The Great One

Finishing The Great One

Completing the Kuan Yin of the Magic Box, or Great One as she is known in the videos, was a complex process that began as soon as the firing of all the components was complete. As noted in a previous post, the sculpture, made from Laguna’s white stone, had many of the problems that we experienced with the Empty Room house, primarily cracking. The first step then was to repair that damage. For this piece I used PC7, as its value is similar to the fired surface of the ceramic.

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After repairs, sanding and automotive primer finished off the surface.

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Initially my plan was to hide the repair marks entirely, but looking carefully at the surface we found we liked what was emerging and decided for a less is more approach. For fine-tuning the entire piece, it was necessary to assemble and disassemble several times, grinding the pieces to fit neatly then finished off the prep work for the wall hanging.

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Gabe cut the backing for the sculpture to mirror the door ways in The Black Church then ripped the board in half so that the sculpture could be moved in two sections. After finishing the backing prep, a Durock silhouette cut out and mounted to the backing in preparation for the ceramic.

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The Durock was then masked off and a heavily textured deck paint applied to the plywood to add dimension to the background. Once this was dry, layers of spray paint added as preliminary surfacing.

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This dried for 24 hours, then an application of thin set on the concrete board and the ceramic pieces set into this adhesive.

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After another drying period, masked off the backing and the epoxy/mortar mixed with iron oxide and applied to the cracks and edges of the entire piece.

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The surface was then refined again and the piece was ready for the acrylic layers that would add the final touches to the sculpture.

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The last step was the framing that hides the screws that mount it to the wall.  Gabe designed this frame from 2 x 2’s, biting a section from the boards that allow it to wrap the edge of the plywood.

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The last element to place was the television and DVD player that complete the piece.IMG_1242

Find the first half of the process of this piece here:

Kuan Yin of The Magic Box

 

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Foxy-Wolff and Rise at The Red Lady Gallery in Kansas City

Attending NCECA conference has been a goal of ours for several years. This year we finally make that happen In Kansas City. We were in town early to set up a graduate showcase titled Rise, at the Red Lady Gallery with the rest of the grads from FHSU.

We showed The Empty Room in this exhibit and the first step in getting to the show was to get the work pulled together and made ready to show.  We are already prepping the work for the show in May, this was an opportunity to push up the timeline and see one of the pieces fully wired and installed. We’ve finished most of the work  on each of the 5 pieces for the show, but each require some fine-tuning. For The Empty Room we needed to wire in the screens and build the pedestal as well as test all the tech together and ensure all electronic elements were ready to work together in the gallery. Gabe’s diverse skill set and exacting eye make him the go-to for most of this finish work.

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After detailing and finishing, we loaded up and headed to Kansas City. Gabe’s wife Walter came with us on this trip and so the borrowed truck bulged to the top. It was shocking to see how much gear each of these pieces need. It was a great test run to consider the amount of space we will need to bring out the entire show in May.

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The Red Lady Gallery is located at 1229 1/2 Union Ave in Kansas City, in The West Bottoms neighborhood. The show ran for the 4 days of the conference and was well attended considering this was a pop up show with no advertisement from the conference.

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The space reflects the neighborhood, classic with tons of character. I really can’t imagine a better venue in KC. When we landed we got straight to work unpacking and setting up. The entire set up took us about an hour, including hauling all the gear up the steps, no small feat.

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When the piece was up, we proceeded to tour the neighborhood, full of wonderful old warehouses and factories and some really excellent graffiti.

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While the neighborhood boasts several boutiques, galleries and antique shops, the activity there is usually limited to First Friday events in the city and so we had the neighborhood nearly to ourselves that afternoon, we took the opportunity as a private viewing and had a great time exploring the streets, alleys and parking lots.

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The best bit of the day though was finally seeing the Empty Room together with all its component pieces. Having seen it complete, gave us a good idea of the whole installation in place.

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Gabe put this video together to celebrate the show, as he says, you’re welcome. 🙂

 

 

 

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Maps of Grayson Perry

Grayson Perry, born in 1960, and winner of the Turner Prize in 2003, is one of the best known and influential artists living today. Primarily known for his ceramic jars and his self-identification as a transvestite, his work over the last few years has branched widely to include television series, tapestries and maps.

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I chose to focus on these other works for this post, partly because I’ve written about his pots before and partly because I find the maps particularly inspiring. All of his work features images and the collage of ideas combined with a sense of history and craft of medium filtered through self-examination. The maps do all this but with a commitment to research and historical accuracy that seems to balance the self-expression in an art historical context. Seen in the image above, Perry’s sense of color and composition are a uniting theme in his work and himself as a work of art. Interestingly he suspends this way of working in the maps, so that the reference remains clear, though they are explicitly self portraiture. It seems the artist sacrifices his style for these works to know himself more completely. Map making requires a certain degree of stripping away and precision so that the directions can stay clear.

