I have been thinking lately, what is it that gives rust its seductive visual power? Why are so many creative folk increasingly drawn to using rust and rusting in their palette?
I suppose my first thinking about rust in art was in response to the sculpture of Richard Serra and Anthony Caro.
The colour of their iron blends so much more easily into Nature when the surface has rusted, so the otherwise perhaps harsh appearance of slabs, fragments of towering metal is softened. There is also an indicator of change and decay embodied in the rusting process of these sculptures: perhaps a warning to the skyscrapers in front of which the sculptures often stand, that time will destroy us all.
Perhaps the rusted surfaces of monumental sculpture are similar in their effect on us to the sight of ruins, and that we seek reminders of time past and passing. (See my previous RCC post on Time here.) Hence the overwhelming number of photographs of rust – just put rust into Google Image!
I first saw the effect of rust on cloth at the 21:21 exhibition of fabric by Reiko Sudo and the NUNO studio. They had designed and made lengths of cloth marked with rusty nails. Reiko Sudo gave a master class after that exhibition in 2005 – designed to have a cascade effect, with all the participants themselves agreeing to give workshops to others.
In 2012 Alice Fox used rust transferred onto cloth to help capture the past and the current aesthetic attractions of Spurn Point during her residency there, and she continues to use the marks of rust in her work. She now gives workshops helping others such as Mags Ramsay to achieve interesting results.
Maeve Coulter who works in textiles and in printmaking has made Rust Prints which echo the visual and emotional effects of sepia in fading early photographs.
Printmaker Sally Hirst uses oxidised iron filings to colour the paper on which she then prints images of old iron structures such as bridges and piers.
Jean M. Judd has a section on rust dyeing process on her website, and a generous soul has offered Free Rust Texture Stock Photos for designers, so there must be quite a demand. Is it because we are almost engulfed by technology which we no longer comprehend – so few of us can make the clever things which glide us through daily life – that we reach back to signs of a time which we think we understand.
It is good also to feel that those tools from past technology, now discarded, can be used to make something beautiful before being thrown back onto the scrapheap – or recycled, as seen in the rustnstuff blog.
I have been thinking lately, what is it that gives rust its seductive visual power? Why are so many creative folk increasingly drawn to using rust and rusting in their palette?
Artists who alter books by using their contents, rather than making books from scratch and filling them with their fresh ideas, have a material starting point: a physical book, or its text and/or images. This post deals with three artists (one Canadian, one American, one British) whose theme is to explore the ambiguities of communication, and who use textile techniques to alter texts.
Sylvia Ptak makes faux-texts.
An experienced weaver, she removes threads from fabric and adds simulated script. Plucked, ink-stained, and distorted “weave structures” become word shapes.
For this image, from a 2008 exhibition called The Unicorn and The Date Palm, based on renaissance herbals, she used heat-transfer to add the illustration after the thread “writing” is in place. At other times, she has used inks, or coloured threads.
In “Commentary”, a 2004 exhibition at the University of Toronto’s Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, she slipped between the pages of a number of the library’s rare books her own “pages” of abstracted, text-like shapes carefully woven into sheets of gauze. You can see from the image above (via) how they mimic the ancient pages of the real tomes.
Sylvia Ptak says she is interested in “the multiple meanings that texts generate” – the incomprehensible language of her texts reads like everything and like nothing. “We have such faith in the printed – or handwritten – word that we feel it must be saying something,” said the reviewer of her show in the Globe and Mail. The “handwritten words” are something other than text – they are drawing, literally, in that a thread is drawn out of the fabric.
Her new body of work (2013) is inspired by manuscript pages, handwritten and extensively edited, by authors including James Joyce, Marcel Proust, and Virginia Woolf – pages that bear witness to their creative process, showing additions, deletions, and corrections. As well as gauze, Sylvia Ptak has been using a variety of paper, such as vellum and player piano rolls, to translate manuscripts into gestural marks, which although not legible, still retain the essence of each author.
Jen Bervin has removed words, rendering the remaining text in stitch.
