Friday, September 21, 2018

Star 82 Review 6.3 Is Live!

Another season, another issue of Star 82 Review, the art and literary magazine I founded, edit, design, and publish. This is a nice one, and it includes an ekphrastic poem from book artist Charles Hobson, among other neat stuff. In this fall issue, 6.3, we have students at many levels, from first time published writers and artists to those who are established, all writing from the heart and following their curiosity. We're all still learning, and we continue to wonder at the mystery of what lies ahead in our everyday lives.

6.3 online is here.
6.3 print is here.

You can keep up-do-date with the news from the magazine and read the found poem created from the first two or last two words from each written piece at the Star 82 Review FaceBook page here

(I'll have back issues of *82 at booth #13 this Sunday, Sept. 23, for the Roadworks event, 11am to 4pm, in San Francisco.)


Ross Allison
Sharon Ankrum
A. Anupama
Flo Au
Dianne Ayres
Marie Baléo
Erin Barnett
Micki Blenkush
Mandy Chen
Martha Christina
Alexandra Cline
Douglas Cole
Lucia Dill
Woody Evans
Mike Ferguson
Kaori Fujimoto
Charles Hobson
James Croal Jackson
Alyse Knorr
Kali Lightfoot
Connie Liu
Jessy Randall
Ona Siporin
Janet Stevenson
Jrake Sudario
Foster Trecost
Sheree Winslow
Marjory Woodfield

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Art and Ospreys at Golden Gate Audubon Blog

After letting Cindy Margulis, the Executive Director for Golden Gate Audubon Society, know about the upcoming event that features my linocut of Richmond the Osprey at San Francisco Center for the Book, I was contacted for a post for their blog, Golden Gate Birder. So today's post is there, a melange of older posts from here, plus new material, especially written with the birdy audience in mind. Perhaps a new view.

screenshot from Osprey cam

Related Info
Golden Gate Audubon Society Blog: Blog post by Alisa Golden, September 18, 2018

SFCB Roadworks Steamroller Event, Osprey linocut, September 23, 2018

Piedmont Center for the Arts / California Society of Printmakers, Osprey chicks linocut, through October 7, 2018.

SFBayOspreys Live Chat, general trivia and fun, Nest season: March - September 2019.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Abstract Art Leaves Space for the Writer

Minimalistic art and I are now friends. We weren't always. I like stories and narratives, I like words. While I could appreciate a nice composition, some interesting marks and materials, and colors in harmonious chords, I always felt unsatisfied with Minimalism or Post-Minimalism. Until I taught my last "Friendly Writing for the Visual Thinker" workshop last weekend. This particular incarnation swirled around the precarios, the little abstract sculptures made by Cecilia Vicuña. More research led me to more appreciation.

I wanted to bring in the work of other artists who worked with found objects, but in a more formal way, where the objects didn't have as many layers of meaning. They might be bits and parts of something. My art history friend had mentioned Richard Tuttle after she saw Vicuña's work, so I looked into Tuttle's sculptures. From there, Rauschenberg, and then Louise Bourgeois.

Tuttle seems interested in shape and color and light. I remember noticing in one exhibit at SFMOMA in 2005, that the shadows on the wall were as important as the objects themselves. A little video, showing him creating a wire piece, which he feels is "close to something alive" is here. He draws a line on the wall, hammers one nail at each end, then bends the wire to match the drawing. The wire comes from a spool or ordinary wire without prior history or connotations. It simply has the properties or characteristics he needs to achieve his vision. Other sculptures include plywood and found objects, like Ten, A, created in 2000. He'll paint the objects, as needed for his vision. He has also made artist's books. You can see a good example of one here, which, not surprisingly, looks like his sculptures, but contains his writing as well.

Rauschenberg created a series of what he called "Elemental Sculptures" and "Tethered Objects," made from "spikes, steel, stones, twine, wood, and other materials" found near his New York studio. The objects are worn and used, but also not particularly specific to a place or time; they could easily be from anywhere in the world. By tethering them, either by nailing them or tying them together, or just by putting them in the same room, he creates a new piece and a new connections. The larger scale pieces can be like collective memory jogs, evoking ancient sculpture as well as contemporary art. The shapes are simple. The marks and wear bring humanity back into view as we imagine who held and used them before Rauschenberg changed their meaning and context.

