Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The Frame For Bro Kin

Many pictures.  Few words.  The carved frame for Bro Kin.

Here it is hanging on the wall inside the Figge Art Museum.

Pop Culture Palimpsest runs through September 2nd.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Some Are Not Spangled Gets Spangled (With A Spiffy Carved Frame)

Behind-the-scenes with the frame for Some Are Not Spangled -in the background Mr. Troy Swangstu's painting is watching the frame take shape.

Paint like the wind...

A few sneak peeks at how the final piece has come together.

Heavy on imagery, light on text.  Mission accomplished...

Next time we'll take a look at the carved frame for Bro Kin.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Figge Talk: Part II

If you missed Part I, here is a LINK to the first half.

The second half of my talk focused on two pieces in particular: Racing Towards The Conflict, and Processionalization: Power Lunch With The Tasaday.

Racing Towards The Conflict is rooted primarily in two things: some inherent racism in our language, and an experience I had back in the mid 1990s when I was in school down at Florida State University.

I started with phrases that use the word 'white' (white knight, white tie, white wash, and white lie).  Then I added phrases that use the word 'black (black magic, black ball, black heart, and black face).

After the two groupings of words were in place on the canvas, I started building up my imagery.

1st layer.

2nd layer.

3rd layer.

The third layer is really the important one because it has the 'tree' (top center) and Richie Rich and Prince Chawmin' pairing (not to mention a couple of famous spies).  The tree is a reference to the lynching tree in Tallahassee, Florida and two schools of thought regrading it.  One way of thinking is that the tree is a horrible reminder of a nightmare chapter of our past and it should be gotten rid of.  Another school of thought is that the tree is a horrible reminder of a nightmare chapter of our past and that is EXACTLY why it should stay put -so no one can deny the past happened.

Flanking the tree are 5 games of hangman.  In each 'game' the player has failed to guess the 'A' needed to come up with the answer of 'gray cat'.  The 'gray cat' reference goes back to a saying attributed to Benjamin Franklin (but I think it actually predates him): 'In the dark, all cats are gray' -which is a way of saying surface appearances are not important.

The Prince Chawmin' portrait comes from one of the 'Censored Eleven' cartoons called 'Coal Black and The Sebbin' Drawfs'.  Much like the school of thought that wants to keep the lynching tree around as a reminder of the past, I put Prince Chawmin' in the piece as a reminder that these cartoons were out there, and between 1943 and 1968 were readily show to children.  Thankfully, you can only find them on the internet anymore, but I do recommend for you to watch a couple of them -not as any kind of celebration of their existence, but so you can bear witness to what used to be out there and the hurt that it caused.

Anyway, on to Processionalization: Power Lunch With The Tasaday (it's the mural on the wall and debris on the floor just to the left of the Statue of Liberty figure).

Before I dive into talking about the piece, there is a whole list of people I need to thank for their help making Pop Culture Palimpsest happen.  The people who need a thanking are: Josh Johnson, Vanessa Sage, Terry Rathje, Dean Kugler, Curt Miller, Pedro Carranza, Jennifer Saintfort, Troy Swangstu, Dawn Wolhford-Metallo, Katarina Wolf, and Maysun Sallak.  Below you see Josh Johnson and Terry Rathje during one of several hot glue sessions needed to fabricate various pieces for the show.

I was also able to hire two student workers/former MetroArts apprentices thanks to a Quad City Arts Arts Dollar$ Grant (made possible by the Illinois Arts Council Agency, The Hubbell-Waterman Foundation, and John Deere).  Through their generous support, these two young artists got the chance to work in a studio setting with a professional artist.

Here they are wrapping cardboard pieces with fabric for the Metropolis-inspired frieze on the big mural.

The genesis of Processionalization: Power Lunch With The Tasaday goes all the way back to my elementary school days back in the early 1980s.  My school chums and I were in Social Studies class learning about the Tasaday -a stone age tribe of humans from a remote cave in the Philippines who had somehow remained untouched by contact with modern 20th-century human civilization.