Her “Dickinson Fascicles” are based on the punctuation (the “non-meaningful” marks) on the pages of Emily Dickinson’s manuscripts. She says on her website:
“I wanted to see what patterns formed when all of the marks in a single fascicle, Dickinson’s grouping of poems, remained in position, isolated from the text, and were layered in one composite field of marks. The works I created were made proportionate to the scale of the original manuscripts but quite large—about 8 feet (240 cm) wide by 6 feet (180 cm) high—to convey the exact gesture of the individual marks.”
These marks were omitted from typeset poems and only became available to scholars when a facsimile edition of the poems was published. Since then there’s been a lot of literary theorising about them.
Jen Bervin also says: “I have come to feel that specificity of the + and – marks in relation to Dickinson’s work are aligned with a larger gesture that her poems make as they exit and exceed the known world. They go vast with her poems. They risk, double, displace, fragment, unfix, and gesture to the furthest beyond—to loss, to the infinite, to “exstasy,” to extremity.”
She spoke about her poetry and how her work is made in 2010 at writing.upenn.edu/pennsound/x/Threads.php; you can listen online. “The Desert” was created as an editioned work, for which she hired sewers via Craigslist; they worked shifts in her apartment on as many sewing machines as she had available.
“The Desert” uses stitch to erase passages of text, making a new meaning with what remains.
Jen used a text erasure technique in “nets” to make new poems out of Shakespeare’s sonnets – see an excerpt here.
Sylvie Killgallon is “translating” Homer’s Iliad into coloured stitches.
Each greek letter will be a stitch (a cross-stitch), with colours changing throughout the books, starting with red and moving letter by letter so that the final book is blue.
Book 1 – of the 24 books – is finished; she’s now working on Book 2, and it’s the longest book. “I need to stitch faster” she says on the project blog, Stitched Iliad.
From the Guardian newspaper’s article:
“I started the project in response to a curator showing me a newly built, empty gallery space and asking me what I would put in it,” she said.
“My mind immediately sprang to the Iliad.I’d been researching translation, transmission and reception of text issues, so my immediate question to myself was ‘Can I produce a translation of the text that allows an audience of non-classicists to appreciate it without understanding the text itself?’ The colour translation was my solution.”
The initial red colour scheme was inspired by the war, anger and bloodshed featured in the Iliad, which is believed to have been written between 750 and 650 BC.
Research has shown that cultures generally follow a similar order in developing names for colours. Black, white and red appear first, while blue is one of the last colours to be named.
Kilgallon said this was the reason the project starts in the primal colour of red before transitioning to blue, a colour indicative of a more technologically developed society.”
Silvie works on her Iliad in public places, “prompting conversations and interactions with an audience receptive to both the story of the Iliad and the story of the stitched Iliad.”
Previously, for a project starting in 2011, she stitched Book I in various ways, aiming to do it “twenty-four times, each time highlighting a different method of analysing the text. My first translation is a simple letter-for-colour substitution, which each letter of the alphabet being substituted for a different colour. When the Iliad was first written down all those years ago, it would not have had the breathings, accents, spaces, or lower case letters which modern classicists would now be familiar with; thus, my translation contains no spaces, punctuation marks, accents, or breathings. Later translations will focus on syntax, metaphor, location, character, etc. Hopefully when it is finally complete, it will be a work of spectacle, aesthetic beauty and complexity worthy of the title of epic.”
For instance, here is that work in progress in March 2012 -
Later in the process, doubts set in … “The aim of the first translation and the aim of all the rest is also different: the first translation dealt with metaphor, and how it reveals but also obscures, it dealt with appreciation and understanding. At the moment, I feel like all the rest are just… infograms. They’re just colour-coded charts showing the frequency of names and places. They’re analysing the text in a way which is supposed to be understandable, which seems almost completely at odds with my intentions in the first piece. … Why do the same thing 24 times, unless you feel the idea is developing further each time (and I don’t think it will)?”
And so the project changed. It will look amazing when it’s finished – perhaps this sample of two of the Book I’s will help you imagine it -
Tags: art, Morandi, still life
I was introduced to the work of Georgio Morandi several years ago by my friend Barbara Fitzpatrick, who is an architect, painter, and now my drawing instructor. At first I was puzzled by her enthusiasm for what looked to me like dull, repetitive, almost monochromatic, paintings of bottles and boxes? painted chunks of cement? blocks of old cheese? I couldn’t even always make out what the objects were. But Barb assured me I should keep on looking. So look I did. And the work began to intrigue me.