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Perry was inspired for the etching titled The Map of Nowhere, from historical map of the earth centered around the body of Christ. Instead of the son of God, the artist has placed himself as the center of the world, with light for the seekers of higher consciousness shining straight from his “bum hole”.

This is a wonderful write-up of the work from the British Council collection where the piece is collected.  Below is a brief video of an interview with the artists on the creation and inspiration for the work. http://collection.britishcouncil.org/collection/artists/perry-grayson-1960/object/map-of-nowhere-perry-2008-p8194

Another significant work in this style is the Map of an Englishman. Printed on four large plates to give the work the look of having been folded, extra ink was also allowed to stay on the plates to give it the feeling of period authenticity.

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This blog post below has some wonderful images of the map close up and a solid discussion of the work itself. The maps are both achievements of scale and intimate drawings, revealing more and more with closer study.

http://socks-studio.com/2012/02/25/a-phrenology-of-the-artists-mind-grayson-perrys-2004-map-of-an-englishman/

Map of Days is a self-portrait based on maps of the fortified towns of renaissance Europe. In discussing this work Perry likens the self to a walled city, separate from its surroundings, but dependent on them.

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http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portrait/mw260594/Map-of-Days

The video below is from a British television series called All in the Best Possible Taste that Grayson Perry hosted in 2012. In the series he explores the taste standards of the classes in England as he prepares to make 6 large tapestries on the subject. I’ve included it here because it shows the artists meticulous process and his drawing as he considers composition of the tapestries.

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Digital Do Over

One of the biggest projects we’ve taken on in preparation for the show in May was to reconstruct our online presence. Over the years we have built several websites and blogs on a variety of platforms, some of these obviously work better than others.  The goal was to combine everything to a single platform and server. We chose to go with third-party hosted WordPress. The platform was an easy choice, the blog has always been on WordPress, it’s a format that I am comfortable with and with the plugins available through third-party hosting, it is an incredibly versatile platform. For hosting we chose Go Daddy, primarily because we bought our domains through them years ago and changing domain hosts is a lot of work. We also went with them because of an end of year sale on hosted WordPress sites, we were able to buy 5 sites for two years for slightly more than it would have cost to host the page I wanted through wordpress.com. In addition we would be able to use Etsy as our cart, which after struggles with several different carts over the years was a huge win.


The Blog was the first site to rebuild, it was already in the correct format and needed the least development. I began by initiating the domain transfer from wordpress.com of our .me. It’s a good thing i began this process early, as there were many wrong turns and false starts. I’m sure for truly educated tech heads these things are completely simple, but for me, with no formal education in web development, everything starts as trial and error. The cool thing about doing it all myself (with a little help from my tech support friends) is all the learning. through the process of moving the domain and eventually the blog I learned about all sorts of hidden settings. I feel like every afternoon of tech struggle makes me appreciably smarter.

Step by step and week by week I transferred both the domain and the blog to the new server, though transfer of the blog itself required help from Go Daddy because of its size. The WordPress specialist tried 3 or 4 different transfer programs before he could get the majority transferred. In the end I did loose about half of my media library but that’s not such a big deal because it’s all on my computer as well. Part of the reason the blog was so difficult to move is that wordpress.com does not allow file transfer protocols. This is part of the security that makes it a very safe host, but part of the problem in not allowing the open source plugins. It’s an imperfect compromise that I hope I don’t have cause to regret one day.

Once the blog was in place I wanted to transfer all the relevant posts to this blog from other blogs we started over the years. This was fairly straight forward but required a good deal of time as the featured images were also some of what was lost from the transfer and early posts were poorly categorized and tagged. In the end I went through and re-edited all 95 or so posts to ensure they were of acceptable quality and that the tagging was in place. I also created new categories to correspond to the .com that I would be building next, so that blog posts on certain pieces could be readily linked to their corresponding web page. I’m so glad I took the time with the bolt that I did. When I began the project I regarded the blog as being in great shape. The review showed many problems that are now corrected.


Etsy was the next profile to create. It is a remarkably straightforward platform that allows as little or as much development as an person wants to put in, though I suspect that the more one does to fill out the site the better the store performs. As mentioned above we wanted to use Etsy as a stand alone but also to have it serve as a cart for the upcoming .com. For this reason I built it before the website so it could be plugged in at the proper time. Etsy is by far the most user-friendly template I’ve tried and it only took an evening to put a small but well-considered shop together. I am looking forward to focusing more on its potential in the months after the show. See the shop here:

www.etsy.com/shop/FoxyWolff?ref=hdr_shop_menu


The website was the most challenging and time-consuming aspect of this reboot. Choosing WordPress was a great help here, as I knew the platform well and did not have to waste a ton of time discovering how to make it work.