To refresh my memory about the Tasaday, I recently got onto the internet and started doing some reading.  What I saw changed my memories of my childhood, my understanding of public education, and weakened my already eroded trust in authority figures.

In short, the Tasaday were a hoax (at least in part).  Their language was highly similar to neighboring tribes (indicating a language split with their neighbors sometime in the mid 1800s -not thousands of years ago), there was no archaeological evidence in the cave they supposedly lived in for centuries (typically you would find layers and layers and layers and layers of bones, hunting weapons, trash, etc.), and where they lived in the forest could not provide enough food for the tribe by simply foraging.  There are more things to discredit the story, but you get the idea.

My problem comes from the fact that several anthropologists had raised serious concerns/doubts about the authenticity of the Tasaday based on a lack of archaeological evidence back in the 1970s.  None of this was mentioned in our textbooks in the 1980s.  We were taught straight up that the Tasaday were real.  At the very least, shouldn't the textbook publisher have known what was in their textbook was potentially a lie?  Did our teacher know we were being taught some dubious 'information'?

Anyway, I could go on more about power structures, authority, brainwashing, perception engineering, and whatnot.  Suffice it to say, out of this newly gleaned information, Processionalization: Power Lunch With The Tasaday was born.

So here are some in progress shots of the piece coming together.

In Act I (the first of five panels) we find the two main characters (inside the amphitheater/chorus arch) looking out with curious and hopeful glances.

In the second panel we are introduced to the 'CAVE' entrance  -while this can be considered to be the entrance to the Tasaday cave, it can also be a reference to Platos' cave of reason/perception.

In Act II (the third panel) our two protagonist characters are looking apprehensively upon the 'action' of the scene.

In the fourth panel 'the machine' starts to spring to life (think Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times).

In the final panel (panel 5) our protagonists' expressions have become frazzled and frantic -the machine above holds the promise of dutiful conformity and milquetoast aspirations.

I closed with a quick discussion about the ceramic debris at the base of the big mural and what it took to make it.  The ceramic debris was made over the course of two different teaching stints (2010-2011/2015-2016) at Northwest Missouri State University.

The first image shows Heidi Schultz inside the wood fired kiln loading our bisque-fire pieces.  It took us two days of adding wood to the fire to raise the temperature in the kiln up to cone 12 (which means around 2435 degrees Fahrenheit).

Here is a sample of Heidi's kick-ass ceramic sculptures.

In addition to Heidi, the third instigator in our kiln firings (both wood fired and soda fired) was Veronica Watkins.  Here she is adding (stuffing into the blazing hot kiln) one of our sawdust/soda ash burritos.

This is an example of Veronica's ceramic works.

Here's an image from my nice relaxing evening of sitting around the kiln and periodically adding wood.

We placed a series of ceramic rings inside our soda firings so we could fish them out periodically during the final stages of the firing (when the kiln was up to temperature and we were adding our sawdust/soda ash burritos).  We could guess what was going on inside the kiln based on how these rings looked.

This is the brick I pulled out of the kiln (I grabbed it from the 'cool' end).

The results after one of our soda firings.

Some soda fired ceramic donuts!

I happened to have images of this face at various stages in the firing process.  Here it is after coming out of a bisque firing.

Here is the same face after going through our two-day wood firing.  I accidentally banged the nose against a hard surface and chipped off a little bit of the glaze, so I felt compelled to re-fire it in a soda firing to cover up my mistake.

Here it is after the soda fire.  The chin was facing the part of the kiln where we were adding the soda ash/sawdust burritos and is therefore more thickly covered.  You can see the hair (which was facing away) still looks like it did after coming out of the wood fired kiln.


Anyway, this sums up my recent talk for Pop Culture Palimpsest.

Next time we'll take a look at Some Are Not Spangled getting spangled...spanglification?