29 September 2007

4 Weeks

Last night marks four weeks since my father died. I tried not to think about it too much. I am not into avoiding thinking about it, but I do not want to dwell upon it either.

I wonder if Friday nights are always going to make me sad.

I see photographs of my father and I cannot imagine him gone. He is always so damn strong and vibrant and alive in the photographs. How could someone so present in the world be gone?

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26 September 2007

Interstices - Part 4

This is a bit closer photograph of Communion Circle: 1-10.

Communion Circle: 1-1
Plaster sculptures, each piece measures
approximately 24" x 24" at the base,
heights vary from 64" to 76"


I like tension in my artwork. I like to find ways to express two or more opposing ideas in a single work.

This piece is about community. As I planned the piece I had two ideas about community. Community is always the same. Community is always changing.

Community is always the same represents the idea that community essentially exists anytime there is one being involved with another. Thinking in terms of human community, it seems to me that community is our foundation; it is the bedrock of our existence. That is the part that never changes. We are always in community.

Community is always changing refers to the fact that individuals change community, and community changes individuals. By this I do not mean simply the transitory nature of human interaction, not just that we are nomadic in nature (nomadic in regards to community - even if we do not move our persons, we move our loyalties, our interests, our passions and that brings us into community with new groups) but also that each individual changes the dynamics of a community, and the experience of community changes the individual.

Each piece in Communion Circle: 1-10 represents a being, an entity, in some stage of its life. Each being has root-like tendrils at the bottom of wide/thick bases. Each being then tapers up to a narrow point which twists, bends or droops in a variety of shapes.

The root/tendrils base is meant to suggest a tree in the minds of the viewer - what is more stable than a tree. It lives its life in one place and, barring human intervention, lives a long time, feeding the community upon its demise, as it slowly decays. This represents the unchanging essence of community.

The upper sections of the beings are meant to suggest surreal bird heads (some of them strongly resemble birds). What is more temporal than a bird, more transitory? This embodies the ever-changing aspect of community.

The sculptures themselves were constructed in phases. I started with a block of wood, 1" x 7" x 7", drilled a 5/8" hole in the center of it, and inserted a 60" fiberglass rod. I then twisted newspaper into the root-like shapes and taped it to the board. Once I had enough roots taped down, I began filling out the shape with crunched up balls and folded up slabs of newspaper, taping them to each other as they wound around the fiberglass rod in the center, tapering to a narrow column at the top of the rods. I then twisted more newspaper into the various bird-head shapes and affixed them to the tops of the sculptures with more masking tape.

Once I had the general shape I wanted I covered the sculpture with a couple layers of plaster cloth (the same stuff they used to cast broken bones with). With this plaster cloth I refined the shape, adding details to make the suggestion of tree trunks and bird heads stronger.

After the plaster cloth dried and set up I mixed up a slurry of plaster and water which I then brushed on the sculpture in a thin layer. After the layer dried fully I added another layer, and another. Each sculpture has around twenty layers. After the plaster work was done, each piece was given two layers of a neutral white paint.

I decided on white because I did not want color to interfere with either "seeing" the shapes, or seeing the pieces as a cohesive whole.

That said, I am working with a local foundry on getting these cast in soft steel or iron. I think they would make a great outdoor sculpture - it would rust to a lovely brown color.

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17 September 2007

Interstices - Part 3

There are two more fiber sculptures in my show. This one is called Glimpses in Time, and it tells the story of my father's life. It is hanging in the north room of the gallery.
Glimpses In Time: We All Tell Stories
Italian burlap, wooden dowel rods
approximately 60 inches x 96 inches x 72 inches
The two small works visible (on pedestals) are also my artwork
and will be featured in a later post. The work on the walls
is by the other artist in the show, Carol Faber.


Working with commercial fabric allows me to take work with me (sometimes, anyway). Abelisto and I went to a fabric wholesale outlet in the Twin Cities and bought 20 yards of this off-white Italian burlap. I experimented with using all sorts of substances to stiffen it enough that it would stand on its own - without luck. After wasting several yards (a pricey experiment - Italian burlap retails for $20/yard and wholesales for $8), I decided that none of that was going to work and I would have to use some really nasty, toxic chemicals to stiffen the fabric sufficiently. I am trying not to use those types of chemicals in my work anymore...

