Friday, February 17, 2012

A little more about EX-CH-AN-GE.  In order to get an appreciation for the upcoming piece swap between Heidi Hernandez and me for Merican-Tastic!, I want to show ya a few pieces from the EX-CH-AN-GE show we had back in 2008 (we being: Jeff Tady, Heidi Hernandez, Terry Rathje and myself).

We each started 8 canvases and then gave two to each of the other artists in exchange for two of their 'starts'.  We also kept two of our original eight pieces to serve as 'compass points' within the exchange.  The idea was to help pull each other into that no-man's land between our ways of working.

Perhaps it was the other three getting revenge on me for initiating the whole project, or maybe the planets aligned just right, but it seemed like each artist took just a little too much pleasure in throwing each other a playful curve ball.  Terry gave each of us a 4'x4' piece of plywood with something stuck smack-dab in the center.  Which, on a compositional level, is a tough hole to dig out of -and a general 'no-no' that all Freshman Introduction to Design students are warned about.  Heidi gave each of us two long rectangular pieces with a combination of stitching and painting.  In its own right, an elongated rectangle is difficult to deal with because you have to establish multiple triangles to move the eye around without appearing too contrived with your triangles.  Jeff Tady rounded out the abuse by giving each of us a minimally painted canvas with just a 'portrait' oval in the center.  All of my whining aside, this abuse is exactly why I brought these people together.

The bulk of our pieces from that show can be found at:  However, I was rooting around in some of my old files and found a few detail shots and some pieces 'in progress' that never made it on to theartfeed.

Here are some detail shots from Terry Rathje's and Heidi Hernandez's piece Nearly Pure.

To be extra devious, Heidi only painted half of the canvas.  The cool part was that it caused Terry Rathje to break out his leather carving tools (a lucrative skill and a medium he was pretty much content to leave in the past) to answer the challenge.

Terry also did some pretty fancy ink pen work. 

Here is a detail of the detail shot (kind of a mind-scramble isn't it?).  And below is a detail from EAT, which showcases Terry's affinity for printed advertising and painted signs.

If you find yourself digging this stuff, there is a whole world of visual and conceptual goodness waiting for you at: .  In fact, this piece, EAT, was our promotional image for the postcard sent out by Quad City Arts.

Here are a couple of images from Ziggurat II: Game of Chance which was one of those smack-dab-in-the-middle pieces that terry handed out.  The image I have on theartfeed doesn't really give a good sense of what Terry brought to the party on this one.  He actually made a hollow pyramid with arched openings at the bottom, a peep hole at the top, and a mirror inside the base of the pyramid, -so when you looked inside, you saw yourself staring back at you.

It is difficult to capture three-dimensional experiences with a two-dimensional medium.  I did find this lower angled shot to give a better sense of the pyramid.

My contribution was the 'game board' aspect surrounding the pyramid.  I have for years (literally since 1999) been batting-around a board game motif that plays off of the actual board game Life.  My guess is when I am finally successful at pulling that off, I will move on.  So far, I haven't had to worry about moving on.

Here are a few examples from pieces Heidi gave me.  Unfortunately, I am too much of a dough-head to have photographed these as soon as I got them from Heidi, so some of my contributions are already on the piece.

An early glimpse into Creature Feature.  Heidi had the rocking chair and the embroidered cat.  Somehow, the cat made me think of the nursery rhyme 'Hey Diddle-diddle', and it was long before I added the 'spoon' to run away with fork.  The spoon became a spork, and then I started thinking about things that could be eaten.  Then a line from the movie Planet Terror popped into my head, 'I'm going to eat your brains and gain your knowledge!'.  It was all pretty much downhill from there.....

The show opened before I could finish this piece to my total satisfaction.  Someday, I will take a few studio-days and finish this sucker off by adding some more graphic/linear elements surrounding the relief brain on the lower half of the canvas.

She also gave me a piece with rabbits on it.  'Little Bunny Foo-foo' was embedded into my mental short-playlist before I could even mount an adequate defense.  The part where Little Bunny Foo-foo was turned into a 'goon' made me think of a game we used to play while walking to school back in the late 1970s (oh yeah!).

I will get a more thorough description of the 'VFEE Game' on theartfeed site. But let me sum it up by saying that: the danger was sudden, the leaps where mighty, and the consequences were severe!

Of course, you can't have a sidewalk game without accidentally stepping on a crack or two.  And as any child of the early 1980s who knows their Devo, stepping on a crack can have negative consequences to their mother's back.  It is a tough world we live in.  I don't know how we survived Big Wheels, Fire Crackers, Lawn Darts, and sugar in our soda..... Behold!  The Transitive Property of Little Bunny Foo-foo.

Here are a few more examples from EX-CH-AN-GE.

This is a piece that is nearly impossible to photograph.  The funky painting of the merchant dude of 'days of yore' washed up on my shore from another artist friend of mine Naomi Kamla (who used to have her studio in my current studio space).  I think she picked it out of somebody's trash.  She didn't know what to do with it, so she gave it to me.  After years of staring at it stupidly -and without any inspiration, I scraped it off on Terry Rathje (are you still following this?).  In turn, Terry built a cabinet for it and then also 'mounted' the 'crap-ass merchant dude painting' onto a thin sheet of wood and then he 're-gifted' it to me for the EX-CH-AN-GE show (which meant I was finally forced to do something with it -thanks, Terry...).  He cut out the head and upper collar and made it into a hinged door.  When you open up the door, there is a shaped box with a Nightingale mounted on it.

It is currently hiding in my studio.  In the near future, I will try to post images of the outside of the box, plus what it looks like when it is open and you can see the Nightingale.

Part of why I brought Jeff Tady into the mixture was his ability to work with nuance and innuendo in a minimal and thoughtful fashion.  What he does is at the limits of my visual vocabulary and challenged me greatly.  He gave me a black small canvas with just a stenciled figure and the work 'music'.

After staring at the figure and the phrase for hours, I finally performed a canvas-endectomy and stitched his piece onto another image I had been working on.  This is only partway done compared to the final piece.  Jeff's other start (which is titled Underworld and is at: ) was even more of a challenge, and I had to get out a hand saw to hack into a canvas to make room for his oval canvas.

This should give you a better idea of what all happens with a piece exchange.  Heidi and I should be swapping pieces any day now.....

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