Louise Bourgeois isn't quite as minimalistic as the others, but her work can be cryptic and both her drawings and sculptures do seem to stress form. The daughter of tapestry restorers, Bourgeois was often asked to draw the worn or missing areas. If you are always looking to connect the edges, it seems natural to begin connecting object to object, or person to object, which is what her sculptures addressed, showing human emotion in her streamlined, yet complex work. Most of her work features the human figure, figures, or heads, as well as the spiders for which she is best known. A few sculptures include everyday objects, like an eggbeater. As I read more about her I discovered that each time she made a sculpture, she had a person in mind. And yet, the sculptures are not realistic, they are perhaps symbols or signs. Perfect metaphors.

Ultimately, these sculptures have one meaning for the artist, but there is room for the viewer, and I would say, room for the writer. They are excellent focal points, a wonderful way to kickstart a new written piece. While the artworks contain enough material to begin—some concrete imagery—the writer has the freedom to imagine. You might ask of the works all those question words you were taught in grade school: 

Who? Who would use this? Who would own it? Who would find it? Who is it? Of whom does it remind you?
What? What is it made of? What does it remind you of? What does it do? What are its characteristics? (This is my favorite question because it can lead one to comparisons and metaphors.)
Where? Where did it come from? Where is it going? Where was it made? Where is it now? Where will it be in the distant future? Where did you or someone else experience it?
When? When was it made? When did you or someone else experience it? 
How? How was it made? How could it be taken apart? How do you imagine others will experience it? How did it get here?
Why? Why was it made? Why is it here? Why should it remain? Why do you keep spending time with it? Why does/doesn't it affect you? Why would someone own it or want to share it?

And you're in.

In my last workshop, students created their own tiny sculptures from found objects I picked up on my walks, deliberately trying to find more "elemental" objects that could cross time and place. I also brought raffia, pins, thread, and wine corks.

And then they wrote about them.

Friday, August 31, 2018

The Owl and the Book-Box

It started with the owl. No, it started with the book-box. Actually, it started months before, when a colleague gave me some old books she had picked up for free, thinking she would make something with them. I, in turn, was sure I was going to pass them on to friend who could give them to her students. But I kept forgetting. At this point you say, who cares?

Who. Our owl doesn't say Who. It says What. It's a barn owl. And it isn't ours. It lives in a palm tree around the corner from us. After all these years of knowing, we finally saw it.

Around the same time I was preparing for my last "Friendly Writing for the Visual Thinker" workshop and had just discovered a work by Joseph Cornell that I'd never seen before. Anywhere. It was in a museum collection in Spain. He had hollowed out a book and built a little gridded, partitioned box. Was this really by Cornell? While he did draw and make collages, most of his work is assemblage in wooden boxes. 

I found a collection of his archives at the Smithsonian. And look! The photo of him on the front page shows him holding this book-box. Now I had to make one.

I chose one of the four books given to me: A Mingled Yarn, published in 1952 by H. M. Tomlinson (the contents of which are digitized and may be read here), and began to hollow and build. 

One of the essays in the book was "The Brown Owl" (1928), so I primarily used those pages as the wallpaper of the divided insert. On purpose, I did not read the essay first, knowing I probably would not cut it up if I did. I clamped and cut, built walls and glued them to the bookblock sides, then collaged the page pieces with Liquitex acrylic varnish. 

As I worked I didn't know what would go into the compartments. Ultimately, I printed out the owl photo I had taken, and the piece became about our owl. I also had to make and include a little book.

I really like this barn owl, so I spent more time with it while I made a new linocut card and small sachet-pillow. They'll go up at nevermindtheart soon. Both are four by six inches.

a calming hint of lavender

I just read the Tomlinson's essay. It's a sweet story. Yes, I probably would have kept the book. But I like that our owl stories are now mingled.

“The web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together: our virtues would be proud, if our faults whipped them not; and our crimes would despair, if they were not cherished by our virtues.”

― William Shakespeare, All's Well That Ends Well