So I took another path, and created a work that would hang from the ceiling.

I started this piece on the trips to Indiana to be with my family during the last summer of my father's life. It has sections where I have pulled out the vertical threads, leaving only the horizontal ones. This creates visibly distinct sections - narrow and wide bands of open, semi-transparent areas.

So how, you ask, does this piece represent my father's life (and recent death)?

I took this piece with me when we first went to Indiana after learning that my father had terminal lung cancer, and each of the subsequent times we visited this past summer. During the days we spent there I worked on the piece on my mother's huge dining room table in the great room of my parents' house, the room where my father's hospital bed was set up. People would come and go - my brothers and sister, my aunt, the neighbors, friends of my father and mother, the hospice nurses. We we all told stories, lots of stories. The stories soaked into the artwork, the lines of thread being drawn out were the words of the stories, the gaps left behind were the feelings left when the stories were finished. The columns of drawn threads, narrow and wide, sometimes close together, sometimes farther apart, represent all of the lives that touched my father's.

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16 September 2007

Interstices - Part 2

I suppose I should have mentioned that Interstices is the name of my show.

Interstices
[in-tur-stuh-seez]
1. the spaces between things.
2. intervals of time.

The space in-between is a potent place.
It is the space where transcendence – change and transition – occurs.
It is the quiet before the storm, the fallow time when ideas conceived gestate, the moment between the glance and the quickening.

Fiber Sculptures
Ascension.
Fiber sculpture, hand-woven and hand-knotted recycling twine,
approximately 14 inches by 12 inches by 40 inches.
Two gourd sculptures are also visible in the lower image.


For Different Ends
Fiber sculpture, hand-woven recycling twine, approximately
12 inches by 8 inches by 96 inches.


Both these fiber sculptures are made from recycling twine. I like making art from materials not normally used for art-making. I particularly like stiff, homely materials like recycling twine. I like the way it has a mind of its own - being tightly wound around the spool has given the fibers a memory of the curved, circular shape. When freed from the spool they tend to spread out in their own directions unless they are tightly woven or knotted (best seen by clicking on the images and viewing them in the full-sized versions).

These sculptures are hanging from the ceiling frames on monofilament. You can sort of see in one of yesterday's photos how they are suspended in space. These are 3-dimensional pieces and I like to encourage people to notice that by not hanging them on a wall. In fact, Ascension could not be hung on a wall at all.

More tomorrow... it's late. It always seems to be late when I find the time to write in this blog.

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15 September 2007

Interstices - Part 1

I thought I would share images from my current gallery show - Interstices.

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View from outside the gallery

This is what you would see as you approach the gallery. I placed the sculpture Communion Circle: 1-10 carefully so that it would draw passersby into the gallery.


View from the doorway

As you step into the gallery you can see more of my work. I place a fairly diverse selection of work in this front room of the gallery. The gallery has two main rooms. This is the south room in the gallery. If you walk forward to the wall opposite the doors and turn to the right there is a smaller central area, formed inside the south room by two movable walls (which have never been moved because they made them way too heavy to move easily - they were afraid that the walls would not be stable enough to avoid tipping over if they were not really heavy, thus the 2 or 3 feet of concrete filler running the length of the walls at the bottoms of the 12 inch thick walls) and a permanent wall that divides the two main areas of the gallery.

In this photo you can see the doorway at the back of the room which goes to a very small room that is never used (except for storing platforms and pedestals and one of the movable walls) and the galley workshop/storage room.

So that you have an idea of the scale in the room, I think the gallery measures 30 feet by 50 feet, so it would be nearly thirty feet from where I was standing when I took the photograph to the back wall.

Here you can see some of my encaustic paintings - on the left and back walls, two fiber sculptures, two gourd pieces and the plaster sculpture i mentioned above, in the center.

