26 December 2009

The “year of citizens’ rights”

Going to try not to buy goods from China anymore. That will align with my ecological views and my political views...

Published: December 26, 2009
Human rights advocates said the punishment for Liu Xiaobo was intended to send an unequivocal message to others who might agitate for political reform.

But this will make it hard to do...um, make that impossible.

Published: December 26, 2009
Some renewable energy technologies rely on a group of elements called rare earths, but they mainly come from environmentally damaging mines in China.

09 December 2009

New Website Address

I've put a new website up at http://montagaelmay.com.

It's the same design with new galleries of my visual art work added. There are four galleries: mosaic work (which if you've been reading this blog for very long you have seen most of the mosaics); sculpture; Interstices (a two artist show I participated in); and a gallery of encaustic Artist Trading Cards.

There's also a selection of my written stories, and a bit more about me and my art practice and my views on sustainable living.

07 December 2009

Hammer & Hardie

The hammer and hardie have shipped (notification came at 8:30pm tonight - thanks Di Mosaico). I should have them on Thursday.

I've been waiting on the tools before doing any significant work on the dragon mosaic. I'm also still waiting to order some more smalti - a result of the Great Debit Card Debacle...

Once our new cards arrive I will probably order a few more pounds of smalti in a few more colors. They've mailed the cards, but we haven't had them arrive yet. Hopefully they'll arrive soon (so I can spend more money on glass).

A Step Toward a More Manageable Life

Tonight I deleted over 3000 emails from my Gmail inbox (over 500 of them were unread emails...) and canceled subscriptions to a great many email newsletters and distribution lists. I feel liberated

Now I need to do the same with my work email...

04 December 2009

Dragon Mosaic Progress

Haven't posted a progress update for a while - here's the mosaic after tonight's work (at approximately 24 hours of work):

The photo was taken at an angle to avoid excessive reflection from the studio lights and the flash on the camera. I really need to build a set up for photographing mosaics - some photo-floodlights with diffusers and some sort of stand or prop - I don't add the hanging hardware until a mosaic is finished.

I'm still waiting on the hammer and hardie. The company I ordered them from was out of hardies, but expects them to come in on Monday or Tuesday. They promised, when I spoke with them last night, to ship the tools as soon as the hardies come in.

I need to get a bit more smalti - I had intended to get some yellows and yellow-oranges, some black and some dark indigo blue. I thought I might get a pound of the yellows/oranges each and then maybe skip the black and get several pounds of the dark indigo blue. If I do that I'll pull up the black background and do the background in the blue. The dark indigo blue has a considerable amount of black in it and I think it would give the piece much more depth than doing it with the black and a random smattering of the indigo blue and the really dark green.  But I'd need at least 5 pounds of the stuff, which, at nearly $20/lb (when you consider the added shipping costs), would make the next purchase over $150 if I got the indigo blue and the necessary yellows and yellow-oranges...

Still, I think it will make the piece a much better one.

22 November 2009

Dragon Mosaic Progress

This weekend's progress:

Approximately 15 hours so far.

16 November 2009

Dragon Mosaic Progress

Tonight's progress:

I also received some more smalti today - dark lapis to mix with the black and the darkest green for the background, and more of the dark olive green for the dragon's body. I might order a hammer and hardie - I need to get accustomed to using one for cutting the smalti. I think I might end up wasting less glass if I master the traditional cutting method. It's hard to cut the smalti straight with the Leponitt wheeled cutter. I keep getting slanted cuts, and those will definitely not do. Only problem is that a good hammer and hardie runs at least a couple hundred dollars...

15 November 2009

Next Mosaic - A Dragon

Today I started a new mosaic. I'm using smalti for this one. It's 12" x 36". This is about 3 hours work. Smalti makes for slower going. Perhaps I'll get faster.

Update: That's not Elmer's glue - that's Weldbond in an Elmer's glue bottle...

12 November 2009

Clean Water, Clean Air

When I hear the "Green Jobs, Green Jobs" mantra I wonder about a couple things.

First and foremost is whether or not the so-called green jobs really are "green" or if they're simply being repackaged - like changing the name of Kellogg's Sugar Smacks to Honey Smacks... without changing the nearly 50% sugar content (see Consumer Reports - Health.org)...

I also wonder how we're going to convince the public to buy/use green alternatives since they're bound to be more expensive (I've a suspicion that the greenwashed products will be even more expensive than the actual green products since it's marketing behind the green, instead of an actual product revision... but that may just be my cynicism surfacing).

Even when there are real green alternatives, there is often great resistance to implementing them.

I listened to a MNPR story this morning about the proposed Prairie Island power increase.

Xcel Energy has made the decision to increase production at the Prairie Island plant - beyond what the plant was built to safely produce - instead of choosing to use renewables to meet increased demand, because it was CHEAPER.  In reality, the expansion of nuclear power is only cheaper when you close your eyes to the environmental effects - the unsolvable environmental effects.

The most chilling aspect of this increase is the increased waste problem. Nuclear waste isn't like other waste. It isn't feasibly recycled; it cannot be filtered out of the air or the water; it lasts as near to forever as matters to any who are alive now...

