Thursday, March 18, 2010



All year long we've been hearing about how Judy Pfaff would be visiting the school this spring. She's a big name and so there was a correspondingly large build-up. We had a lottery for individual critiques and I was one of the eight lucky peeps who got to meet with Judy for half an hour.She was a delightful, and warm, guest who managed to inspire *and* frighten me.

We spent a little while talking about Pilchuck, where she has spent some time, and a bit longer talking about the central California coast and the mysticism of the Northwest. However, the first questions she asked me, right off the bat, were about my birthmark. What is it? Where did it come from? Do I know how special it is?

Then we looked at my work. We spent the most time talking about my photos and one of my new prints. "Your work lives in a place where the wind blows." She mentioned memory and romance "but not in the icky way." She was attracted to many of the same things that most people are attracted to in my work - the unexplained spaces, the strangeness, the things I don't know how to talk about. I don't always know how to make these pieces, but I always know when I've made one.

It was an intense half hour. She would interrupt me in a sly way and ask me disarmingly tangential questions: Are you married? Do you have kids? "You seem to be taking time to learn things you didn't get the chance to learn."

She stayed longer than she planned to and then when she left she blew me a kiss from the doorway.

Pfaff also gave a lecture while she was here. Her lecture was casual and sweet. She didn't use the mic "oh this is awful, can I take it off?" or laser pointer (she just walked up to the images and pointed.) I've never had the chance to see her installations in person but each image of her 3D work flattened into a beautiful painting or drawing when shown as a slide. This Flusso and Riflusso was my favorite.

Here's what she talked about that frightened and inspired me - she's never sold a single installation. She was in huge debt before she won the Macarthur fellowship and none of her installations survive intact. "Don't do that to yourself" she said. I'm afraid of more debt. I'm afraid of investing in work on that scale. BUT, I had a quick chat with Chris Barnard about my fear and he mentioned that grad school and the debt we incur here is part of how things are different for our generation of artists. SO I guess I'm already investing in work on that scale. On with the show.

The other night I re-watched the Art:21 episode that features Judy Pfaff and her work. It's the Romance episode.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

"Your ideas are not weaker for being subject to change" - Kiki Smith via Jen Graves

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Lithography is Fun

Here are some more photos and notes from Jack Damer's visit to Indiana University:

Kelly and Andrew drying the stone

Color, color, color.

We mixed color inks with magnesium carb and 25% transparent on the stone, if we were going to use a photo plate then mag carb and #7 or 8 varnish was suggested. For our stone, we transfered a Xerox collage to the stone with wintergreen oil and then added and subtracted to the image with hand work.

Notes on printing color reduction - roll up with black and then roll up with color, print first color then roll up with black again. Dry, rosin, talc, rub with clean rag and gum the stone then reduce. We used a variety of reduction tools to scrape away the image: razor blade, sandpaper, litho stone chip with carborundum and water, exato, etc. Re etch with 12 drops acid to 2oz gum, paint on and mush around. Then wet whole stone with gum and leave on for a good while (30 min?). Wipe with cheese cloth, buff, wash out with lithotine and roll up with second color.

Jack and Ed roll up the second color.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Jerome Witkin

Last week Jerome Witkin spoke at IU. It was a Friday night after a long, rich, day of lithography and so I have to admit that I nodded off for maybe 7 of the 120 minute talk in the daaaarrrrrk, comfortable seat filled, auditorium. BUT, I thoroughly enjoyed Jerome's thoughts on being an artist.

He grew up as a painting prodigy and went to the Skowhegan School in his teens. He is a direct artistic descendant of Western Europe. His monumental figurative paintings often address cruelty, war, and trauma. Sometimes he paints simple portraits of friends, but everything is painted with a lush weight. Amazingly, his twin brother is photographer Joel Peter Witkin.

Favorite quote of the night - "It is a privilege to paint such difficult things."

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

programmer or artist?

Rhizome posted an
interview with the architect of OpenProcessing. They discuss some interesting questions that I was mulling over with a friend... :
With digital works, where is the line between programmer and artists?
How does access to open source code change the perception of digital artworks?
Does the fact that you can endlessly replicate or appropriate parts of the original devalue the art? Ahhh... endless replication... what does that remind me of? oh right, printmaking.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Jack Damer's Visit

Jack Damer teaches at University of Wisconsin, Madison. He is an expert lithographer and came down to B-town last week to teach us some stone-cold awesome litho tricks. The first day we discussed the history of lithography and viewed some of the hundreds of prints that Jack brought. Then we all bundled into the car and carpooled to Thai buffet for lunch.

At lunch we talked about movies, the proliferation of visual culture and the self consciousness of making art for artists. There is a general sense that some art is so coded and steeped in references that only other artists will understand the full impact of the work. Some people worry that this devalues the experience of art; if viewers can't understand the full meaning of the work then why make such complex, nuanced work? I see it another way - If I value the creation of my art and the complex thoughts that inspire it then it can never be undervalued. Even if I were to make simple explicit, didactic art I still can't be guaranteed that viewer will read my every intended meaning. But if one person takes something away from the experience of seeing my art then I've accomplished my goal. WE PROVOKE, we converse, we send forth our ideas and someone will listen. We just have to believe in the power of our voice.

After lunch we went back to the studio and processed a stone and I got a talking-to about my sponging technique. Jack is a very solid, knowledgeable teacher. He has the relaxed demeanor that comes with confidence. I took many, many notes and am excited to get to work using them!

Here are a few of the prints that Jack brought, all lithographs.

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Monday, March 1, 2010

artdaily - distraction

Lovely image from - (pleasant distraction on the left)