Monday, September 29, 2008

Species #845: Work in progress

My studio class has a critique coming up where we're supposed to each bring in three works, each work containing elements of printmaking, painting and collage.  I've mentioned before that I am doing a series of woodland creatures.  Today, I printed Species #845 four times and I'm currently working back into the pieces individually.  This is the work I have done today, but it's not finished (I have to stop because it's time for final prep before Rosh Hashana).

So today was my first time printing on a screen, other than the monotype I printed earlier (which I'll post eventually, as I'm working into that one, too).  It was really exciting, and probably the easiest printmaking process I've ever encountered.  Just a voop-voop of the squeegee across the screen and then, magically, there's a print on the paper! I mean, I know how it works, but it's SO EASY - so much easier than even relief printing - that it's hard to believe it works.

Shana Tova!

l'Shana Tova everyone!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

10 Day Project: Day 10

Perhaps someone reading this has been wondering what I’ve done with the silks from these ears of corn I’ve been using. So far, I’ve used the husks, cobs and kernels in various ways to make the 9 current projects, but the silks have been completely ignored. Or have they?

I have been collecting and saving the silks. I didn’t know what I would use them for. They sat in a plastic bag, and eventually began to mold. After yesterday’s experiment with preserving kernels in wax, I thought of doing a similar thing with the silks. This time, I would simply drop them in water in a jar, as if they were a specimen floating in a jar of formaldehyde.

The effect was beautiful and at the same time disgusting. The strings float gently on the top of the water, with some stragglers drifting towards the bottom. There are large black pieces, which is how the silks came on the cob - I assume it’s dirt and after a while it will dissolve into the water and settle at the bottom. As it looks now, it reminds me of the heartworm-infested dog heart that my veterinarian used to keep in his office to scare pet owners into giving their pets heartworm prevention medication. It looks like something that was alive and is now dead.

I am keeping the jar in an area of the apartment that gets a good amount of sunlight throughout the day. I wonder if anything will grow in there.

I like that this is the final piece of the 10 day project. This piece is a culmination of all those that came before it: the silks in this jar are from every ear of corn that I used.

10 Day Project: Day 9

Since most of my projects are either drying out or becoming moldy, I thought I would experiment with the idea of preservation. Today, I took a glass jar and half filled it with corn kernels, the other half I filled with cold wax, and then I poured hot wax to seal it off. I then tried a second time, this time I filled the bottle with kernels and then poured hot wax over them inside the bottle.

The hot wax was very difficult to work with. I think it may have been easier if I had a microwave or something handy to melt it in. I was probably using the most unsafe method, of melting it in a bag and then pouring it that way. I wish there had been clearer instructions on the box as to how to use the wax. I didn’t burn myself or ruin the pot or the wax, but I think there was definitely the potential for disaster.

I like the idea of the wax as a preservative agent. Wax can be used for candles or sealing jars, and has been used for thousands of years in similar ways. I’ve never worked with wax before, aside from one craft class at camp many years ago, so I was excited to try it out. It was simply paraffin wax from the grocery store.

10 Day Project: Day 8

I am returning to the more conceptual art mode of working with corn. This day’s project is about corn as a food. I boiled the corn with sugar, then had my fiance take a bite out of it, and documented this process. Also, my cat was interested in the corn, so I took a picture of her inspection as well.

I know there are other people doing similar things with their food-based media for the 10-day project, so it’s not quite so original, but nobody else has corn! And most people won’t have a cat in their project, so that’s originality!

I love the smell of the cooked corn. Also, it has this beautiful yellow color that supposedly comes from adding sugar to the water it is boiled in. I wanted to be the one to taste it, but it was hard to explain the shots I wanted to my fiance so I ended up taking the shots and only smelling the delicious corn. I took video of it boiling in the water, because the sound and site of the boiling was a part of the experience, I thought.

Being hyper-aware of the cooking and eating process of corn is an interesting experience. Usually, when I make corn, I just pop it in the oven (after cleaning it up) and wait a while and then eat it. I don’t usually think too much about it, other than how much I love to eat corn. But watching someone else eat it, taking close pictures, was kind of a way of analyzing the act of eating as well as eating corn.

10 Day Project: Day 7

I was kind of at a loss for today’s project. Now that I’m getting to the final days, I am seriously running out of ideas. I took the cob that I used yesterday to print from, broke it in half, and started popping out whole kernels. Then I tried to recreate the cob from the kernels only, which failed. Out of frustration, I started counting the rest to try to figure out what I could do with them, and decided it might look cool if I put numbers on the kernels (think: “Your name in a grain of rice”).

Today’s project played off of the idea of corn as a whole containing multiple pieces. Numbering the kernels was a relaxing, repetitive activity. There is a sense of accomplishment upon finishing: now I know exactly how many kernels there are in the pile. It is reminiscent of winning the “count the jelly bean” contest at a fair. For the record, there are 87 kernels glued to the paper in no particular pattern.