The proposed increase in power at the Prairie Island facility would not only cause significant stress on the structure of the power plants (think - higher pressure, higher heat, pipe corrosion, pipe cracks...), but also would generate many more casks of spent nuclear waste. This potentially increases the risk to anyone living near or downriver from the power plant.

Currently waste casks sit on a concrete pad next to the plant, on an island in the Mississippi River which is the source of drinking water for many communities downstream. There currently is only a small amount of leakage of radioactive materials into the air and water - in an amount that is deemed by some to be safe for human exposure. Others have concerns that the monitoring may be insufficient, and still others wonder if any additional exposure to radioactive materials, beyond what occurs naturally, is really safe. The proposed increase of power is expected to increase the radioactive discharges into the air and the river by 10 percent.

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission has already approved this "uprate" at Xcel's other nuclear plant at Monticello. The federal government is expected to approve it. Next on the docket is the Prairie Island decision.

It's up to the Minnesota government to stop this risk. We should be telling our representatives and senators to vote no on this expansion. Make a real commitment to our health, and our planet's health. Keep us safe from this kind of risk. There are alternatives to nuclear power and its deadly waste.

11 November 2009

Next Mosaic

I've drawn out the cartoon for the dragon mosaic and picked the colors I want to use. It will be a smalti mosaic. I do need to purchase at least 5 more pounds of smalti before I start though. after receiving my order from www.smalti.com, I realized that liked the dark olive green (438B) better than the dark green colors (439 & 439D) that I also bought - especially when combined with the greenish gold limited edition smalti that I also bought. I'll need to get some additional blues for the background, unless I want to use black - which might be a good choice...

I'm going to set up a camera and try to do some stop-action photography as I create this mosaic. That should be interesting.

Ship Mosaic Finished

The ship mosaic is finished (except for attaching the hanging hardware). It now has a name, albeit a tentative one: To Sail Beyond... And Back.  I finished it Monday night. These photos are a bit dark, but they show the finished piece fairly well.

I've entered it in the Mosaic Art Now "EXHIBITION IN PRINT" competition. We'll see what they think sometime in the next month or so.

Title: To Sail Beyond... And Back
Dimensions: 35"H x 44.5"W
Materials: stained glass and glass tile
Price: $3,000.00 - sold
Statement: As an interdisciplinary, visual artist I am intrigued by process. Fascinated by the gradual revelation that occurs as a mosaic grows beneath my fingers, the task of creating a mosaic becomes a meditative praxis – a mind and spirit exercise that creates more energy than it expends, leaving me refreshed and energized. I prefer to create mosaics that are representational rather than abstract, even though the rest of my art practice is based primarily in abstract imagery. “To Sail Beyond... And Back” was commissioned by a prominent tattoo artist who became interested in the mosaics I have done and wanted a work that celebrated the history and heritage of tattoos and tattooing. The image of the tall sailing ship battling rolling, splashing, foaming waves, sails taut in the wind, is iconic in tattoo culture and became the central element of the piece.

06 November 2009

Ship Mosaic

Finished with the glass work on the ship mosaic night before last. 108 hours so far - not counting the research, trips to get glass, and sleepless, late-night planning...

Tonight: a grout color study - mixing the various colors of grout that I might want to use (and keeping precise records of the recipes for each). I'll make up a couple tablespoons of each color mixture and spread them on scrap wood. Once they've dried I can use them to determine which colors I want to use for this mosaic.

Tomorrow: grouting the mosaic - first the sections (if I decide to use more than one color grout - which is very likely) will be isolated.  I will decide which color I'm grouting first (I usually go from dark to light), mask off the not-to-be-grouted areas with some heavy duty tape and plastic left over from putting plastic on the windows. I'll be using a dry-grout method that I've had great success with lately. It's a great way to grout glass mosaics and it's what I now teach in my classes.

This is the part of the process that makes me anxious - what if, after all those hours of work on this piece, I choose poorly and the grout colors don't work well with the glass? I'm going to test several shades of light grays, blues and tans and some medium blues and tans. The blues and tans will be hand-mixed formulas.

Wish me luck.

02 November 2009

Music & Mosaics

Very cool music. Very cool house.

26 October 2009

Ship Mosaic Progress

On Saturday Nova & I went up to the cities for the day. First we went to the MAEP meeting at the MIA. It was a meeting for electing the new panel members. Nova went browsing around the museum while the meeting went on since she's not a Minnesota artist, but rather a Nevada artist (and therefore not eligible to vote).

After the meeting we did a quick retracing of Nova's steps to see the exhibits she thought interesting. Then we went to lunch at a little cafe on Raymond street called Jay's Cafe. We originally were planning to have lunch at Key's - also on Raymond street, but they close at 2pm and it was just after 2 when we arrived. Jay's is just up the block, so we walked there and had a great lunch for under $20.

We got to J. Ring Glass at 2:55pm and started looking at beads first. The clerk came over to us at a few minutes after 3pm and told us they were closed, and that we would have to come back on another day. When I explained that I live 2 1/2 hours away she let me grab the stained glass that I needed. The blue piece that I got was exactly the color that I wanted - I had the sticker off of a previously purchased piece. The tan is too light, too butterscotchy, but perhaps the shop in La Crosse will have the tan that I need so that I don't have to go back to Saint Paul before I can finish this mosaic.