We built our old .com specifically for the jewelry on a Wix template. We constructed this large site fairly quickly in 2014 in preparation for the Google Online Marketing Challenge. In addition to taking my business through the challenge, I was the team captain during the challenge. I was a tremendous learning opportunity and part of the reason I feel empowered to do my web development. taking an online marketing class was actually one of the best decisions I made during grad school.

The site itself, despite boasting professional photography and development by several skilled developers on my team, was unsuccessful in the challenge. According to Google Analytics  we lost most of our shoppers at the cart. We tried several fixes for this problem but we were unable to create a cart that customers felt safe entering their credit card. Finally the site was largely abandoned as it was very expensive and never provided any income to offset this. I’m anxious to run an AdWords campaign on the new site and see how this one fares in comparison.

Commercial interest is actually a small part of this sites function. Its primary job is that of promoting the different bodies of work we have done over the last few year with Foxy-Wolff, especially The Magic Box.

The show will run with almost no tagging, instead we are using QR codes to direct smart phone users to home pages for the four sections of the video. This was the reason for recategorizing the blog and for the new site in general. We chose to go with an Asian company for the QR codes that specializes in visual codes, this allows us to use our imagery in creating the codes. The first code is in, based on our logo it directs traffic to the homepage of foxywolff.com.

Visual QR Code

In addition to The Magic Box, there pages dedicated to other projects and aspects of Foxy-Wolff and individual pages for Gabe and I. A good web site is never really done, but we’re happy with the results so far. My biggest concern at this point is to direct traffic towards it, we’re hoping the QR codes help in that.


Social Media needed a tune-up once all the redevelopment was in place. We primarily use Face Book, Instagram and You Tube as our social media outlets. In addition to cleaning those pages up and updating the links, I uploaded all of our videos to the Foxy-Wolff channel, which only had links to the earliest videos and renewed our commitment to regular posting on the sites we use.

You Tube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCor8dP1FkdrYAp6xkC9l5rw

Face Book: https://www.facebook.com/foxywolffjewelry/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/foxy_wolff/


At this point contacting any Foxy-Wolff page on the web should lead to all the others. We’ve unified font and cover images as well as text style and message. There is one more site coming, foxywolff.net which will be a site for other artists seeking help in adding video, web development and tech into their projects.

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The Artist’s Project from the Metropolitan Museum of Art

For the past couple weeks I have watched a web series titled The Artists Project. This series, put together by the Metropolitan Museum of Art is in its fourth season and continues to offer a fresh perspective on looking at art. Each of the short episodes features a contemporary artist looking at their favorite work in The Met’s collection. From masterworks by George Braque to objects made by unknown ancient craftsmen, the work discussed in the series covers the breadth of the vast collection, and the commentary provided by the artists brings a personal understanding of the work that often transcends the conventions of art criticism and history.

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One compelling look beyond what is traditionally considered art, is an examination of snapshots from the collection donated by Peter Cohen, by artist Jane Hamond. Hamond is examining images never intended as art, but she brings the expansive possibilities of Duchamp to contextualize the images into a sort of ready-made for her own work. The video encourages  the viewer to see these snapshots in a new context, clean and clear on a matted background in high res, transforms the images from scraps in grandmothers drawer to mid-century masterpieces. She notes that one of the things that make these images so compelling is the total lack of professionalism and artistic intent, rather seeing the photos as a sort of taxidermy to collect moments of significance in the lives of those represented. It is then for us to use our powers of observation to appreciate the bold narrative and sometimes revolutionary composition.

Accompanying each of the videos is a short bio of the artist and an image of their work. If they, like Hamond, have a piece in The Met, a link is provided to the museum page of the work where the viewer can more fully consider the work being discussed on the artists own work. Its ready-made connection making that links the topics discussed in the video directly to the viewer, combining all in a conceptual whole.

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One of the things I especially love about the series are the diverse voices represented. One such voice, is that of Paul Tazewell, an American costume designer for dance, theater and opera. Tazewell discusses the portraits of Anthony van Dyck.

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Here Tazewell focuses on the precise rendering of the images, especially that of the clothing as the basis of his appreciation and inspiration. This rendering, notes the designer, supports a character and their narrative within the work. He notes the idealized and feminized garments express a different sort of masculine power than that of contemporary culture and sees affectation and character in the portraits themselves that feels very much like theater. He then offers a very frank appreciation of a self-portrait of the artist for its sensual qualities.

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Through Tazewells eyes I see van Dyck’s work afresh. Rather that the stifling formality I have long associated with this type of painting, I can sense the vibrant world that the precision reflects and the designers joy in regarding the images is somewhat contagious.

Dia Batal is a Palestinian multidisciplinary artists who uses traditional text and formats in contemporary context. Her examination of a Syrian tile panel with a calligraphic inscription in another opportunity to see art outside of my own cultural context.

