close to observe the technique I thought I saw pencil lines… but the guard made me move back before I could be sure. I thought of a baker’s frosting tool for cakes, squirting out perfect dollops of color to be sweetly savored on a special occasion. My friends implored ‘can we get out of here?!’ before the spots swallowed us in a mixture of hues, tones and delusion.
Hidden behind frosted doors at the Mary Boone gallery the next exhibit of artist and political activist Ai Weiwei was subtle yet powerful. Millions
of ceramic hand painted sunflower seeds formed a large rectangle encompassing the gallery. Aesthetically I was only impressed upon close looking, admiring the realistic quality of the seeds and the delicately balanced layering to create the unified shape. Conceptually Weiwei takes us deeper into the political past of China, putting his own freedom at risk. Taken from the press release, “The sunflower, with its destiny to follow the sun, became a common metaphor for The People during China’s Cultural Revolution. At the same time, the seeds of the flower provided sustenance at all levels of society, and the ubiquitous discarded husks provided evidence of an individual’s existence. Ai Weiwei demonstrates that a staggering quantity of individual seeds may produce a deceptively unified field.” See a video of the artist and project at http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=PueYywpkJW8#!
The final performance, It’s a Draw by modern dancer and choreographer Trisha Brown left us appreciative of the intersection of the visual and kinesthetic. At first glance you wonder if these large-scale charcoal drawings can even be called drawings. They look like rudimentary marks in varying intensities with the occasional diffused footprint among the lines and smears. Could it be that the human figure was being denoted within the lines – or the mark making was a pure playful and heartfelt expression of the artist? We discovered it was both. Brown and her colleagues transformed their physical, kinetic movements into drawings by holding charcoal in their toes and hands while dancing. The pieces came together in a new light – the intensely dark, short marks turned into a staccato tempo, the circular smudges a foot twirling en pointe, and the soft lines a delicate dancers toes. The intersection of tangible and intangible was observed on these walls and provided me with a satisfaction of the interdisciplinary language of the arts.
Till next time NYC! Artists please continue to inspire, provoke and provide something worth coming back for (I’m sure you will).
What is one way to get a message to the people? Put it in the public’s eye – amaze them, make them laugh, make them wonder and use ART! Check out this website Street Art Utopia for the best of 2011 street art from all over the world, in different forms, spaces & mindsets. Here’s a sampling of a few -
The pressure is on – we are officially into the ’12 days before X-mas’ and a week to countdown to Hanukkah. Many of you may already have your gifts purchased, cards mailed and dishes planned. But if you are like the rest of us the Christmas songs came on the radio a little too soon – while the turkey and pecan pie were still digesting in our bellies. I am not here to give you tips on how to avoid the last-minute rush or to somehow grapple with your own procrastination but to at least give you some creative ideas of how to not feel so wasteful (in mind and wallet) during this holiday season.
Make your own:
Materials : Brown paper bag or Newspaper, scissors, old sponges, stencils, brushes
Find some old paper you have not yet recycled – brown paper bags or newspaper is a good idea. If you are using the brown paper bag cut the bag along one corner and discard the bottom so that it lays out flat as one sheet. Cut the old sponges up into fun shapes, circles, triangles, if you are adventurous a star. Dip the sponges in holiday-themed colors of paint and create a unique and fun pattern or design all over the paper. After it dries go back in with a brush and outline some shapes, add decorative lines or even put a tree trunk and a star on one of those triangles!
An alternative idea is to do leaf prints on the paper to impress your family and friends! Refer to my previous post, Fall Leaf Prints for detailed instructions!
Materials: Old Christmas cards, regular or decorative scissors, hole punch
I know it is hard to get rid of all those beautiful old Christmas cards that you so carefully hang around a doorway or place on your mantle each year – but don’t you think the hot pink snowman from the 80′s deserves to be put to rest?! Well how about better yet – re-created! Cut up your old Christmas cards into yuletide shapes or traditional squares with regular or even better decorative scissors, punch a hole in one end and tie it to your present with non-synthetic ribbon. Write your merry messages on the back and relish in the rewards of re-use!