After J. Ring Glass, we went to Mosaic on a Stick where Nova selected a few special items for the mosaic she wants to make. I got tan and blue grout for the mosaic. I also mentioned that I was planning a mosaic made of glass scavenged from the Mississippi river. The owner of the shop said not to grout it, that grout will get into the scratches on the glass and ruin it. It was great to get that advice.

After Mosaic on a Stick we went to Wet Paint and selected some papers for making books. Nova wants to make a book or two. She's making one using a technique she's done before, and later I will teach her the long-stitch book method that I know.

On Sunday I worked on the ship mosaic using the blue and white swirled glass I got on Saturday. Here's how the mosaic looks right now:

There's a bit of glare on the glass, but for the most part this is a pretty good photo of the mosaic.

It's getting closer to being done... Now I need to set up a photo space and the lighting for photographing mosaics without glare on the glass.

23 October 2009

Facebook discussion

I've been having a discussion on Facebook that happened when I posted the following as my status/thoughts:

Shameful greed has lead to where we are in regard to healthcare, yet Republicans and conservatives continue to defend this immoral system. What a bunch of greedy hypocrites. They cart out their religion when it's about people's sex lives, but only talk free-market, free-market, at the expense of their neighbors, when it comes to real moral issues like health care.

While I love the spontaneous discussion that happened, Facebook's character limits have driven me here to continue the discussion...

CHARLA: amen.

DAVE: I guarantee, if they could get campaign funds from Satan himself they'd do it despite their "christian values".

HEATHER: Just to be clear, I'm pretty sure that there are democrats that are opposed to universal health care to...

DAVE: Right... I'll extend my above statement to any politician who claims "christian values" are important to them.

ME: Dave... the fact that we don't take care of everyone that needs care is THE moral failing in my book. And by "everyone" I sort of mean the world. And by "care" I sort of mean making sure that no one dies from hunger, inadequate living conditions, lack of access to healthcare, or murder/violence.

And I will say that the overwhelming majority of "christian values" indoctrinates I know only want to limit what others do or have access to. Their interests and passions are not to bring about a better world - or perhaps they want to define "better" for everyone. There are a few exceptions, but they truly are the exceptions.
not very articulate, but I'm at work and in a hurry...

ME: Heather - I think that what you are referring to is the government option and/or single payer health care.

In my status I did not say "universal health care" I said health care, although to be honest I believe wholeheartedly (absolutely, in the strictest form of the word "wholeheartedly" - with every part of me, to the extent that it almost physically hurts to think about it) that ALL the people of the world deserve to have health care. I believe universal health care is a right, not a privilege.

I wholeheartedly believe that parents should not have to sit with a sick child and decide between feeding the family (or keeping the rent paid) AND taking the child to the doctor. I have been in that position - it is a cruel torture, perhaps one of the cruelest a parent can face. The fear, the anger, the sense of abject hopelessness

I believe that children (and adults) should never have to die for lack of the ability to pay for a doctor's time.

JUDE: current option...sitting for hours in a public hospital and $4 prescriptions from Wal-Mart (a whole other story there) with your feverish child crying about an ear-ache. I love it when the bill-collectors call :) "Sorry sir/ma'am...I have no money but I am looking forward to talking to you tomorrow".

GLORIA:  Or in my case I have expensive full coverage where I work but they will not cover the drugs I need to keep my asthma under control. Frugs I have taken for years so I am forced to buy in canada. The same drugs for pennies on the dollar.

 HEATHER: i agree that something does need to be done with health care.... im just not so sure about universal health care.

ME:  Heather - don't think about the politicos wrangling about it. Or rather - think past their rantings - and I do mean ranting on both sides. Both sides have vested interests that go beyond this issue. The ones in power want to stay in power and the ones on the outs want in.

Think instead about the word UNIVERSAL. It simply means EVERYONE - rich, middle-class and poor. Everyone deserves to be able to take their kids to the doctor when they need it. To keep their kids well enough to do well in school. To make sure that their kids don't die from preventable things.

I believe what you have reservations about is the Single Payer option and/or the government-run program. Those are the parts of this that make people nervous - everyone, or nearly everyone, KNOWS we have to do something about healthcare.

We're already paying more through increased medical costs to everyone who can pay to cover the cost of hospitals caring for those who cannot.

damn this character limit in Facebook... there's way more to be said here - I'm transferring this discussion to my blog http://montagael.blogspot.com

Go there if you want to read my longer answer.

So here I am.

The thing that we need to work out is what it would really cost to get everyone the healthcare they need.

Unfortunately, given our current system there is absolutely no way to do that with any certainty. Health insurance has muddied the waters to the point where we really don't know what our costs should be.  How can we determine the costs of healthcare for all when:
  1. we've never decided what the minimum care level should be - we will never be able to afford for everyone the way-out-there tests and treatments that the wealthy or the highly insured can purchase, or at least not the way healthcare is managed today. 

  2. we don't know the health status for the millions who are out of the healthcare market due to their inability to pay - Jude's comment about sitting in the hospital emergency room with a child who has an earache is exactly what happens for people with no other healthcare alternative. When things are impossible, when their child won't stop crying from pain or is running a high fever, they end up in the emergency room because hospitals don't generally turn people away for their inability to pay (they just pass the costs along to those who can, increasing those people's insurance costs - not because they want to, but that they must in order to be able to continue giving care to anyone... talk about dancing in a downward spiral...)