And I found myself going back to look again and again. The paintings are quiet, deceptively simple. The objects can appear both flat and 3 dimensional at the same time.
Despite the apparent lack of color, there are many subtle shifts of value.
When I first started drawing with Barb as my teacher, she had us look at Morandi carefully and attempt to draw one of his still lifes. And it was then that I really started to look at the relationships among his objects, the shapes and volumes of his forms, the spaces between the bottles and boxes, the shadows, the subtle textural shifts, the places where one object almost, almost fades into another, but just doesn’t quite. or perhaps, in fact, does.
But the aha! moment really came very recently. I had been working on a piece and I knew it was close to finished, but I was reverse appliqueing shapes to a background and I couldn’t get them quite right. I was satisfied with the shapes themselves and the background was good too. But they wouldn’t come together. And then, the Morandi moment. . . . I remembered to look at the negative space. And that was it. Bang, they came together. Thank you Morandi (and Barbara).
Tags: Dairy Barn, quilts
Just home from Athens OH where I visited the Dairy Barn for its current show, an exciting collection of work from most of the people who have served as Quilt National jurors over the 35 years of that exhibit. It was special because the participants were asked to send three pieces: one from their earliest work, one of their work at the time they were jurors, and one of their current work. And most of them actually sent exactly what was requested!
The too-clever title of the show, “quilt (R)evolution” is silly but accurate, because the quilts do clearly mark the evolution of the quilts-as-art genre, and it was quite a change from the status quo. Several of the oldest pieces are only a step or two away from traditional — and Ann Johnston’s 1979 quilt could have easily been made in 1879.
I’ve been obsessively following Quilt Nationals via catalog since 1983 and in person for at least 20 years (can’t remember exactly which one I first attended) so it’s not a surprise to me that quilts-as-art started so close to its traditional roots and took a few years to escape the conventions. But it’s fun to be reminded of how the famous names we’re all familiar with started out, and how they got going in their own directions.
For instance, Joan Schulze started by making a big quilt that was the California winner in the big Good Housekeeping Quilts of America competition in 1976 — I remember that, even though I wasn’t much of a quilter at the time. After it was photographed for the book (I think I have the book, too) her quilt and others were destroyed in a warehouse fire but after a long period of grieving she decided to remake it. The design was original, with a batiked landscape in the center, but its wide border is composed of the traditional Road to California blocks (she did shock the viewers by making them in different colors to extend the landscape — blue for the sky, brown for the earth).
Joan Schulze, California II, 1979
Subsequently Schulze developed her signature style of using images appropriated from the media in collage-like phototransferred and screenprinted compositions that remind me of Robert Rauschenberg.
Nancy Crow started with huge symmetrical quilts that were meticulously planned and intricately pieced from templates using commercial prints. Subsequently she found that improvisationally free-cutting shapes from hand-dyed fabrics and building her compositions gradually on the wall was a more satisfying approach.
on the catalog cover: Nancy Crow, March Study, 1979
Katie Pasquini Masopust’s early quilt was a daring pentagon but executed in impeccably traditional craft from teeny calico prints. Subsequently she started incorporating easel-painted canvas into her quilt constructions.
Katie Pasquini Masopust, Heavens Reach, 1981
Other jurors went in different directions. Michael James, after years of strip-pieced curves, embraced digital photography cranked out on a huge-format printer. Yvonne Porcella started by making functional kimonos, then went flat (but kept her signature palette, brights with black-and-white). Jan Myers-Newbury started by hand-dying solid gradations, then discovered arashi shibori and never looked back.
Practically all of the early pieces were hand-quilted, but as the years progress most of them switched to the machine. Practically all the early ones were carefully pieced or appliqued with no raw edges, no messy craftsmanship of any kind, but as the years progress we see fusing, raw-edge applique, phototransfer, non-cloth materials and any number of experimental techniques emerge (for instance, Tim Harding’s latest work is “quilted” with staples).
