14 August, 2011

'Pain' du Jour

work in progress

I've just made a 'cake of cakes' from thirteen bars (pains, in French) of something dear to my heart, Ivory soap. The title is Palate Cleanser, as in Calvados. The red piece is also soap, very aromatic and fruity, sculpted to resemble a tongue. Its intense dye has tainted the smaller white pieces at the top, which fall away from the centerpiece like petals. (Romantically representing loss of innocence?)

To be honest, Ivory's 'purity' marketing campaign made me hesitant to use it as an art material (is it endorsed by white supremacists?); but a friend convinced me that even if it were not 'pc' that does not mean I should reject it as an expressive opportunity. Over the past 130+ years, Procter and Gamble have pandered to woodsmen, nature girls and sweaty jocks; and Ivory's 'superwhite' image inspired a slightly lecherous lyric in this 1986 picture starring Tom Waits: Down by Law (trailer)

...yeah i'm looking for the coolest looking girl in the world

well they all look so good
just like my t.v. said they would
but i'd trade them all for the ivory girl
her skin is soft and white as snow
not an ounce of tan...
Ulterior Motives? I will, as an alumni of the Lucy Daniels Creativity Seminar, admit that making a Palate Cleanser from Ivory soap is probably a deep-seated reaction to a traumatic childhood incident in which my mom  raked a bar of it across my tongue for saying something horrible, which I have now completely forgotten. Hmm, maybe that was the whole point! Although I was not by any means an abused child, I do think this was over-punishment. So, I'm glad to be getting that 'pain' off my chest, if that's what this is about! In the meantime, wouldn't you know that chewing on soap has become a hot, new oral beauty treatment!

Ivory, it seems, inspires us. It appears regularly in the science laboratory (in addition to the lavoratory), and children around the world have learned a bit of chemistry with this experiment. (Here's a t.v. version in English). Soap crafts are fun ... and have you seen the carvings of Jay Leno and Lady Liberty? I wonder if there are collectors of nothing but soap art out there?!

Palate Cleanser, August, 2011

10 July, 2011

finding patience

301 Kinsey - an irresistable oasis of Cool in Raleigh

Up to lately? Aside from trying NOT to be distracted by yet another portrait photographer using the entrance to our building as a 'funky' backdrop, ... well, have a look! I've been painting a 4' x 2' panel (working title #17) and making small hand-colored collages from scrap prints in my file drawer. These endeavors have served as an expressive outlet and emotional foil to the tedious carving of block #2 for a woodcut that is really trying my patience!

Also, the past week has been spent recuperating from hand injuries received in a freakish cat attack that happened within days of my transcribing, in reverent bemusement, a note which Mr. Glenn Gould (who, being a phenomenal pianist, was obsessed with the condition of his hands) sent ahead of himself to appointments. Hmm, pure coincidence?

Finally, I've been reading about the artist Dinh Q. Le. One of his works, from the series From Vietnam to Hollywood, can be seen right here in Raleigh at the NCMA. It is a large handmade photoweaving, jewel-like and conceptually resonant, fusing Hollywood glammer with grimmer images from the Vietnam War era into a visual experience that feels almost like having a hallucination. I am inspired by Dinh Q. Le to find the patience to keep working!

#17, detail (acrylic, watercolor, sumi, lead pencil on panel)

lithograph, found paper collage with watercolor

#17, detail top right

#17, detail top left

woodcut and lithograph collage, detail

Message from Glenn Gould, chalk on slate

Handshake/Arm Wrestle, woodcut, acrylic, watercolor, sumi and chalk on paper

29 May, 2011

soldier flag

Memorial Day put me in the mood for flags today, working with a glue stick and some recylable prints. This is a simple collage of two impressions, with dashes drawn in red crayon.

The top left corner is a lithograph on translucent gampi paper. The image is derived from an x-ray of my friend Yolanda's knee. I met Yolanda years ago when she climbed a triple flight of stairs, while using crutches and having a cast on this wounded knee, to get to a party at my house! That girl earned her gin and tonic as well as a medal of honor, in my book.

The blue print, onto which the litho is glued, is a copper etching and dry point of my friend Wendy's father, Douglas. Wendy and I worked together on a book about her mother that centers around texts from a (rather absurd) educational pamphlet detailing social code for wives of Naval officers. In the drawing I have articulated the contours of Doug's uniform with a dotted line; this references sewing patterns and the military mentality.

Actually, I just realized that both Yolanda's and Wendy's dads served in the military. So it's fitting that these two have ended up on the same page.

In the context of my search for visual shorthand in the language of the family tree, this print seems like a trading card that might be fun to have on Memorial Day, even if among strangers. As such it represents the serviceperson(s) in the family - from the decorated career officer to the young guard who never had a chance to earn stripes. Soldiers enjoy a convenient, if oversimplified, role as signifier in the swapable, overlapping stories that we use to illustrate our family ties.