  3. we cannot pause long enough to actually think about this - between the concerns for feeding and housing our families, the worries about the economy in our country, the wars we are fighting AND the rantings of the politicos, we are jerked back and forth between the issues in a way that keeps us unfocused and overstimulated, resulting in either a simmering rage or a deep apathy.

  4. and there are powerful interests that don't want things changed too much. I think I'm talking about the insurance industry, but there could be others that I just don't know about - in fact, it's pretty damn likely that there are...

    They want change, but change that won't eat into their profits too much, or even better, change that allows them to shed the unprofitable accounts and keep the profitable ones. 
Healthcare should not be a for-profit industry. That's the bottom line in my thinking. Sure, people say that we won't have the best doctors if we take away the profit-minded pay scale. I say we would have no worse doctors and we might end up with better doctors - doctors who are doctors because their PASSION is caretaking.

Make it possible for doctors to get their schooling, their training, without incurring debt. Make intellegence and creative thinking the criteria for medical school - not whether or not you can afford it. Open up the possibility for bright students of every economic class to become a doctor if that's their passion. Use our government to fund that kind of reform, to build the hospitals, to regulate care quality and care equality. Get rid of for-profit health insurance - spend those trillions of dollars spent on insurance directly on healthcare instead.

That would really change the world.

21 October 2009

Upcoming Mosaics

Aside from the ship mosaic I have two other mosaics in the works. One will be made from glass I have gathered from the riverbanks of the Mississippi. This river-tumbled glass is limited in color palette of mostly clear that has been scratched up so much it is nearly white, a pale, pale green, two other shades of green, a couple shades of brown, and the odd red or blue piece. Much of it seems to come from old beer, wine or other beverage bottles that have been tossed into the river somewhere upstream from here. It gets tumbled with the rocks in the river by the current and wave action, giving each piece a softened look. I'm not sure if this mosaic will be a representational piece showing some recognizable imagery, or if I will do something abstract. I need to go beach-combing a couple more times to see what glass I find. Hopefully the river will be down a bit and more shoreline will be exposed. It takes a long time to gather enough glass for a mosaic from the bits and pieces the river gives me, so this will likely be a small mosaic, no bigger than one square foot.

The other mosaic will be a 1' x 3' mosaic of a rather earthy smiling Chinese dragon. I am doing this one with smalti. I just ordered about $400 worth of Mexican smalti from smalti.com. That's not all that much smalti - around 15 pounds or probably just enough to cover 4 or 5 square feet.

Ship Mosaic Progress

I've been working on the sky area of the mosaic. This photo isn't the best - it's hard to get high enough above the mosaic to get a full image of it. The circular object in the upper left corner is one of those flexible desk lamps.

You cannot tell very well in the photo, but the sky glass starts out lighter at the horizon - atmospheric perspective (a technique employed in landscape painting, designed to suggest three dimensional space in the two dimensional space of the picture plane, and in which forms and objects distant from the viewer become less distinct, often bluer, cooler or lighter in color, and contrast among the various distant elements is greatly reduced) and gets darker in color as it advances toward the top of the mosaic.

I need to get a bit more of the blue and quite a bit more of the tan for the right-side map area. The tan color I have is a bit too butterscotchy and too light. I need one that has more gray in it than creamy yellow.

08 October 2009

Concerning Censorship

I have thought quite a bit about the issue of censorship this evening after some questions arose concerning the current show at the center...


This discussion is a very important one. It goes far beyond this one exhibit, beyond this one artist, beyond even the arts center and our community.

In regard to the larger discussion, I am adamantly against censorship – not just as an artist, but also as a responsible citizen of a democracy. Censorship is a certain path to the enslavement of reason, critical thinking, and civil discourse, perpetrated by groups in power – or by groups willing and able to create a loud enough uproar. It chips away at the foundation of education, at the value of alternative ideas and the creators of those ideas, and, most importantly, at the heart of our power to make decisions for ourselves – it dis-empowers. Censorship is a response to a stimulus that has offended a particular ideology, and while censorship may seem desirable when you are of the censoring party, it is degrading and demoralizing when your viewpoints, ideas or creations are the ones being suppressed.

It’s been asked “Would you consider hanging photos or paintings depicting explicit scenes from dog fights?”  Myself, I would respond, “I might, if I believed the images to have artistic merit, and/or if they expressed an important social message.” Uncomfortable imagery, uncomfortable stories, uncomfortable ideas need to be explored and deconstructed, their meanings discussed, understood and considered. If we close our eyes and minds to the things that offend us, if we refuse to consider the ideas of the others, if we refuse to listen to those we do not agree with, we limit our growth and our vision, we set ourselves up to get blindsided by trends and social agendas, and we continue to foster the destructive division and rancorous dichotomy that is evermore apparent in much of the social discourse in this country. It is when we – both sides – carefully listen, and then respectfully express our agreement or our opposition to ideas and concepts that valid, meaningful communication happens. At the point when communication truly happens a working compromise is possible.  And although it is not the case in this discussion, I must add that if those who disagree with refuse to reciprocate with a similar respect it in no way negates our responsibility to continue to listen and communicate respectfully...