I will post another set of photos tomorrow.

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14 September 2007

Pavlo

Tonight Abelisto and I went to a wonderful concert. The musician was Pavlo(www.pavlo.net), who plays Mediterranean music.

We had third row seats, center stage, and there was no one in front of us.

Before the show there was a cd of Pavlo's music playing just loudly enough to be heard over the normal chatter of excited people finding their seats, greeting their seat-neighbors and paging through the program.

The cd faded out. The house lights dimmed. And Pavlo and the four musicians accompanying him came out onto a dark stage.

As they started the first number the lights came up and we could see five handsome men, dressed in varying combinations of black and white, lovingly playing their instruments. As their fingers flashed and hands stroked the fretboards, drums and keyboards, they set the mood for the evening - sultry, sexy and smooth.

Right away I noticed that the musicians playing the stringed instruments - Pavlo on guitar, George Vasilakos on bouzouki, and Randy Rodrigues on bass - were using wireless transmitters instead of the usual wired set up. It did not take too awfully long to see why - they never stopped moving and dancing to the music they played.

The keyboard player, Denzil Remedios, seemed at first to be a bit shy and distant until I took the time to focus on what he was doing. I think that part of my first impression came from the fact that from where we were sitting we could not see his hands and he did not move as much as the other musicians while he was playing. When I concentrated on his contribution to the music I realized that he was fully engaged with the others and his playing was an intense and compelling underscore to the stringed instrument parts.

The percussionist, Gino Mirizio, spent much of the concert playing not only the congas but all of the percussion instruments - including the cymbals - with his hands. The resulting sound was a perfect match; its soft, slurry beat complementing the sounds of the keyboard, bass, bouzouki and guitar. Not limiting his performance to the background, Gino used sticks in several pieces and created a complicated and compelling rhythm that wove in and out of the music in a manner that made it hard to stay in our seats.

Catching me totally by surprise, Randy Rodrigues skillfully slipped his electric bass right into the music. I would have never thought of an electric bass as part of a Mediterranean ensemble (being more accustomed to thinking of bass players playing rock 'n roll or reggae or some such). I love new discoveries, new realities.

For much of the evening, the focus was primarily on Pavlo and George Vasilakos. They were usually at the front of the stage, hammering away at their instruments, pouring out amazing music. Sliding, bending, hammering on, pulling off, all those special techniques that make music unforgettable. Fast, fast fingers. Perfect timing. Exemplary showmanship and expertise.

Even though many might see Pavlo and George as the stars of the evening, Pavlo went to great lengths to "show off" the skills of his partner musicians. Every musician was in the spotlight a number of times during the evening. It truly seemed that there was great respect and affection between the band members.

I ended up being given a free cd of their music. During the song Under the Heat, Pavlo invited someone from the audience to come up on stage and dance with him. Well, I certainly could not pass up the opportunity to dance with a handsome man, especially on stage... I climbed over Abelisto and our son (who pretended to be totally mortified), and danced my way up to the stage. Once there Pavlo and I dance for several minutes, whirling and twirling and enjoying the music. He asked me if I had ever done any belly dancing. I held up my hand with my thumb and index finger about an inch apart. He smiled and said follow me and we shimmied and shook back and forth, looking into each others' eyes (yes we did the booby-jiggle-walk). We laughed, he gave me a big hug and then we bowed to each other and I danced off the stage as he picked his guitar up again and finished the song with his partners.

It was great, great fun. During the intermission, Pavlo autographed my cd with"Thanks for the dance! Pavlo"

I could write much, much more. The show was absolutely a blast. If you ever get the chance to see Pavlo in concert you should definitely go. And buy tickets as close to the front as possible, so that you too can get up and shake it up on stage with Pavlo!

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08 September 2007

My Father

video

This is the video that I made for the visitation before my father's memorial service. Hopefully it will load for everyone. I have not put video on the web using a blog before, and it has been a long time since I put any video on at all. The actual movie (DVD) has music, but it made a huge file for the web, so the sound is not included here (also I did not want to infringe on the musician's copyrights).