15 April, 2011

Tiptoe through the Tulips

The cherry blossoms came a little too early this year for spring festivities at the Sarah P. Duke Gardens. But the mood on April 3 was buoyant and the weather couldn't have been nicer!

Things started off with a bang - Japanese drumming by Triangle Taiko in honor of those lost in the recent disasters.

Seated around an outdoor stage, we funneled our attention into a traditional tea hosted by Nancy Hamilton and her fellow tea practitioners. Each tea has a poetic text that the host carefully chooses to share. In keeping with the theme of oh-so ephemeral life, and oh-so elusive beauty, the choice for this tea was:

Fragrance perfumes my sleeves.

Young people read haiku from scrolls that they had made under the care of a calligrapher.
Their work was admirable but the readings could have been more powerful. There was also a chorus (delightful), sushi-maki, and flower arrangements by adults!

After the events, we dispersed in the gardens and joined other visitors in examining the myriad blossoms, taking pictures, having a picnic, ... perfuming our sleeves.

All of which now makes me think of Tiny Tim! (who had his serious side too: http://www.tinytim.org/)



One more post about the broadside! In this short (3-minute) video, Gaelle and Coralie lay the printed lithographs down on the inked woodblock for the second of four impressions. After each pass the block is re-inked (that part isn't in the video because it was my job). The paper is damp, a bit unwieldy, and must be taped to the registration jig in order not to shift as it passes under the pressure of the press roller.
At the end of the video - when the print is pulled up - you can see the "ghost" of the lithograph on the woodcut. Since the litho was still wet, it transferred off the paper and onto the woodcut. This created a double image of the litho on the next print, so we had to clean the block every 12 or 15 prints. We did this by printing on newprint three times (and not with solvents, as that would have messed up the ink). Can you say 'labor-intensive?'

It might look mindless but we are concentrating very hard. Each roll-up and pass-through the press risks a mishap, human or otherwise, and therefore one less possibility for the edition.

Thanks to:
Lee for the use of her Ettan etching press
Annette for the large roller which expedited the inking process
Sophie for the nostalgic 80's music

04 March, 2011

FOCUS: the broadside (repost with images)

detail, three layers - plenty of transparent base
Focus (February, 2011) is a collaboration between Gaelle Baudot and Jen Coon. Gaelle is a biologist who just finished a 2-year residency in Research Triangle Park. Her native country is France. Jen (author of this blog) participated in the Bain Project, which is where she met Gaelle.
The idea for collaborating came last January, when the two were discussing a book Jen had made with Wendy Call  (Penland, January 2010, see Glimpse of a Marathon).

Gaelle had written a poetic text, reproduced in full on the broadside, and was looking for a way to commemorate her American adventure, which included a cross-country road trip and living in downtown Durham. They chose the broadside format for its unique history as artful documentary with longstanding musical, political and literary associations.

detail - too bad you can't see the embossment!

The project extended over eight months, and brought a myriad of interpretive and technical challenges. Even with Jen's 26 years of experience as a printmaker and Gaelle's creative problem-solving skills, arriving at the final design and printing the edition was a harrowing test of determination -- but the results are worth it!

 About the sequence and media: The first (black) layer is a lithograph. Gaelle designed the composition on the computer, which was then enlarged with a photocopier and finally hand-transferred to the plate.

The second and third layers (green and blue) are woodcuts. Jen sculpted the plywood surfaces with gouges, bits of metal and wire, also using an etching press and orbital sander. Letterpress, the final layer, was designed and hand-printed by Horse and Buggy Press. 

The full image is in the sidebar; a jpeg is available. Prints  may be viewed by appointment at Blam! studio in Raleigh (jjacoon@hotmail.com) and are available for purchase on this website.

Hand-printed on Legion Bamboo paper, it measures 24 ¾ high x 16-1/2 inches wide.

An English translation of the poem is available by request!
detail. woodblock

01 February, 2011

Broadside nears completion!

Focus: a year of planning and intense collaboration (including an all-night printmaking session) at Blam! come to fruition as Gaelle Baudot (FR) and I sign off on the 3-block image portion of our first original broadside. Next, the edition goes to Horse and Buggy Press for hand-printing the text with letterpress.

Detail of a pre-edition proof of the imagery (lithograph and 2 woodblocks) which accompanies Gaelle's text. The project commemorates her 2-year stay in the US.

Ceramicist Coralie Courbet (FR) and Gaelle display extraordinary teamwork and determination as they learn the ropes of presswork.

Felow Blam! artist Stacey L. Kirby takes inspiration and crafts a handmade book from proofing scraps.