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Originally born in Beirut and now living and working in London, she didn’t like seeing these objects removed from their homes and taken out of context in a museum. With the recent war in Syria however she has come to value their presence there so that they might be preserved.

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The panel is not a work that would have attracted my attention without Batal’s introduction. I think this is likely because of its reliance on a message that I can not decode. Her reading the inscription aloud in the video opens the ear to the poetry contained in it in a way that a translation on a wall just couldn’t do. It opens the doors of a cultural context in a way that travel does, allowing a more intimate view of the words contained in the work.

The editing of the video is that of a slide show of portraits of the artist looking and photos of the art being considered, including closeups. As she discusses color composition on the piece, the closeup allows me to see the oxide cracking over the tin glaze of the tile and provides an entry for my appreciation of ceramic craft and history. This window gives me a genuine insight and appreciation for a work that before Batal’s discussion I found opaque.

Production is part of the reason this works so well. The slide show format combined with the voice over provided by the artist hold the cathedral-like space of the museum intact. As she imagines the tile in context of the mosque, imagining the dome and the light, we are given the open clean lines of the display, that echo the sacred intent of the  space. This allows the viewer to contact the art in a fresh unhurried way that mimics actually being in front of the work.

One of the things I found most fascinating about the videos is to compare the work they make to the work they appreciate. My favorite example of this was Wilfredo Prieto’s discussion of the sculpture of Rodin.

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artistproject.metmuseum.org/4/wilfredo-prieto/

Prieto is a Cuban conceptual artist, and he uses his time in The Met to study. In the work of Rodin he finds inspiration in gesture. His careful examination of the studies on view share not only his understanding of the great artists technique but also the qualities he is looking for in his own work. He notes that Rodin believed to find expression in the material he had to dominate the material. Prieto takes this maxim into the conceptual realm with his work Yes No. Rather than dominating clay or plaster as Rodin did, he dominates objects, in this case fans, to replicate human gesture. His discussion of the masters work provides great insight into his intention with his own work. The static movement of Rodin’s figures informs the literal movement of the inferred figures in the fans.

I was not familiar with many of the artists in the series, one notable exception is Swoon. I’ve been a fan of her work for many years, yet I was initially surprised by her choice of art work to discuss. Swoon is a street artist working in some of the most non art venues in the world. Her choice of The Third Class Coach by Daumier struck me as inconsistent, being a heavily framed oil painting from over one hundred years ago.

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In hearing the discussion however this choice becomes understandable. Swoon has looked closely at this work since she was 15. In it she finds its depiction of daily life speaking directly to her as she stands before the canvas, person to people and artist to artist.

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Her discussion of the brush work in the face of the mother looking at her child really brings a painting I’ve seen many times into fresh focus, and her knowledge of Daumier’s biography and training gives insight into the choice of subject and motivation behind it.

It is in this motivation that we can clearly see this work as having a strong influence on Swoon. Both she and Daumier being passionate observers of cultural inequality and injustice. The two artists presentation seems so radically different when first considered, when taken in the context of the compassion that both artists base their view of the world on, the similarities become obvious, despite one hanging in one of the premier museums in the world and the other being wheat pasted to a wall in Brooklyn.

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Performance Art with Luke Turner and Nastja Säde Rönkkö

During the weekend of January 22nd to January 24 2016, Colorado State University Pueblo hosted a workshop with Luke Turner and Nastja Säde Rönkkö. Focused on performance art, the workshop asked the participants to expand their understanding of art and consider new parameters in the conceptualizing of their own work.

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The workshop began on friday evening with a slide lecture and a question and answer session. There, Luke Turner introduced us to the the MetaModernist Manifesto, which he wrote many years ago. In the manifesto Turner identifies the essential nature of the world as one of oscillation. Life, art and its energies  move from one pole of awareness, represented as the naïvety of modernism to another, the cynicism of post modernism.  MetaModernism moves effortlessly between these two poles, creating sophisticated art that is complex and intelligent with a sense of humor, yet still seeks beauty and honest emotional engagement. Read the manifesto here.

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The conversation revolved around the collaborative works, inspired by the manifesto, of LaBeouf, Rönkkö & Turner. While this work was familiar to me, I did not realize it was performance art.  Part of the reason for this confusion was that one of the collaborators, Shia LaBeouf, is an actor with massive media presence, so that work of the performances are usually shrouded in reports of the actor loosing his mind etc. Joining the conversation half way through via Skype however, the participants could see him through the lens of art rather than celebrity and found an honest and vulnerable person and not an object for worship or disdain. In his own words, the art that he has made over the last several years has given back his human citizenship. I took this to mean that he could see himself as one among the human community and not finding himself placed above and beyond. A place that would inevitably cause the loneliness and isolation that has been a characteristic of much of his life. Through the works of Labeouf, Rönkkö and Turner, he has been able to connect deeply with people on the most basic level, his presence on the other hand, gives the work a visibility and relevance that it might not enjoy without the star power he brings. This circumstance seems to encapsulate MetaModernism perfectly, simultaneously embracing and rejecting celebrity as one of the basic tenants of our culture and from the turmoil of holding two opposing beliefs at once, making new work, and a new way of seeing.