I don’t know if I have much to say about today’s project. I truly am feeling a mental block right now. Also, some of my older pieces - especially Day 3 - and saved materials are beginning to get very moldy and gross, which means I probably will throw them out soon. Luckily I have good photos of everything I’ve made, so even if I can’t bring them in people will be able to see what I’ve done.

10 Day Project: Day 6

Yesterday I played on the concept of using the husks as paper. Today, I took that one step further by putting together a book made of the husks. I had learned a little from yesterday’s sewing debacle, but this time I couldn’t use rubber cement to hold the pages in place. I had to be very careful as I sewed, and was actually able to put it together without too much problem.

I decided that since this was a book made of corn, it should be about corn. There are four pages and a cover. This is what they read:


Page 1: CORN: Kurkuruz, Mais, Turgen, Turkischer Weizen, Welschkorn, Zuckermais, maiz, majs, djagoeg, יבלת ,אשבול תירס.

Page 2: “Measure the corn of others in your own bushel.” - Yiddish proverb

Page 3: Corn [korn]: 1: a North American ceral plan that yields large grains, or kernels, set in rows on a cob. Its many varieties yield numerous products, highly valued for both human and livestock consumption. Also called Indian corn (Zea mays) from family Grammineae; it was domesticated before 5000 BC although the wild ancestor is unidentified. “creamed corn.” 2: informal: something banal or sentimental. “the movie is pure corn.”

Page 4: “A Man of Knowledge like a rich soil, feeds / If not a World of Corn, a World of Weeds.” - Benjamin Franklin

This exploration moves into a more conceptual artwork based on corn. The book is made from corn, about corn, invoking the mental image of corn, the associations with the idea of corn, and more. I think this was more about exploring the associations with corn, which is something I might work into more in the future. For example, the Benjamin Franklin quote seems to associate corn with plenty, fortune and success, whereas the informal use of corn in the definition associates corn with banality and trite. What is it about this food that has such conflicting uses?

10 Day Project: Day 5

Today, I decided to go back to the husks, which have been the easiest to work with so far (or at least what I’ve liked the most). They are so versatile, and also I am better with two-dimensional projects than more sculptural works. I took the husks off of an ear and sewed them into a wider piece of “parchment,” then rolled the ear in ink and printed onto the husks.

This was a pretty difficult process. Sewing the husks was not as easy as I’d hoped, because the husks are fibrous the string would keep pulling through it. I had to be very gentle. Also, the husks kept curling and making it generally impossible to hold them together. I solved this problem by using rubber cement and tape to hold the pieces together so I could sew them properly. The rubber cement would not have kept the pieces together alone, I think, because they still slid around as I worked, but at least it helped. This is not aided by the fact that I am pretty terrible at sewing.

The printing was the most fun part. I ended up continuing onto a sheet of BFK Rives so that I could use it as a background in some of my work in my studio class. I like the not-quite-uniform pattern that emerged.

I think I read in one of Don Seiden’s articles that sewing (like collaging) has the affect of bringing together fragments that can be symbolic of fragments of a person’s life. I think it would be possible to draw an analogy from the difficulty of sewing together the husks to the difficulty of putting one’s life in order. The print on top has the true unifying effect, because without the print it still looks like three pieces stuck together.

I also like the idea of creating alternative papers or surfaces on which to print or write. It makes the surface more important. When someone grabs a sheet of paper from the pile under the printer, rarely is a thought given to where the paper came from or how it was made. The process of creating paper from scratch makes the paper (and maybe all paper?) more meaningful, and I think using alternative media only enhances that. If I were to use this process in an educational program, I would talk about other writing surfaces made from different sources, papyrus, for example, or animal hides, and how they have been used throughout our history.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Afraid to Print!!

I have always, always, always wanted to take a screen printing class ever since I knew what it was.  It's SO cool and SO hip and whatever.  I want it!

Now I'm in a screen printing class.  Not just a screen printing class, but a class that demands we combine the printing with collage and painting.  DUH - my three most favorite art media! 

But I'm afraid to print.


My friend and I really keep putting it off.  We've prepped our screens and are ready to go but something is terrifying about actually printing.  Today we were really  going to do it, but the studio was too full and there was no space.  I did print my woodland creatures onto a photo stencil so I'm ready to burn the screen.  That was exciting.

We decided to make a date for tomorrow to face our fears.  We're going to print, damnit.  Tomorrow, there will be results from all this stalling preparation.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Theo Jansen - Kinetic Sculptor

This is an artist you should know.  His sculptures are SO COOL.  One of my screenprinting teachers showed him to me after looking at Species 843 - he said that species reminded him of Jansen's walking Strandbeest.