The first photograph is of my father when he was sixteen or so. He is pictured with his new limestone-hauling truck. He was so proud of it, before this (he started driving trucks at around age thirteen) he had been hauling logs for his stepfather's logging crew. He had some wonderful and interesting stories about those days.

The second photograph is of my parents on their wedding day, June 22, 1956. My father is 27 in the photo, and my mother is 19. They had been married just over 51 years when my father died.
Read more...


The third photo is when we lived on Handy Ridge Road. My father is cutting a board for some project. I am holding the board - helping him - even though I am only three years old or so. My brother is watching - he would be around two. This would be sometime around 1960, I think...

The fourth photo was taken during one of the motorcycle trips my parents went on. They usually traveled with my aunts and uncle. I think the person in the background is my father's sister, but the original photograph is so faded that it is hard to tell.

The fifth photo is one of my father with a MGA sportscar. He loved cars. This one was a deep burgundy with a cream-colored top. This was in 1967 - I know this because there is another photograph, taken the same day, wherein my mother is pregnant with my sister.

The next photograph is a portrait of my father - I am not sure when it was taken. I think it was before the photo of him with the car, these may be slightly out of chronological order.

The next photograph is my father receiving one of the many awards he received for excellence when he worked for Fiat Motors as a regional service representative. It is sometime in the 1970s - if you could not tell from the plaid pants. My father has his pipe and tobacco pouch tucked into the waistband of his pants - he always did that, I almost said that he still does that...

The next fourteen photographs span a time from the 1970s through this past spring. Mostly we took photos at holidays or other special occasions.

This movie makes me both happy and sad...


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07 September 2007

Last night's art soirée

The event went fairly well. I would have like to have more people there, but the people who came were very interested in the work and what I had to say about it.

The event was a fund-raising benefit for art students and art programs at the university. It was a wine and cheese soirée. The event kicked off a month-long silent auction of some of my work. The proceeds from the auction will go to the school of the arts, as will a percentage of the sales of any other work. Currently I have sold five pieces, not counting the three which are being auctioned.

Today my feet kind of hurt. I spent a lot of the day yesterday talking about art in the gallery. I spoke to two Artscore (arts appreciation) classes - one was the class I am teaching - and then three hours at the event.

The first piece to be bid on was Red Bowl Ritual. It is a gourd bowl that has been dyed red and has spirals burnt into the side of it. The spirals were branded into the gourd with a brass rod with one end that I shaped into a spiral and heated in a campfire. I think I want to make some more branding irons, but this time with iron or steel - the brass rod barely survived the heating I needed to decorate one gourd. Maybe I will ask Sr. Margaret for some time with the oxy-acetylene welding/cutting torches.

People also bid on the small piece, Bee Garden. It is a 6 x 12 inch encaustic painting. No one bid on the large encaustic piece, From the Beginning. Perhaps it was because it had a minimum bid price of $250.00. The others had minimum bids of less than $100.00. However, I would not let go of the larger piece for less than that if I were selling it, so I do not want it to go for a lesser amount at auction either.

It is always a dilemma - pricing the work I do...

05 September 2007

Home Again

We are back home now. We made fairly good time coming back - left around 8:30 (our time) and got to Winona around 6:30.

I only got sad once during the drive back.

It is impossible to believe that my father is gone. It does not feel real yet... I am not sure it ever will.

I miss him. Now and forever.

04 September 2007

A very hard day...

We had a visitation and memorial service for my father today.

I made a video for the visitation. We scrambled for photographs, searching my mother and sister's numerous photograph albums, bought a scanner (my mother's had quit working ages ago), and I scanned about 30 photographs, color corrected and optimized them in Photoshop. I did not overly repair them. I wanted people to see the age of the photos - I just made the colors and contrast a bit better if the photograph was too faded. The wear and tear of old photographs is a big part of the story that each of them tells, to make them too pretty would be akin to telling a false story and I wanted to tell my father's story right and true. We found two of my father's cds - a jazz one and a classical one. I took one track off of each of them and imported all of it into Premiere, added timings, transitions and a title slide and rendered the whole thing through Encore to make a DVD that was set up to loop the movie over and over.