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Nastja Säde Rönkkö was the primary guide of the workshop. We met early Saturday morning to a room of desks in rows. There, Nastja unpacked more deeply the underpinnings of performance art and showed us some pieces via photo and video that she found inspiring. Her assertion that intuition is a primary tool for relating to the self, and ones culture and society resonated particularly with me, as it seems the essential impulse to all art making. That this work was in fact coming from the same fount and tradition as that of object makers, only that the forms have changed to better reflect culture and society. If self could be defined as all things, then art too is all things.

So then as we began to think of performance in more formal terms, we were given to understand that composing performance art is within time, and words that relate to time, such as rhythm and impulse are of particular importance to its creation. This combined with the body, its feelings and perceptions within time, become the structure of the work generated.

While I had a good deal of academic experience with performance as a byproduct of my study of video art, I have practiced it only very little. This lack of real experience with performance was common among the participants of the workshop. Most in fact had no idea what to expect from the experience. This was a valuable commonality, as it allowed us all to begin at the beginning and to dispense with the “cred throw down” that can be so common to workshops.

We began with exercises that served the dual purpose of getting us comfortable and acquainted with each other quickly and helping us drop our social guard so that we might make authentic experience. These exercises often involved touching or sharing with virtual strangers in ways that were so immediately intimate that within a half a day, we were all feeling safe and among friends. As I’ve often told my students, you need to feel safe to really let go and make good art, and never have I seen a time when this was more true.

The exercises gave way to short, one minute performance piece based on a structure, an object we brought, or a film we had seen and so on. As the weekend progressed these pieces became more dynamic and personal, reflecting how quickly the group was learning to swim in the new medium.

Twice during the workshop we went for long hikes through the prairie, where nature became another collaborator, and the sometimes suffocating feeling of being too long in one room could be shaken off. The exercises and performances that occurred out on these adventures became very powerful, particularly the large group pieces done at the end of the workshop. I believe there was a video shot of one of these, I’ll update if I find it. In the mean time, click the link below for images of the experience posted to Flickr by the CSUP Today.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/csuptoday/sets/72157661684628243/with/24622839016/

My personal last piece of the workshop revolved around an a sort of paper free for all collaboration done in 5 minutes. While it was not enough time to really give the objects much of a presence at the scale I had laid out, I reduced the pieces down over the following week and made a collage, it remains a wonderful memento from an experience I will draw from for years. While I can’t see myself really entering performance seriously, the techniques learned and the genuine integrity sought is likely to influence my video work deeply.

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ceramic art

Building the Black Church

The design of the last set piece of the Magic Box project was immensely important to the look and feel of the entire project.  This element and accompanying video is the culmination of our learning and focus on a project over two years in the making.  While the piece must work well with all those that came before, It must also reflect the inevitable learning that accompanies work of so much duration and focus.

As with the building for “The Empty Room”,  “The Black Church” was based on a building in our home town Pueblo, Colorado, the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart. While we considered many church designs for the project, we went with the cathedral because of its classical anatomy and ties to art history, which is an important element of the last video.

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We began by photographing the building.  The main challenge in “sampling” a building like this is discovering how much of the original to stay true to and how much to simplify and modify. To help make these determinations I did an extensive series of drawings, to both see the building fully and to determine the essential elements. In the initial planning stage, before the drawings, I imagined holding a large amount of the detail, feeling that was an essential part of the beauty of the building.

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The slow and deliberate process of drawing the church again and again over a period of weeks helped me to understand the soul of the building, the essential nature of the proportion and what that communicates to those on the sidewalk or inside the structure. By the end of the drawing process I was stripping away the detail and focused on the classical structure.

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From the drawing step, our building was designed, rather than the lengthy process of constructing plaster molds for each section, a heavy watercolor paper was used. This step cut at least 4 weeks from the build which allowed the full project to be completed within the semester.

For the build I broke the structure into four sections, the front section, or Facade and narthex, was built first. This allowed the rules for construction to be set on a relatively small and simple piece and to test the scale of the building against the existing works in the series and to ensure continuity of the installation. Rather than the Laguna’s whitestone that we built the empty room house with, we returned to Laguna’s soldate, a body that we have used for years with success. This decision completely solved the major mid slab cracking issues that had been such a problem with so much of the early construction. Another modification of the build  was to  let the slabs set up several days before assembly. This let the individual units do most of their drying and shrinking before they came together which reduced the amount of stress placed on each piece.

