ceramic art

The Magic Box Complete

The Magic Box has been the central focus of Foxy-Wolff over the last three years. During that time the project evolved into more than we could have imagined when we conceived the idea in hotel room in Hays Kansas. To bring all that time and work together into a solid installation was the focus of nearly a year of that time.

The first step to bring the installation to completion was the show catalog. The size of the objects with their projections makes photography one of the most demanding aspects of a show like this. To get the images we felt we needed, we were fortunate to borrow the gallery at Colorado State University.

Magic Box Catalog (low res)

This was a dress rehearsal for installing the complete show and so required us to consider every aspect carefully. This meant pulling together and retesting all the tech, building the pedestals, and solving the problems set aside for later consideration. Once done, we were ready to set up and photograph the show.

Because projected video is such a crucial element of the installation, lighting the gallery was a central consideration every time it went up. For the catalog we lit the space far more than we did for the actual showings of the work, but even so the images were very challenging to work with.

One of the most incredible things about this project is how multifaceted it is, requiring us to extend all of our skill sets. This was especially true of the catalog. Most graduate students hire out this aspect of their MFA show, but because of my intermedia emphasis, I chose to do this myself. One of the long-term goals of my education was to become proficient in Photoshop and Illustrator. This was the first step on that road. Using some terrific online tutorials, I shut myself in the house for 6 weeks and got focused. In the end I had to learn Indesign as well, plus stay focused through repeated edits but it was a wonderful period of learning and we were really happy with the result. Here is a link to the tastytuts channel. It’s a fantastic resource.

https://www.youtube.com/user/TastyTuts

Once all these preliminaries were complete we were off to install the show at the Moss-Thornes gallery on the FHSU campus in Hays Kansas. Getting the work and equipment to the gallery was our next major hurdle. Our plan was to rent a truck but by the time we finished acquiring all the last-minute gear for the show we were way over budget on the project and so had to find another option. fortunately we were able to arrange the install with graduation weekend so my parents took it and us in their camper and we all stayed for the weekend.

We consider the blog and the website a central piece of The Magic Box. To bring those aspects into the gallery we used QR codes as gallery tags. We generated these through a Japanese company that allowed us to incorporate text and images into the codes design. Using these meant we could keep text and other distractions to a minimum in the space and worked beautifully with the overall content of the piece.  All the QR tags are shown in the catalog pdf above.

Once all the details came together the installation came down to the same effort and endurance required of all installation days. Though exhausting, this is one of our favorite aspects of working in the visual arts. With a couple of good hard days we had the show up and ready for visitors.

In addition to the show in Hays we were fortunate to be invited to show it at the Hoag Gallery at Colorado State University-Pueblo. It was wonderful to get to put it up and take it down so many times in a year, of course each gallery added new features and challenges to the work which really allowed us to understand the dynamics of the entire show.

 

It’s a thrill to see the installation complete and hear from so many people who appreciated the work. We have settled on our next large-scale project and will be developing clay bodies and concepts in the coming months, stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Teaching and Classes

Freestyle Video at KACA

We were super fortunate to get to teach our Freestyle Video class this year at the Kansas Artist Craftsman Association conference this year. The 2016 KACA conference was held at Heston College in Newton Kansas. The small campus wreathed in autumn leaves was an ideal setting for the weekend.

The workshop is a one day project in which we planned, shot and edited  a video by student participants and ourselves. To accommodate this abbreviated production schedule Gabe and I came in to the weekend with both a concept and a song for the video being produced. The song, called  Steppin, builds on a simple beat that moves the action of the video, movement then became the focus of the project. Gabe wrote the song on his iPhone using the Garage Band app. The song was originally 250 bars but with only 142 used. He used 18 different digital instruments and his crafty thumbs to create the song.

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The first half of the session focused on storyboarding and capturing video. Walking in the context of the campus and conference was to unite with the beat of the music to create the content. With Gabe blasting the song from the back of the car, we walked in groups and singles with cell phones used as primary tools to offer what would be the foundation footage for the project. People then went through campus and the conference to add to this base. The clips, shot in 30 to 45 second blocks so they could be emailed into a single account would make sharing that data possible, so that footage could be shared.

We had a long lunch break which we used to prepare for editing. The day was in two blocks and participants were not required to do both to participate so we lost a few from the morning but gained more for the afternoon. the great challenge here was to help each person with the tools they either already had or would have access to in the future. With patience and tutorials from YouTube we were able help everyone to transfer the files and to use all the footage captured.

Drawing clips from the email account where they were stored, each artist edited their own version of the project using iMovie. Again there was a range of experience in each participant. For some it was their first time turning on a Mac and for others it was more a matter of small assistance with app details. Once all the videos were complete they were uploaded to a drop box so Gabe could use pieces from their videos for a final edit of all the material into our version of the project.

Our goal for the workshop was to help facilitate participants ability to make and  video using the tools at hand and to demystify the process of digital art. We are thrilled with some of the results. thanks to all the students who participated in the project.

Here then is our video and those of some of the participants.

Maddie Stutzman

Janet Lewis

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

 

Uncategorized

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. 🙂

 

 

 

Uncategorized

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.

artistproject.metmuseum.org/4/jane-hammond/

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.

artistproject.metmuseum.org/4/paul-tazewell/

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.

artistproject.metmuseum.org/4/dia-batal/

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.