I am not concerned with following any one group's particular political correctness agenda and in regard to the controversial pieces in the show – it is my understanding that in general sadomasochistic culture is participated in by choice, not force and therefore only of concern to those who willingly participate.  I recognize that others may feel differently, and respect their viewpoints. However, I do not recognize this perspective as a valid position for censoring artistic expression. But for this discussion it is important to take into consideration the varied ways that the center is used by the community and the impact of imagery that some in the community may feel is graphic in nature. 

28 September 2009

Ship Mosaic

Here is the mosaic as of this past weekend (didn't do any work on it tonight - still getting over the effects of a sleepless night last night and a migraine this morning).

The water is done. I'm starting the sky this week and hopefully I'll get up to Saint Paul to get more glass for the rest of the map area soon. I could order it online, but it's always so hard to tell what you'll actually get...

I took off one row of tessarae on the right side of the ocean. It did not look very good. You can compare this image with the previous post and see what I mean. There's one part of the front-most sail that I might rework too. So far I feel like I am getting the feeling of movement that I was looking for with the cuts and placement of the tessarae: the water looks like it is flowing around, back and forth as waves, except for the wake the ship is cutting; the sails look like they are stretched tight with the kind of wind that would be necessary to create the wake that I have here; and the land looks rather sedentary (ha!).

Still trying to come up with an idea for the skull & crossbones...

This time I  managed to get the colors pretty close when I optimized the image so you can see how it looks for real (although that depends on you monitor settings in the end...).

I'm still leaning towards a light blue-gray for the center section and a taupe-gray for the sides. Don't know for certain yet. I'll have to see how the sky works out.

21 September 2009

Ship Mosaic Progress

Here's the ship mosaic as of tonight. At this point I have around 55 hours in it - probably another 40 or so to go.

I'm getting anxious to finish it. At this point I'm thinking a light blue-gray grout, maybe...

Both these images are a bit grainy since I was using the little camera and shooting in a low-light situation and for mosaics you absolutely cannot use a flash and get anything worthwhile... I'll take better photos with the digital SLR later. I left that camera at work and I did not want to wait until tomorrow to get the photos online (it's been too long since I last posted about the ship mosaic). I want to get some diffusers and spot lights and create a place in the studio for taking high quality photos of the mosaics. I priced some kits, but the cheapest was $100 and I know I can make them cheaper than that. I'd rather make them and spend the savings on glass.

This image shows most of the mosaic - although you cannot see a lot of it since it's covered with loose glass tiles and strips of glass.

This image shows a closer view of the sea - without so much glare on the glass.

I need to get more of the butterscotch-colored glass for the right side of the mosaic. What I bought earlier is a bit too light. I have plenty of the pale blue streaked glass for the sky.

The left-over glass will go with me to the intermediate class I am teaching in October & November. The beginning class will be working with the 3/4" vitreous glass tiles since they are a bit cheaper and easier to work with for beginners.

20 September 2009

The Mead At Work

This batch has been fermenting since Labor day. I used honey from Abelisto's hives.

In a couple weeks I'll rack it off into the secondary fermentation bucket and add 10 cups of persimmon pulp.

All of this won't fit into the 5 gallon bucket I use for the persimmon mead - there will be a couple gallons of leftover that I'll add blackberries to.  I'll bottle the Blackberry as a sparkling mead.

17 September 2009

Ten Lessons the Arts Teach

From The Arts and the Creation of Mind, by Elliot Eisner
  1. The arts teach children to make good judgments about qualitative relationships. Unlike much of the curriculum in which correct answers and rules prevail, in the arts, it is judgment rather than rules that prevail.

  2. The arts teach children that problems can have more than one solution and that questions can have more than one answer.

  3. The arts celebrate multiple perspectives. One of their large lessons is that there are many ways to see and interpret the world.

  4. The arts teach children that in complex forms of problem solving purposes are seldom fixed, but change with circumstance and opportunity. Learning in the arts requires the ability and a willingness to surrender to the unanticipated possibilities of the work as it unfolds.

  5. The arts make vivid the fact that neither words in their literal form nor numbers exhaust what we can know. The limits of our language do not define the limits of our cognition.

  6. The arts teach students that small differences can have large effects. The arts traffic in subtleties.

  7. The arts teach students to think through and within a material. All art forms employ some means through which images become real.

  8. The arts help children learn to say what cannot be said. When children are invited to disclose what a work of art helps them feel, they must reach into their poetic capacities to find the words that will do the job.

  9. The arts enable us to have experience we can have from no other source and through such experience to discover the range and variety of what we are capable of feeling.

  10. The arts' position in the school curriculum symbolizes to the young what adults believe is important.

SOURCE: Eisner, E. (2002). The Arts and the Creation of Mind, In Chapter 4, What the Arts Teach and How It Shows. (pp. 70-92). Yale University Press. Available from NAEA Publications. NAEA grants reprint permission for this excerpt from Ten Lessons with proper acknowledgment of its source and NAEA.