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The second section built was the naive, this section was modified from its proportion in the original building so that we could focus the filming in this section.  Because of the size modification, the roof became problematic, columns were set into the mid center of the hall to hold a sort of half ceiling. This would serve the dual purpose of holding a multi media roof that would be constructed post firing and hide the lighting system for the enclosed structure. The decision to go without decoration or windows on the building affirmed itself as the structure grew.  The exterior and the interior were beginning to be understood as separate realms.  the exterior was to exude imposing darkness and mystery in addition to be immediately recognizable as a holy or sacred place. The interior was to evoke a cave, a hidden space not easily accessible from the outside.

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The third piece was the transept. For the long roof section of this unit a sort of joist was constructed from the side wall panel pieces.

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The last piece was the choir. This was the both the smallest and most complex of the sections.

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Once all the sections were complete, they could be placed together to make decisions about the placement and shape of the passage that would span the whole interior.

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Once the interior was opened it was coated in whitestone slip, to tie it to the earlier buildings and to enhance the cave feeling for the interior shots for filming. During construction of each section a waster slab was placed beneath to limit drying and firing stress. The building was then covered and allowed to dry over several weeks.

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Once the units were dried and fired to cone 06 they were again assembled to assess the warping that took place through the long process of clay to ceramic. While we did have markedly better results with this building, each section did move throughout this time, a solution was then sought to fill the gaps between the sections that would allow light to penetrate into the building. Several solutions were considered for this but in the end we decided on vinyl  joint compound, this substance starts very soft and plastic like clay and would dry very hard to allow the building to be handled as it moves from show to show.  The first step for this was to shrink-wrap the first and third sections so that the compound would only go on  section two and four, minimizing both handling stress and cleanup. Each section was then masked for spray paint.

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The process of application and sanding back the material had to be done through several  times before we were satisfied with the fit. The visible sides were then textured to match the ceramic.

Painting was two coats of semi-gloss black spray paint with an additional two coats of a matte clear finish, this had to be tuned up several times through the finishing as the joint compound was very messy when it had to be manipulated. The interior was largely left alone, but some of the ground bisque clay used on the interior was mixed with acrylic to cover epoxy fill and to allow the heavy texture to be picked up by the camera during filming.

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Once the surface was finished, it was then time to install the lights. small battery-powered LED’s were used, hot glued into position in the roof sections using the joint compound to hide the cord running through the walls and down through the joints into a pedestal built to house them. Initially my intent was to light the interior with fire, but having ruled this impractical from a build and display standpoint,  we opted for half flashing lights.  Though labeled as the same light, we found the flashing lights had a very different temperature from the non blinkers so I applied an acrylic wash to warm up the cooler toned lights.

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Following the placement of the lights, the god tiles were epoxyed into place since their shape and the texture of the walls would not allow them to be simply placed and stay where they needed to be.

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Gabe supplied the finishing touches to the piece, first the multi media roof was constructed of similar materials as the additions to the ceramic. His intent for the addition was that it not draw attention to itself yet compliment the overall feeling of the exterior of the building.

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All these elements unite to form what we believe is an incredibly strong piece that will anchor the gallery presence of the entire installation. The last element added was subtle decoration to the exterior of the church. Gabe executed to scale, tags in black marker around the back and sides of the building. These additions tie the piece into the overall intent and work of the studio and also reward the careful viewer looking for the details that are present throughout the installation.church tag 2church tags 1

Detail and subtlety become the focus of this object, the only one in the group with no magic boxes and aside from lights no dependence on technology. This piece becomes a resting place in the work to contemplate the various layers of meaning in the Magic Box installation and video series.

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ceramic art

Inside the Black Church

The interior of the previous houses for the Magic Box and for The Empty room were furnished much like doll houses, beds, tables, chairs, dishes etc. and of course Magic Boxes and TV’s.  The interior of the church is radically different.  In the early planning stages of the project we were imagining a retirement home for gods, a place where they would play cards and wear fuzzy slippers.  As the concept distilled down and Ted’s role in the developing plot became clear it was obvious that absurd humor would not serve our needs. By the beginning of The Bear Cave project we were settled on a church for the last scene of the 4 part video project. Retirement however remained an important concept for the story so making the space both sacred and to refer to the history of the gods became the priority.  In the early planning I was still thinking of sculpting famous works in the round as I did with the stone woman, but as the space was built and “space” became important the idea evolved into relief carvings

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Images and gods were chosen from all over the world. Once one was decided on it was modified to fit the 3″ x 6″ tile slab and then was drawn in and carved.  There are 17 in all. In addition to the cultures that produced these images I was heavily influenced by wood block carvings for printmaking.

Once the carving was done and the images were complete, the originals were used to create slip casting molds, This was chosen for maximum translation of the detail. All were poured at once so that they could be kept on the same firing schedule. After bisquing the tiles were rubbed in a wash of 50% red iron oxide and 50% gerstley borate.