This video is a BMW commercial, but it's still cool, so watch it.

Species #1039

Species #845

Species #843

Species #330

Species #140


For my screenprinting class, I will be making a collection of woodland creatures (and other creatures, I suppose).  Right now I am in the beginning phase, which is digitally collaging images that have been scanned in, either from books or from collages I've made recently.

This is Species #140.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

10 Day Project: Day 4

I saved the kernels and some of the husk from yesterday, so when I went to work today I thought I would only use these leftovers. It’s been kind of a long day, so instead of starting with a grand plan for a project, I decided to mash up the kernels into a paste. With a mortar and pestle, I mashed the kernels for a while, which was intensely satisfying. The corn made squishy noises and sloshed around. I did stop before I had a good paste because my arm was getting tired and I was losing interest. I realize people used to have no choice but to do this by hand, so I appreciate that I no longer have to do this kind of labor for basic ingredients.

Mashing the corn made me think of my choice of food for art. I had saved the leftover corn so as not to be wasteful, something I might not have done with small scraps of paper. I didn’t want to be wasteful because I was using food, and so many people don’t even get this much food in a day. Corn, especially, has become politicized because of the push for ethanol as an alternative fuel. I don’t know how I feel about using food in art, but I was definitely thinking about this as I worked the kernels into a gooey paste.

After I had a good consistency, I wrapped the corn in plastic to keep it from going everywhere. I then had the idea to re-wrap the corn in the husks, playing off of the idea of the husk as a container for the fresh corn and now a container again for the manipulated corn. The outcome reminded me of two things: tamales, which I’ve never eaten but look delicious, and a baby wrapped in a blanket, maybe reminiscent of images I’ve seen of baby Moses.

The process of mashing is satisfying to my sense of aggression, perhaps working stress out through the repetitive grinding of the kernels. Re-wrapping is an almost intimate, protective act, something that must be done with care in order to keep the contents in tact. It’s interesting that a project that began with a violent act (mashing) ended with a caring act (wrapping).

10 Day Project: Day 3

Today I began with the cob only, by cutting off the kernels and then shaving as close to the cob as I could get with the knife that I was using. I wasn’t sure what to do next, so I started popping out the small pieces still in the cob with a fork. I’d like to note here that for some reason I am generally compelled to use kitchen utensils when working with the corn. This could be because it’s still considered food in my mind, and when you work with food you use kitchen utensils. Or maybe I’m afraid of making a mess of my expensive tools. Either way, I used a fork for this excavation.

What I ended up with was a spiraling pattern of holes. This actually took me a while to achieve, since the pieces of kernel were very stubborn, but it didn’t look very impressive. I decided to try attaching some of the husk to the cob like a bow, and played around with that. When it was finished, I attached a hook and hung it on the wall, kind of inspired by a project in my ceramics class that challenged us to make sculptural art that hangs on the wall.

I am also interested in the pattern on the cob when the kernels have been cut off. There is a sort-of bee’s honeycomb pattern, interlocking hexagons, although some are somewhat uneven. I once heard that the hexagon pattern and size of honeycombs is the exact shape and size for optimal ventilation in the hive. It’s interesting how nature works! I wonder what the significance of this design is for corn?

Digging kernel pieces out takes a lot of patience, and the cob is relatively resistant to the insertion of wire. This method is definitely less satisfying than the projects I have previously done, as more work is done for little results.

10 Day Project: Day 2

Today, I decided to work with the kernels. I began by holding the ear over the stove to burn some of the kernels so that I could get a wider variation of color. This had some surprising results! I didn’t realize that the corn would literally pop off of the ear when exposed to the bare flame! At first, I was afraid that the ear was catching on fire and would spit fiery kernels all over the kitchen. Luckily, all that happened just a surprising sound and some small pieces of kernel on the stove, but to be safe I stopped burning the corn.

Originally, I was going to make a mosaic of kernels. I am still considering this for another day, but today I wanted to do something inspired by a photo of a 10-day project from a previous year. The person had taken pieces out of a potato and strung them on a wire, then attached the wire to the potato so it was as if the potato pieces were a kind of tail. I cut the kernels off of the cob, strung them on wire, and then reattached the wire to the cob. Because there were so many kernels on the wire, I was able to twist it around the cob a couple of times, creating a kind of cyclone made of corn. I was surprised by the stickiness of the raw corn. I think I expected it to be whole, hard kernels, but instead the kernels were flexible and sticky on the inside.

Working with corn kernels presents its own challenge. They leave a sticky residue, which can be problematic for some people. They can break or be crushed unexpectedly, or can be easily pulled from a fastener. However, because there are so many, the artist has many opportunities to restart if the kernels don’t cooperate at first. I think I will explore working with kernels again later in this project.

Why No Integration?

Just a quick rant (?) here...