Environmental Art Holiday Cards
Materials: Natural Materials, Imagination, Construction Paper, 5″x7″ envelopes, camera, glue
It’s quite the tradition to send photo cards during the holidays. Why not get a little creative and instead of sending photos of the family again send a message of peace, love and environmental art! Go to your favorite natural place – beach, woods, park, pond – collect a sampling of natural materials or a lot of one object. Arrange the materials on a flat surface- sand, rock, bench, ground – in a holiday shape. Think a peace sign, a star, an angel or even spell out a written message like “Peace on Earth”. Take a few photos from different angles (don’t worry your subjects won’t talk back, or blink) and leave the ‘message’ for someone else to enjoy!
Making the cards: Print out the photo(s) you like the best, I find the nicest outcome is doing matte with borders. Fold the construction paper in half and decide if you want the fold to be at the top or on the side. Glue the photo in the appropriate orientation and let dry. Write your inspiring message on the inside and voila! your friends and co-workers will be forever impressed with your creativity. One way to save paper & money is only use envelopes if you are actually mailing the card.
* To really think environmentally, digitally scan or download the photo onto a computer and send it as an email attachment wishing Peace and Joy
Making your own gifts can be more of a challenge especially if you feel like you are lacking in the ‘crafty’ department. However I’m of the belief that everyone has their own unique gifts that they can give during the holidays! Usually homemade gifts take more time, but I think people realize they are more thoughtful and usually quite special. I have made a list of some ideas for holiday gifts as well as some links to a few websites that expand these resources:
A gift of giving your time and skills - Home Maintenance (painting a room/ fixing a leak), Beauty (massage/manicure), Tea or coffee date, Washing the car, Pet-sitting, Baby-sitting, Cleaning the house, Making breakfast/dinner, Teaching a new skill, Yard work, Creating music playlists or cd’s… the list can go on and on
Art & Crafting – Drawing or Painting a picture of something or someone special, Sewing a felt ornament or silly animal, Making simple jewelry, Creating a set of recycled stationary, Making bookmarks from old National Geographic magazines, Using old candles to make a new one, Creating buttons or pins, Using flexible wire, string and found objects to make a hanging mobile, Altering a book to form a new work of art, Accordion Books, Finding a piece of driftwood to make a sculpture…
Culinary – Baking bread, Baking sweets, Making candy, Cooking a dinner for two, Cooking a week’s worth of dinner
Websites with more great ideas:
Of course if you are going to buy gifts this season try as hard as you can to be sustainable – support your local businesses & artisans. Pack those boxes you are shipping to your friends in Tasmania with your plastic grocery bags (how dare you still use those!) or newspaper instead of styrofoam and try to get a bit of that homemade chocolate through customs.
I hope you truly enjoy this holiday season and yes with 12 days left start belting out those holiday songs, wearing those cheesy holiday pins and please stop to smell the Christmas trees – it only happens once a year!
I am introducing a new platform for artistic research, JAR, Journal for Artistic Research. As the description denotes this resource is about weaving together information rather than presenting it in a static form. Multiple literacies are used to discuss arts-based research which can be more effective than the standard scholarly written article. Modern day artists are researchers, historians, observers of our time and collectors for our future. I am hopeful this journal will exemplify the artist’s role and importance of their work and creativity in our world today.
An excerpt from the JAR home page:
“a high-quality journal in the field allows an ever-increasing number of artistic researchers to partake in what for the sciences and humanities are standard academic publication procedures. Given that artistic research has become a worldwide movement with many local activities, JAR can serve as a focal point, bringing together diverse voices, facilitating the discourse and thus improving the artistic research community….
…In the context of JAR, artistic research is doubly defined: insofar as it is research, it enhances knowledge and understanding; because it is artistic, however, the mode of presentation is essential.”
I was invited to teach Creative Accordion Books at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA this past weekend. Only two participants had ever made accordion books previously – so we had a fun time exploring the basics of the accordion fold, adding creative techniques to the pages and making the covers. In this day and age when the printed word is becoming more and more obsolete it is important to hold onto these age-old traditions and crafts. The beauty of holding a hand bound book, turning the luxurious paper pages and admiring the quality of craftsmanship should never go out of style.
A couple quotes from participants:
“Though I’ve taken classes in bookmaking and have made quite a few different types of books, I learned at least 5 new techniques yesterday. I’d say that’s good teaching! Your workshop more than met my goals and I really had a good time.”
” your class on Sat was well-organized, carefully presented and that your assistance to class members through-out the workshop most helpful.”
Thank you all! I had a great time as well and so happy to share these techniques!
Below are instructions to make your own accordion book and photos of participants books in progress. Techniques we explored were creating windows, sewn in pages, creative collage and pockets. Enjoy!