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The first pieces were taken and modified directly from historical images of the gods.  There were 12 of these:

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This image features gods from China and Japan: L to R the Shinto god of thunder Raijin; A Chinese Temple Guardian Dragon and The Buddhist god of anger and enlightenment Fudo Myoo. The featured image at top are gods from the Americas:  Yelth the raven from the American tribe the Haida,Kukulkan, the Mayan feathered serpent God and Mictlantecuhtli, the Aztec death God.

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From the top  L to R From Europe Lady or Venus of Willendorf and Minoan Snake Priestess/Goddess; From south-east Asia Ganesh, god of wisdom and learning and Shiva, god of the dance and destruction; From the Middle East and Africa is Enlil, sky god of Sumer and Annubis, Egyptian god of embalming and the dead.

During the cycle of making these image/objects, Gabe suggested we do some that were totally of our own making that would relate to the world of little animals that we have created in the videos. He developed images for two,  a frog and a bird.

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I took his images and translated them into the clay.

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For the last three I combined the concept of using a historical image but combined them with common animals that might have appeared in our world.

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L to R the pig is based on the monolithic figures of Easter Island, The rabbit is based on Europe’s horned god Cernunnos and the chicken lady is derived from Rangda, dreaded widow queen of the witches from Bali. For these I stayed fairly close to the original image and only modified where the greatest impact could be seen, primarily the head, as can be seen from the image of Cernunnos taken from the Gundestrup Cauldron.

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In addition to these 17 tiles and some new poses and looks for established characters I carved The Great One from Chinese images of Kuan Yin. This small sculpture is carved from a solid block, washed with the same mixture as the tiles and given a glaze accent for the garment.

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ceramic art

Recreating Chinese Glazes

As a part of my history studies at FHSU this semester, have been researching Chinese glazes, a part of that research has been the recreation of those glazes from modern materials.  Using Nigel Wood’s excellent text; Chinese Glazes; Their Origins, Chemistry and Recreation, I have been attempting to recreate the earliest evolution of these glazes.

To begin the process I had to refine the raw materials.  I began with the wood ash as this process takes the most time.  I started with half a five gallon bucket of ash from a friend’s wood heater.  They burn a mix of soft and hard wood, a great deal of it being scrap and remnants, so not only is the chemical composition difficult to guess, but there was a great deal of impurity, particularly metal, in the mix.  To begin I soaked the ash in water.  this is a good way to separate impurity and to remove the water-soluble portions of the ash, which would affect its performance in the glaze.  To streamline this process Gabe built a large screen of medium mesh.IMG_7906IMG_7909I was able to remove large particles with this, then after this process was complete I drained off the water and dried the ashes for several days.

While that was drying I prepared the clay and acquired materials I could not make myself.  The stoneware clay used was a locally sourced stoneware called 200 by Summit Brick which it uses to make a white brick.  The porcelain is Laguna’s Babu porcelain.  To process the clay I first crushed it with a hammer then ground it fine in a blender.IMG_7912Once the materials were prepped I got to mixing and glazing, the test pieces were made from the bodies used in the glazes, though the 200 has an addition of reclaimed Soldate 60 from Laguna to add plasticityIMG_7927 IMG_7966Rather than going to the back of the book and mixing Wood’s already translated tests, I chose to focus on the text and come up with my own basic formulas based on the research found there.  Those earliest glazes were composed of Alumina, silica and calcium carbonate derived from either limestone or wood ash.  The clay provides the alumina and silica in the mixture.  My first test were thought to be the earliest glazes used in high temperature kilns in China.  Using the two two different clay bodies I mixed 60% clay and 40% washed wood ash.  To add color I also added 2% red iron oxide.IMG_0674The stoneware and porcelain tests on the left are test 1 and contain the stoneware clay is the 200 and the test on the right is the same formula but replacing the 200 with Laguna’s Babu porcelain.  The 200 clearly has incidental colorants that are not present in the test mixed with porcelain, and so shows darker.

The nest group used the same 60/40 mixture but instead of using wood ash, I used limestone or whiting as it is more commonly known in ceramics.  For this group I also pulled the iron back to 1% because I feared over saturating the color and skewing the tests with the fluxing capacity of the iron.IMG_0675This time the test on the left is mixed with the porcelain and the set on the right with the 200.  A major down side to using the 200 in glazes is that it is prepared for brick making before I get it, which means it is full of very heavy grog. Though I did screen it, some small particles escaped and made the bottom of the testers rough and unrefined.  The wood ash too, though washed and crushed was not ball milled and so added large particles that did not break down and integrate with the glaze.  They are beautiful glazes but could only be used on sculpture without significantly more work in refining the raw materials.