For those of us who have been tuned in to the quilts-as-art movement for a long time, the show is a great walk down memory lane. Fortunately all the pieces in the show still look fine (although Ann Johnston’s, used on the bed for decades, has faded dramatically into the muted colors of vintage quilts). For those of us who aren’t that familiar with the olden days of our little niche of the art world, the show will be an eye-opener: how far we’ve come in such a short time.
Unfortunately the catalog doesn’t reproduce the artist notes that appear on the walls of the Dairy Barn. So, for instance, readers will probably think that Wendy Huhn’s extravaganza of female fairies perched on irons is about the drudgery of housework, when it’s really about a lethal disease that causes too much iron to build up in one’s blood vessels and joints. (I know how easy it is to leap to that conclusion, because I eavesdropped on two young guys explaining to one another quite solemnly how women’s work is never done, etc, before one of them thought to read the sign.)
The show remains up at the Dairy Barn through November 22 — see it if you can!
I’m cross-posting this to my personal blog, artwithaneedle.blogspot.com
Tags: books, ephemera, paper
There are many aspects of books which excite me. Those who follow my blog will know that I am a fan of bookmarks, and another optional extra which delights me is the use of endpapers. In my publishing days I would have great pleasure in choosing and designing endpapers – if the budget allowed.
Traditionally endpapers were designs rather like commercial fabric patterns, and I have a collection of small books on fabric designs which have appropriate endpapers. There are even a couple of books on endpaper paper designs in the collection.
Children’s books, books on art and craft subjects, and books that benefit from a map larger than individual page size are all ideal for endpapers.
Like this one from here.
And this one from here. And here are some more endpapers of children’s books.
I have not been able to track down which book has these endpapers by Rex Whistler, but I can imagine the delight of picking up the book and turning it round and round.
I always liked to have a different endpaper in the front from the back, rather like these by the artist Norman Thelwell for an Eagle Annual (at Christmas every year the Eagle comic would publish a book with all the features of the comic therein.)
Graphic novels and similar publications, even in paperback can be found with endpapers.
But in many ways the most delightful use of endpapers I find is with novels, or other writing which does not contain illustrations. The Persephone Press publishes books with elegant plain grey covers, which burst to life as soon as opened with glorious endpapers and matching bookmarks.
Image from here
More delicious than ice cream!
Tags: Montana, Native American
In 1991 I went to a gallery show in Red Lodge, Montana, and there I “met” an artist whose work called out to me from the walls of the Merida Gallery. Each piece held me with the strong images presented and the language of Native people illustrated in the techniques of a fine contemporary artist. Kevin Red Star called out to me through the images presented at that show. Each year through 1996 I returned to see his work at this gallery and in 1997 I visited the Red Star Gallery in Roberts, Montana, for a benefit show and sale for the Boys and Girls Clubs. In 1994 and 95 I was able to see his work at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, a marvelous venue for the exhibition of his paintings. My budget allowed only for me to own some signed posters of his work.
A step back in time to Kevin’s birth in 1943 and his early life in Lodge Grass on the Crow Reservation is where we can learn how Kevin’s creative adeptness was nurtured by his family and teachers. His mother designed and created in applique pieces of regalia for tribal dancers and blankets for people in the tribe. His father, a musician, would bring Kevin prints of the work of Charlie Russell and he would make copies of those watercolors and learned about creating images of the spaces where a person dwells, for that is what C.M. Russell sketched and painted. There is a wonderful series of videos called from the spirit with Kevin telling his story at www.kevinredstar.com/vodeos, a series well worth taking the time to view. There are some good pieces of information on succeeding in making and selling art; his daily commitment to showing up, creating and getting lost in his work is a large portion of why he has been so successful. His respect for the ownership of a symbol or design he might want to include in a work is expressed in one of his recordings, an interview from The Backroads of Montana on PBS; although he is a Crow, he would never use an image unless the family who has this image on their regalia or other family possessions gave their permission to him for the use.