27 August 2009

Ship Mosaic Progress

I haven't posted for a while. Instead I've been canvasing and petitioning for health care reform. Been working on the Winona Arts Center website. The new school year started this past week. One of the cats peed on my computer and fried the cpu (which now stands for Cat-Peed-Upon at our house), during the night before Abelisto needed to print off his syllabi. Another one of our cats bit me bad enough that I had to get medical attention (and then talk to animal control and the local police - it's the law with animal bites, I guess) and take some really strong antibiotics which have trashed my digestive track. And weekend-before-last my 29-year old nephew had an aneurysm and a stroke and ended up temporarily paralyzed on the left side of his body (he's recovering and they expect him to make a full recovery over the course of the next year).

So it's been a wild two or three weeks.

I have been working on the Ship Mosaic though. Here's what it looks like right now:
I have around 37 hours in this mosaic so far, not counting supply runs. I'm guessing it will take another 45-50 hours to complete it.

I went to Saint Paul to J. Ring Glass, and got enough glass to finish it (I hope). So now I just need to crank out a couple hours per night on it and I should finish it by the end of September...

From one who has much

... much is required.

Spent the morning commute thinking about noblesse oblige.

17 August 2009

Health Care Debate

Health / Health Care Policy
‘Public Option’ in Health Plan May Be Dropped
Published: August 17, 2009
For President Obama, giving up on a public insurance plan could punch a hole in Republican arguments but could also alienate liberal Democrats.

Damn straight "it could also alienate liberal Democrats."

I'm feeling very alienated here...

It doesn't seem to me that setting up non-profit cooperative for getting the uninsured or the under-insured will be any more  effective than the faith-based assistance programs of the past administration. What non-profit is going to be interested in taking on the very poor and the very sick.

Instead of one administrative entity, we're going to have a plethora of smaller, isolated, administrative entities, all going their own way, all duplicating the management processes. There will be the same kinds of wasted efforts, and the same inequities that we currently have.

13 August 2009

Health Care Reform Now - Please!

I don't know how you vote, I don't know your political leanings. That's not what's important here.

It's health care reform that is important. Just this past week our daughter Eme had to decide whether or not to go to the clinic for a possibly broken finger because she does not have health insurance - she's too old to be on mine, and the state has quit allowing single, childless adults to utilize MinnCare. She needs her fingers to work properly. Without medical attention, this was in jeopardy. Why was she forced to have to decide between incurring a large debt and possibly losing the use of a finger...? Why should anyone have to agonize over that kind of decision?

I believe that we need health insurance reform - I believe it wholeheartedly. Not only for those in my family that don't have it, but for everyone that doesn't have it, for every child that has to suffer through preventable illness, for every woman playing Russian Roulette with breast cancer because she cannot afford mammograms, for every man who is a heart attack waiting to happen and doesn't know it because he cannot afford regular checkups.

Please, please, please call your representatives in Washington D.C. Tell them to vote for the health care reform bill. You don't have to have a lengthy conversation to do it. It doesn't matter if you voted for them or not. Just tell them who you are and that you want then to vote for passing this bill. Email them. Sign petitions. Spread the word that this bill is not a vote for euthanasia or a government take-over of your healthcare decision-making. This bill is about getting our people health care. Access to quality health care should be the right of every citizen in this country. It is the responsibility of all of us to make sure that all of us are cared for with kindness, respect, and equity.



---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: David Axelrod, The White House
Date: Thu, Aug 13, 2009 at 11:37 AM
Subject: Something worth forwarding

Dear Friend,

This is probably one of the longest emails I’ve ever sent, but it could be the most important.

Across the country we are seeing vigorous debate about health insurance reform. Unfortunately, some of the old tactics we know so well are back — even the viral emails that fly unchecked and under the radar, spreading all sorts of lies and distortions.

As President Obama said at the town hall in New Hampshire, “where we do disagree, let's disagree over things that are real, not these wild misrepresentations that bear no resemblance to anything that's actually been proposed.”

So let’s start a chain email of our own. At the end of my email, you’ll find a lot of information about health insurance reform, distilled into 8 ways reform provides security and stability to those with or without coverage, 8 common myths about reform and 8 reasons we need health insurance reform now.

Right now, someone you know probably has a question about reform that could be answered by what’s below. So what are you waiting for? Forward this email.


David Axelrod
Senior Adviser to the President

P.S. We launched www.WhiteHouse.gov/realitycheck this week to knock down the rumors and lies that are floating around the internet. You can find the information below, and much more, there. For example, we've just added a video of Nancy-Ann DeParle from our Health Reform Office tackling a viral email head on. Check it out:

Health Insurance Reform Reality Check

8 ways reform provides security and stability to those with or without coverage

  1. Ends Discrimination for Pre-Existing Conditions: Insurance companies will be prohibited from refusing you coverage because of your medical history.
  2. Ends Exorbitant Out-of-Pocket Expenses, Deductibles or Co-Pays: Insurance companies will have to abide by yearly caps on how much they can charge for out-of-pocket expenses.
  3. Ends Cost-Sharing for Preventive Care: Insurance companies must fully cover, without charge, regular checkups and tests that help you prevent illness, such as mammograms or eye and foot exams for diabetics.
  4. Ends Dropping of Coverage for Seriously Ill: Insurance companies will be prohibited from dropping or watering down insurance coverage for those who become seriously ill.
  5. Ends Gender Discrimination: Insurance companies will be prohibited from charging you more because of your gender.
  6. Ends Annual or Lifetime Caps on Coverage: Insurance companies will be prevented from placing annual or lifetime caps on the coverage you receive.
  7. Extends Coverage for Young Adults: Children would continue to be eligible for family coverage through the age of 26.
  8. Guarantees Insurance Renewal: Insurance companies will be required to renew any policy as long as the policyholder pays their premium in full. Insurance companies won't be allowed to refuse renewal because someone became sick.