Rodin's Hand

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.

artistproject.metmuseum.org/4/swoon/

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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ceramic art

Kuan Yin of The Magic Box

The last two months has seen a flurry of studio activity as we close in on the date to install the Magic Box show in the Moss-Thorns Gallery at Fort Hays State University.  The last major piece to be built for the show is a large-scale copy of the Kuan Yin that is featured in the fourth video, The Black Church. This piece will accompany the entire edited video in the last space in the installation and in many ways is the anchor for the show. I see it as an opportunity to flip the scale of the viewer in the gallery and reinforce the image of the viewer themselves within the context of the space, especially as it relates to the cell phone interaction that will be integral to the experience of the show. for this reason as well as my real and abiding love of the work it is based on we have been determined to do a good job on this piece.IMG_9701

The first step was to build the easel. Gabe accomplished this using an old solid core door, a 4×4 and some canvas we has in the studio from the Art Center days. The tech is really costing quite a bit for this show so keeping costs down in other areas has been important over the last year. The easel was heavy and difficult to move which was a good thing considering the amount of clay that would need to be stacked on it.

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The next step was for Gabe to use his observational super powers to scale up the figurine on the canvas so we would have a frame-work for stacking the clay.

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While Gabe worked on that, I prepped the clay for stacking. To build the piece I used a highbred technique of the brick sculpture I used to do with Jarrett Pottery and the large solid sculpture techniques learned during the Beth Cavener workshop in January of 2015. (see post here) The piece required about 550 lbs of clay, which I shaped roughly into bricks straight from the extruded blocks from the clay factory.  I used talc between the bricks to prevent sticking, which turned out to be mistake in a way as I changed my ideas for taking the piece apart to more reflect Cavener’s technique rather than the brick sculpture I had done in the past. The best choice would have been to work for solid attachment of the units to each other as I built the wall.  It would have saved valuable time in the disassembly and hollowing stage. For clay I chose the cost saving measure again. We were still sitting on about half a ton of Laguna’s Whitestone, which is really the last clay I would have chosen given the problems we’ve had in the past with it, but it’s what we had and the dates are approaching quickly so we went with it. Because of this choice we anticipate a good deal of epoxy after firing, with that in mind we will be using a fired and cold approach to the surface.

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Gabe, in the mean time, worked on a second outline, on paper this time, that could lay over the stacked clay and allow us to map in the essential elements.  After that it was a matter of stacking the clay, brick by brick.

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On this last image you can see the outline that was traced onto the clay using the second, paper drawing. The clay was very wet here and carving for detail was not possible, so for the first week or so only crude shaping and removal was possible.

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At this point the form was basically mapped and fine detail could be added. While the piece was based on the figurine, the scale shift required a greater attention to detail that the small piece could not support.  These changes are most apparent in the folds of the fabric.IMG_9774 IMG_9785

You can see in the above image that the clay was really pulling apart, which made finishing imperative. The last section to be tackled was the head.

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I did return later and add material to a few places, the knee and the nose, brow and chin most notably. This is the face before the additions.

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The additions to the face were made after the piece was cut away from the larger whole. In this image the “brick” separations are clearly visible. The first step in the deconstruction phase was to attach the bricks together.  Once this was complete and the attachments had time to set, the entire section was flipped on the foam and carved out from the back to make firing possible as the density of this clay will not allow solid firing as brick does.

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Once the pieces were attached and hollowed out they were sculpted and finished. The remaining sections stayed on the easel as I worked.  After a while the pieces became so dry on the canvas backing of the easel that the whole thing had to come down and be more thoroughly wrapped so they would last while I worked. It took about a month the finish the disassembly.

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After hollowing and attaching, part of the finishing process involved placing each section on a waster slab and then resurfacing with steel wool to remove the making texture from the forms.

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The last step was to wash the sections with a red iron oxide wash that will be sanded back a bit before these pieces are loaded into the kiln in a couple of weeks. Reassembly and cold finishing to follow.

ceramic art

The Black Church

The filming of the last segment of The Magic Box was of course, the most complicated yet.  The difficulties came from the structure of the church itself. Part of the immersion into the world required that no windows or external light be present in the interior shots. That required all internal shots to be done on the GoPro, and more than that, our arms were to big and short to make clean shots possible so a rig had to be made for the camera to ride.

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The rig was made from aluminum shower slide pieces we salvaged from Dionisio Metal and Iron. A mount for the camera made from scrap tin was mounted on to the slide and string was used to manipulate the camera inside the space. Gabe is testing the tension on the string in the image above, to insure the camera will move smoothly. Gabe produced this little video to show the rig in action.

For shots from the other angle, the structure of the building was built to come apart so that the larger camera we usually use could access the shots.

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The result of these filming challenges was a video with a very singular feeling and texture, inadvertently giving the action inside the church the otherworldly quality we were hoping for. This does not become a linear solution that one might expect from a film with the intent of telling a story, rather the last piece conjures many questions and uncertainties that keeps the work firmly aligned with art, in-spite of the narrative structure that it follows.

Let us know what you think in the comments. Thanks for watching and don’t forget to subscribe to our You Tube channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCor8dP1FkdrYAp6xkC9l5rw

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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