I have so many different art-making projects for this semester.  I have the 10-day project using corn that I've already started (and will post more about), I have a body of work to make on shadow puppets as part of a research project, I am in a mixed media screenprinting/painting class, and I'm co-teaching a workshop on creating beads and then jewelry with those beads.

Why are they so unrelated????

It's hard for me to work on so many completely disconnected projects!  I am trying to figure out a way to make them relate to one another, but they just refuse to relate in my mind.  It would be so much easier if everything had some kind of common thread, something that would allow each aspect to build off of the other.

BUT... no.  No building for me.  Just disconnected stuff.

And I just got another idea for the 10-day project as I was writing this rant, so at least it was productive!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

10 Day Project: Day 1

For one of our classes, we have to pick an unusual-for-art-therapy material and then do something every day using that material.  Then we have to write a response paper (of course).  My material is corn.  I'll post my daily works and papers here, too, because... why not?


As a last-minute decision, I switched my material to corn. I was going to work with seeds, but was intimidated by the material. I therefore switched to corn, which seemed more a manageable material for 10 short projects.

I was inspired by the versatility of corn. There are so many different textures, colors, possibilities. Today, I worked with the husks, which can be wide, flat and paper-like, or torn into small fibers. At first, I tried weaving, which is something I might come back to on another day when perhaps I don’t feel as overloaded as today - weaving will take more time and patience than I had today. While trying to think of what to do, I began to knot the small fibers I had made by tearing up the husks, then I knotted a two pieces together, and then created a small chain. This process was appealing to me, because knotting is very basic, and it created an almost cyclone-esque rope. I enjoyed the possibilities of this rope. I put it around my neck like a necklace, or on my head like a crown. My cat also enjoyed the spikes of the husks sticking out. I also liked the smell of the husks. Corn has good associations with me, of camping and barbecues and friends and family. Smelling the husks while working with this simple and familiar process of knotting was very satisfying. I also enjoyed the idea of taking many short pieces and creating a long, elastic and relatively strong rope.

Corn husks can be very difficult to work with. They vary in width, length, thickness, curliness, and strength. I experimented with poking wires through pieces of the husk, which either destroyed the piece or created an interesting ornament. The husks will eventually dry out or rot, and in the meanwhile collect fruit flies and other insect friends. This is not a special attribute of corn, but I do wonder what the pieces I create will look like by the time I bring them to class.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Sketchbook Poem

It reads:
I was in my Art & Spirituality lecture and someone wrapped a shawl around her shoulders and I thought that was interesting.

(Lots of posts today, I just decided I want to try to catch up for NaBloPoMo haha)


I'm experimenting with a new way of sketching... well, it's new to me.  That is, combining elements of collage with my sketches to create bizarre but strangely compelling images.  This is the first one I've done, and I hope to do more (maybe tonight).

Drawing, Painting Sketches (Progression)

The first is a random drawing in my sketchbook, the second is a painting sketch I did, and before I really overworked it I did another painting sketch.

This is what I did in my Art & Spirituality class last week, and I won't be returning to class so I don't know where these sketches will be heading.  Maybe they'll be useful in my new screenprinting/painting class?

Monday, September 8, 2008

Switched My Studio

I switched out of Art & Spirituality today.  I have four lecturey classes and the Art & Spirituality lecture half was really the straw that broke the camel's back kind of thing.  I am excited for my new class:

Printmaking: Digital and Traditional Routes

Where traditional boundaries between media have all but disappeared, high quality digital printing and non-toxic screen printing and transfer techniques have made it possible for artists to combine mechanical reproduction and painting. This course combines printmedia's imaging processes with studio painting to create hybrid works complex in form and content. Technical demonstrations and critical discussion will drive independent projects that redefine the parameters of contemporary print and painting studio practice.

Baaaasically it's screenprinting for painters/people who want to combing different printmaking media and also combine it with painting!  Fun!

I want to write more about school here and also show pictures of art.  Also I realize I signed up for NaBloPoMo so I better get on the posting wagon.  Unfortunately I am already woefully behind in my reading and assignments, so I am going to try to catch up with that a little bit.

I also think I am going to write a little bit about the challenges of being more religiously observant in grad school, especially an art program, and especially life.  I think that belongs here, right?

Monday, September 1, 2008

Ha! #1

In Houston there is a store called "Texas Junk Supply" that advertises as having over 1800 "pre-owned" cowboy boots.

Of course, I bought a pair, and they were only $35:

If you are ever in Houston, check out this store.  It is definitely worth it as a unique Houstonian experience.  Also, the boots are pretty awesome.  If you know anything about cowboy boots you know how expensive they are, but many of these boots are in great condition and are quite cheap.  If you're willing to walk in another man's shoes [I am hilarious], you should get a pair for your very own.

PS: I thoroughly cleaned and disinfected the boots before wearing.
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