Learn more and get details: http://www.WhiteHouse.gov/health-insurance-consumer-protections/

8 common myths about health insurance reform
  1. Reform will cause "rationing": It’s a myth that reform will mean a "government takeover" of health care or lead to "rationing." To the contrary, reform will forbid many forms of rationing that are currently being used by insurance companies.
  2. We can’t afford reform: It's the status quo we can't afford. It’s a myth that reform will bust the budget. To the contrary, the President has identified ways to pay for the vast majority of the up-front costs by cutting waste, fraud, and abuse within existing government health programs; ending big subsidies to insurance companies; and increasing efficiency with such steps as coordinating care and streamlining paperwork. In the long term, reform can help bring down costs that will otherwise lead to a fiscal crisis.
  3. Reform would encourage "euthanasia": It does not. It’s a malicious myth that reform would encourage or even require euthanasia for seniors. For seniors who want to consult with their family and physicians about end-of life decisions, reform will help to cover these voluntary, private consultations for those who want help with these personal and difficult family decisions.
  4. Vets' health care is in danger: It’s a myth that health insurance reform will affect veterans' access to the care they get now. To the contrary, the President's budget significantly expands coverage under the VA, extending care to 500,000 more veterans who were previously excluded. The VA Healthcare system will continue to be available for all eligible veterans.
  5. Reform will burden small business: It’s a myth that health insurance reform will hurt small businesses. To the contrary, reform will ease the burdens on small businesses, provide tax credits to help them pay for employee coverage and help level the playing field with big firms who pay much less to cover their employees on average.
  6. Medicare will be gutted: It’s myth that Health Insurance Reform would be financed by cutting Medicare benefits. To the contrary, reform will improve the long-term financial health of Medicare, ensure better coordination, eliminate waste and unnecessary subsidies to insurance companies, and help to close the Medicare "doughnut" hole to make prescription drugs more affordable for seniors.
  7. You cannot keep your own insurance: It’s myth that reform will force you out of your current insurance plan or force you to change doctors. To the contrary, reform will expand your choices, not eliminate them.
  8. Government will do things with your bank account: It is an absurd myth that government will be in charge of your bank accounts. Health insurance reform will simplify administration, making it easier and more convenient for you to pay bills in a method that you choose. Just like paying a phone bill or a utility bill, you can pay by traditional check, or by a direct electronic payment. And forms will be standardized so they will be easier to understand. The choice is up to you – and the same rules of privacy will apply as they do for all other electronic payments that people make.

Learn more and get details:

8 Reasons We Need Health Insurance Reform Now
  1. Coverage Denied to Millions: A recent national survey estimated that 12.6 million non-elderly adults – 36 percent of those who tried to purchase health insurance directly from an insurance company in the individual insurance market – were in fact discriminated against because of a pre-existing condition in the previous three years or dropped from coverage when they became seriously ill. Learn more: http://www.healthreform.gov/reports/denied_coverage/index.html
  2. Less Care for More Costs: With each passing year, Americans are paying more for health care coverage. Employer-sponsored health insurance premiums have nearly doubled since 2000, a rate three times faster than wages. In 2008, the average premium for a family plan purchased through an employer was $12,680, nearly the annual earnings of a full-time minimum wage job. Americans pay more than ever for health insurance, but get less coverage. Learn more: http://www.healthreform.gov/reports/hiddencosts/index.html
  3. Roadblocks to Care for Women: Women’s reproductive health requires more regular contact with health care providers, including yearly pap smears, mammograms, and obstetric care. Women are also more likely to report fair or poor health than men (9.5% versus 9.0%). While rates of chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure are similar to men, women are twice as likely to suffer from headaches and are more likely to experience joint, back or neck pain. These chronic conditions often require regular and frequent treatment and follow-up care. Learn more: http://www.healthreform.gov/reports/women/index.html
  4. Hard Times in the Heartland: Throughout rural America, there are nearly 50 million people who face challenges in accessing health care. The past several decades have consistently shown higher rates of poverty, mortality, uninsurance, and limited access to a primary health care provider in rural areas. With the recent economic downturn, there is potential for an increase in many of the health disparities and access concerns that are already elevated in rural communities. Learn more: http://www.healthreform.gov/reports/hardtimes
  5. Small Businesses Struggle to Provide Health Coverage: Nearly one-third of the uninsured – 13 million people – are employees of firms with less than 100 workers. From 2000 to 2007, the proportion of non-elderly Americans covered by employer-based health insurance fell from 66% to 61%. Much of this decline stems from small business. The percentage of small businesses offering coverage dropped from 68% to 59%, while large firms held stable at 99%. About a third of such workers in firms with fewer than 50 employees obtain insurance through a spouse. Learn more: http://www.healthreform.gov/reports/helpbottomline
  6. The Tragedies are Personal: Half of all personal bankruptcies are at least partly the result of medical expenses. The typical elderly couple may have to save nearly $300,000 to pay for health costs not covered by Medicare alone. Learn more: http://www.healthreform.gov/reports/inaction
  7. Diminishing Access to Care: From 2000 to 2007, the proportion of non-elderly Americans covered by employer-based health insurance fell from 66% to 61%. An estimated 87 million people - one in every three Americans under the age of 65 - were uninsured at some point in 2007 and 2008. More than 80% of the uninsured are in working families. Learn more: http://www.healthreform.gov/reports/inaction/diminishing/index.html
  8. The Trends are Troubling: Without reform, health care costs will continue to skyrocket unabated, putting unbearable strain on families, businesses, and state and federal government budgets. Perhaps the most visible sign of the need for health care reform is the 46 million Americans currently without health insurance - projections suggest that this number will rise to about 72 million in 2040 in the absence of reform. Learn more: http://www.WhiteHouse.gov/assets/documents/CEA_Health_Care_Report.pdf