Inspiration for Kevin’s work comes from looking around the land where he lives and works, taking walks for inspiration and seeing what shapes and forms in the landscape speak to him.He never grows tired of taking in the energy of the land of his people, nor looking closely at the horses, buffalo and the Crow people as he includes them in the work he creates.
In his video “painting the journey” found at the above link, Keven describes his process in creating a large piece for installation at a public building. He describes how he uses the tipi poles and the poles in the travois (used for carrying large loads behind horses) to direct the eyes of the viewer from the historical Native images to the newly constructed building in the painting. Buffalo were important images and yet they were too dominant in the design until he painted them as the clouds in white. Lesson after lesson about design decisions is given by Kevin in this recorded piece.
Kevin’s education at Institute for American Indian Art in Sante Fe, New Mexico, was a life changing opportunity for him. Here he learned not simply technique but how an artist works and presents themselves to the world. From there he went to the Art Institute in San Francisco for more study and growth as an artist. Kevin continued to be a part of the community of working artists as he shared critique session with other artists, presented work in galleries and shows and settled in Sante Fe for several years and still maintains homes in both Montana and New Mexico.
There is a fine article in the “Santa Fe New Mexican”. August 17, 2014, written by Daniel Gibson, author of the newly released book on Kevin Red Star. There is a wonderful photo with the article that captures the heart centered joy that he expresses as he talks to you. You may read the article at http://www.santafenewmexican.com/magazines/indian_market_2014/kevin-red-starr-pushing-into-unknown-territory/article_9aec8c64-23c4
The “Big Sky Journal” has another article penned by the author of the book on Kevin Red Star, Daniel Gibson. Here is a photo of the cover of the magazine
Painting featured in Big Sky Journal article
Keven’s work is represented at the Smithsonian, The Denver Art Museum, the Heard Museum, the Whitney Museum of Western Art, eSpace in Paris and other galleries and museums in Europe and the US.
Kevin will be speaking at the Linden Museum in Stuttgart Germany on October 6th, 2014. He will present the story of his childhood on the Crow Indian Reservation and his 50 years of making art. He will then be at the Book Faire in Frankfurt, Germany October 8-9.
In March 19-21, 2015 he will once again be at the benefit auction and sale for the Charlie Russell Museum in Great Falls, Montana. In Paris, France he will have an exhibition entitles, “Shields, Drums and Masks” at Gallery Orenda, 54 rue de Ver Neuil.
this photo of Kevin has appeared in magazines and newspapers and truly represents the gentle, sensitive and available nature of the man I have met and spoken with on several occasions.
one example of Kevin’s use of the traditional tipi of the Crow as a design element in his paintings. You can visit his Facebook page and see many more of his paintings, and also visit his website to read more of his story and see the work he currently has for sale. kevinredstar.com
Kevin Red Star is a contemporary painter, a member of the Crow Tribe and a man with a fine, gentle and caring demeanor. His skill as an artist reaches out to people from all walks of life and in his work it is my belief that folks are able to see his story and that of the Crow Nation.
The Singh Twins, Amrit and Rabindra, have pioneered a new development of the traditional Indian miniature in modern art. Their work addresses important areas of critical debate, challenging stereotypes of heritage and identity.
The twins, who grew in in the United Kingdom, use the language of Indian and Persian miniature painting to depict the contemporary world. Their 2010 exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, London, had a room of family scenes and another of the complex world outside the home. It’s intriguing to see how social commentary and political satire fit into the modern into the classical framework, for instance this teenager’s bedroom, rendered in the Indian miniature tradition, with a strong narrative, symbolic content, and eye for detail -
I particularly liked this idol-worshipper, her traditional shape in modern garments -
Apart from wit and skill, the work requires tenacity – it takes four hours to finish a stamp-sized section of the paintings, and the works on show were up to a metre high. The twins’ work is identical to the untrained eye, and in real life they dress alike to the last detail. In this podcast they talk about the concept of being “women artists”.
“1984″ shows the notorious storming of the Golden Temple in Amritsar – read more about the painting, and see a larger version, here.
One aspect of the artists’ commentary is the blindfolded reporters … but they are very hard to find in the online version.
In another mix of traditions, they received MBEs in 2011, and posed with the Queen’s Beefeaters -