The next group of glazes were derived from the earliest porcelain glazes, and use little wood ash.  IMG_0676From the left: 82% Babu porcelain, 18% whiting and .5g RIO                   70% Babu porcelain, 30% whiting and .5% RIO                                                 70% Babu porcelain, 28% whiting, 2% wood ash and .5% RIO

The test in the center, number 6, was my favorite from all the the tests, it is a buttery matte with a subtle green color.  Adding a  full percent of iron would make this glaze a winner on the porcelain body, truthfully none of these is very nice on the stoneware clay, too gritty.  Though the fit does seem to work.

For the last four tests I chose recipes from the back of the book, though they had to be somewhat modified to work with chemicals I have available to me.  The first two were porcelain glazes, a clear and a northern celadon.IMG_0677These glazes are from later in the evolution of Chinese gazes and are much more complex, very near to their modern counterparts.  I had to change these recipes, especially where the author used english ball clays which I don’t have access to.  The glaze on the left is #1 in the book and is called porcelain glaze the original glaze recipe asks for Hyplas ball clay which I substituted EPK, feeling that this would be closer in makeup than domestic ball clay. The recipe is:

Potash feldspar  25%; Wollastonite 27%;  China clay 12.5%; EPK (sub) 12.5%;  Flint 20%; Talc 3%

The recipe on the right is #3, northern celadon, for this glaze I replaced SMD ball clay for EPK, again feeling its properties closer to domestic ball clay.

Cornish stone 56%; Wollastonite 20%; EPK (sub) 20%; Talc 3.5%; Red Iron Oxide 1.5%

These were winners on both clay bodies, I was especially impressed with the “porcelain glaze” on the stoneware, it may be the most beautiful high temperature clear I have seen on this body.

The next tests were a Northern Hares Fur Temmoku (#4 reduced) Again, slight modification was made to the original recipe, for this I subbed 200 for the BBV ball clay on the right and EPK for the test on the left.  The original recipe also asks for molochite which is a calcined china clay, which could have been made but since a sub of china clay (slightly more) was allowed, I used it.IMG_0678Cornish stone 42%; 200 (rt) EPK (left) 15%;                                             China clay 15%; Dolomite 15.5%; Flint 17%;                                                         Red Iron Oxide 4.5%; Rutile .5%

These were both beautiful, again the test containing 200 was darker and slightly more opaque, but both worked very well.

Thanks to Shane Jarrett for firing these for us, it was a wonderful study.

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Glaze Development in Ancient China

The worlds first stoneware glazes were developed during the Shang Dynasty in China (1,600 – 1,100 bce).  This is an astounding feat when considering that stoneware was not achieved in Korea and Japan for another 2,000 years and in the West for another 3,000 years.

One theory for the early development of stoneware temperatures in southern China was that the clay being used at earthen ware temperatures was actually under fired stoneware bodies.  Observation would have shown that these clays when fired hotter produced more durable ceramic.  The glaze was likely another observation of the process already being employed, wood ash fluxing at higher temperatures would have lightly glazed both the pots and the interior of the kiln.  It would have been a simple assumption to begin testing wood ash mixtures and developing glazes.

shang 1These early glazes, being based on the variable material wood ash, have a wide variety and composition.  In addition to the innovation of glaze and kiln design allowing the higher temperatures, the Shang also began the pursuit of Chinese porcelain.  This proto porcelain as it is known is made from a kaolin bearing stoneware.  The pieces were modeled after The bronze vessels being produced at the time and were lightly glazed with the same ash glazes common at the time.China_shang_white_pottery_potThis type of glazing persisted through the Han Dynasty, techniques and form being refined through the generations.Han 1Unlike the high fire glazing tradition of most early cultures, the first Chinese stoneware were composed primarily of clay and calcia, rather than feldspars,  in the form of limestone, but also derived from wood ash and sometimes crushed shells.  The composition of these glazes were Silica, alumina, and calcium carbonate.  The silica and alumina were provided by the clays and the ash or limestone was the second ingredient.  The glazes were usually yellow to green and were colored by incidental trace amounts of titanium and iron in the clays used in the mixture.  There was also a range of surface qualities that were largely dependent on firing and cooling speed.  The more matte glazes were fired and cooled more slowly allowing calcium crystals to grow.

Over time the ash in the glaze was largely replaced with limestone, though it is likely that wood ash was used in some combination throughout the early history of Chinese glazes.

The height of these stoneware glazes were achieved in the Yue wares which were made during the Five Dynasties Period in the early 10th century ce.  These works are revered for their refinement and  beauty.yue wareFrom these simple beginnings, the tradition of Chinese stoneware and porcelain glazes unfolds and reaches its great peak during the Song Dynasty.  From elegant celadons to rich temmoku’s the potters of the Song were some of the most accomplished in the history of ceramics. temmoku

 

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I used Chinese Glazes; Their Origins, Chemistry and Recreation by Nigel Wood and 10,000 Years of Pottery by Emmanuel Cooper for sources in this post