05 August 2009

Lake Smalti

Here's the completed smalti mosaic - prior to cleaning off the excess thinset adhesive. The photo is pretty good for color rendition, perhaps a bit on the light side, but only just a bit. The photo of the mosaic after the adhesive was cleaned out did not come out very well - too dark and the colors had shifted. It's very difficult to photograph mosaics. I need to set up an area in my studio for taking photos that has the correct lighting setup.

This is a 6" x 6" mosaic that I did at the Smalti Workshop at the Chicago Mosaic School. Depending on your monitor resolution, you may be seeing it an nearly life-size.

If you're into doing mosaics and you have the chance to do a workshop or class at the Chicago Mosaic School you should, by all means, do it.

I love working with smalti, but it is an expensive mosaic material. I can get enough vitreous glass to cover a square foot for between $8 and $20. Stained glass can be more expensive, but not generally more than $25 or so for a square foot. Smalti on the other hand begins around $20 per pound and it takes roughly 3 pound to fill a square foot.

It's surely lovely stuff though. Well worth the cost. I just have to find a way to afford it - I need to find someone who would be interested in a smalti mosaic and get a commission - materials fees up front...

01 August 2009

Chicago Mosaic School

Today I spent the day creating a smalti mosaic at the Chicago Mosaic School. I attended a 1-day smalti workshop taught by Andryea Natkin.
1-Day Smalti Workshop
Smalti is one of the oldest and most original materials of mosaic art. This thick glass tile holds light the way no other material can. Our exquisite smalti is manufactured at the Orsoni family factory in Venice, Italy using the same ancient techniques and traditions passed down through the generations. The colors of smalti are rich and offer the artist many possibilities to achieve dynamic mosaic works of art.
In this one day intensive workshop we will explore this beautiful traditional material by teaching students how to cut and set smalti, use tools such as a hammer and hardie as well as the more contemporary wheeled cutters. Each student will create a 6"x6" mosaic panel. Design, color and composition will also be covered. The class includes tools, handouts and a beautiful selection of Orsoni Italian smalti. This workshop is suitable for beginners and advanced students.
First we learned a bit about smalti (history & techniques). Then we were given some designs that we could choose from. I decided to do my own design.

Abelisto, Eileen and I had spent some time on Friday walking along Lake Michigan. It was a great day for it, the sky was stunning and the water was made up of such intense greens and blues. The wind coming off the lake was kicking up small whitecaps and bringing a delicious smell to us as we strolled along. 

With the view of the lake in my mind I decided to do a scenic mosaic rather than one of the abstract designs Andryea had for the group. I really like what I have done so far. I did not get all the way done, but I think I have made a great start.

This photo is really much bluer than the actual piece. I took the picture using the built-in camera on my new MacBook Pro. I'll have to take a better photo when I finish it. The actual piece is made up of four shades of a very pale blue, two shades of a dark turquoise, a blue-gray, a couple greens, indigo and purple. Oh, yeah, and a single white piece and one square of 24 carat gold smalti. I cut all the pieces except the white in half lengthwise, and placed them in an overlapping style (opus tessalatum). I started with the horizon and worked up just over an inch of the water before switching to the sky.

At the end of the workshop we displayed all our mosaics for a critique. Three of the nine of us managed to finish our mosaics. All of the participants did amazing mosaics.

I'll be finishing this mosaic when I get home tomorrow.

Damen Hall Mosaic

This is the mosaic that got me started with mosaics. I first saw this mosaic last August when Abelisto and I visited Eileen in Chicago. I could not stop thinking about it after we went back to Winona. I decided that I wanted to learn how to make mosaics.

We went back to see this mosaic yesterday. I forgot to bring a camera, but Eileen had her iPhone with her and took the photographs below.

The mosaic's theme is the physical sciences - it contains images of the human body, the periodic chart, a star and planets, a slide rule (remember slide rules?), a fish/lizard, crystals and an atom. It is in Damen Hall on the Loyola lakeside campus. It measures 9' x 45' and is made of smalti, some with 24 carat gold leaf in it.

A couple close-ups:

This mosaic is in a building on the Loyola lakeside campus that is scheduled for demolition. Hopefully someone will find a way to save the mosaic.