At the visitation people seemed to really enjoy the movie. They sat there smiling through their tears, telling stories about my father.

I mentioned before that he did not want to be displayed at a funeral. He did not want people looking at his body and "carrying on." I think I agree with the idea of being cremated. It was a very peaceful ceremony, and I am not sure it would have been so restful if there had been a body to cry over. I do not know, hopefully no one will be stuck without a way to heal because they did not see a body. The body is not the person. And cremation is what my father wanted. My mother did not agree, but she said she would do it for him. She said she did not want to be haunted. I am not quite sure if she meant that literally or not... she is a Celt after all.

Two ministers spoke, even though my father was not a church goer. One minister was the one from my mother's church. He is new (and very young - not actually a full minister yet, I think), and did not know my father well. He came over once during the last few weeks of my father's life and spoke with him. Even though he did not know my father well, he did very well presiding over the memorial service. The other minister was a friend of my father. He was one of my father's McDonalds breakfast compadres. He had a personal relationship with my father, and was able to speak about him directly.

After they both spoke the presiding minister asked if anyone else wanted to speak. I did not have anything prepared, but I could not let go of the tightness in my chest without speaking about my father. I spoke about his kindness and generosity, about the stories he told us, the stories he created just by living a true life. Actually I am not sure exactly what I said. I did not break down, but I got a bit weepy at the very end. My sister and mother and one brother thanked me for speaking, the other brother looked me in the eye and nodded. I took that as his approval.

After the service we went to a luncheon that my mother's church had prepared for us. Everyone at the service was invited, but only family and the church people came to the luncheon. We thought it was going to be a chore, but it was not. It was a very relaxed and peaceful meal.

01 September 2007

1948 Triumph 1800 Roadster

At the funeral home, the room where my father's body was kept for us to view was accessed by passing through a garage. In the garage were two classic cars, carefully covered with tarps. One of them was a 1948 Triumph 1800 Roadster. When he noticed me peeking under the cover, the funeral home director pulled the cover back so that we could see the car.

The car was originally owned by someone who lived in Bloomington. My father worked at the imported car dealership in Bloomington and most likely worked on that very car...

We thought it was strangely comforting and totally appropriate that dad was being kept company by this wonderful old car that he had most likely touched 50 or so years ago.

Just so you know what a 1948 Triumph 1800 Roadster looks like, here is one. The one in the funeral home is dark brown, I think, with black fenders. It is perfect.

So are my memories of my father.

My father died last night...

while we were driving the long road to get to him. We were four hours away when he slipped away. Everyone says it was a very peaceful passing. The mortuary picked up the body before we got there. The hospice people picked up the bed and other equipment before we got there. When we walked in it was like it never happened.

There are several things I will wish forever - that we had started early in the morning, that we had come down the day before, that I had called him as much - or more - than I called my mother these last few weeks.

They told him I was coming. They said he tried really hard to wait for me. I never knew until today how much I really really love him. Right now I have this terribly hard knot in my chest that I cannot ever imagine going away.

He wants to be cremated. They call the ashes cremains - I never heard that word before today. The funeral home director was incredibly good. I thought it would be awful there. It was not.

I did get to see him. He is not being viewed, he does not want a traditional funeral where the body is displayed. He wants just a memorial service.

His body is not going to be embalmed - no make-up, no hairstyling. He looked very good today. None of that artificial look that usually disturb us so much at funerals. I am very glad to have gotten to see him. He truly looked like he was just resting - except for the fact that he was so very still and quiet. He never was a quiet sleeper, always catnapping, moving slightly, sleeping lightly.

I touched his hands, stroked them and curled my fingers inside his. I put my forehead against his and whispered to him, telling him how sorry I was that I could not be with him more these last few weeks, and that I loved him. I had to touch his arms, his face, his chest and legs and feet. I think it made the other people in the room uncomfortable.