Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Clay Monoprinting: The Next Phase

The clay monoprint workshop with Mitch Lyons at Peters Valley School of Craft over Labor Day weekend 2017 was my idea of happy.  I miss Mitch so much, yet at the same time I feel his presence and his encouragement. He always said "let me know how it goes," regarding any experiment, no matter how crazy, and enjoyed seeing his many students find their own unique paths.

The quote on the front of the brochure at Mitch's Celebration of Life says it all.  

His death on March 5, 2018 was a deeply sad loss for so many people.  I felt lost and unable to make any new clay monoprints until after his Celebration of Life on April 28th at the Delaware Contemporary.    

It helped to go out to his studio, visit with his wife Meredith, and look through all his flat files to select a clay monoprint for over our mantelpiece.  I also picked a small one which hangs unframed next to the door in my studio, so I see it many times a day:

It is the only one I found where he wrote in the margin, here noting the date of a tung oil experiment.  

I'm slowly growing into what I need to do, now that I can't just rely on Mitch.  I used to order 20 sheets of Reemay at a time from him.  (Reemay is the non-woven industrial substrate that acts as the 'paper').  Now I have my own industrial roll of Reemay, 40" wide and 30 yards long.  A friend will come over soon and take 15 yards of it.

When one of my wooden slabs, the printing matrix, was warped or had gotten mildewy from the need to keep the clay moist when not in use on a daily basis, I just purchased another one from Mitch.  With Mitch gone I considered building my own slabs.  The directions are quite clear in his book:

For me, it would be like changing the oil in my car myself.  I decided to ask my new handyman to do it, and xeroxed the pages with the specifications from Mitch's book for him.  He realized that the plastic lining of the wooden board was meant as a moisture-barrier between the clay and the wood, and suggested azek, a synthetic polymer that is impervious to moisture. The universe sent me a new handyman who is himself an artist.  I am grateful for these synchronicities, and I now have azek slabs! I filled this one with stoneware clay:

It felt strange to put the clay down directly on the azek, rather than on a plastic liner.  I'll have to get used to this.

A scraping stick is then used to level the slab.  To store it until I am ready to make some clay monoprints,  I cover it with damp rayon in a plastic box.  (It's important to use a synthetic fabric rather than cotton.  I was told this, but used cotton at first and found out its truth the hard way..)

Under-the-bed storage boxes are a good size for this, with the advantage that they can be stacked and have wheels. 

It's all an experiment.  I'll let you know how it goes, Mitch.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Just what is Clay Monoprinting? Watch the Video!

This video is from my Artist's Talk in October 2017 at my exhibit "Clay Monoprints:  Dreams, Visions, and Alternate Realities" at Pendle Hill.  At the time I assumed there would be many more open studio times to make prints together with Mitch Lyons, the guy who developed it all...the father of clay monoprinting.  Keilan Barber, my gifted video editor, started work many months after the talk.  Little did I know that Mitch would no longer be with us by the time I posted the video.  He is greatly missed.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018


This is Jean Shin's wonderful installation currently at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which I am glad to have seen today.  "Worn Soles" creates a pattern on the floor."Hide," hanging from the ceiling, is meticulously stitched together from the uppers of the soles on the floor:

I was reminded of the Willie Cole exhibit I saw last June at the Ross Gallery at the University of Pennsylvania:

 He works extensively with shoes - truckloads of them.  This one is called "Order":

 I love his fanciful shoe sculptures:

Mr. Cole has many fascinating videos on YouTube talking about his work.

Then there is Chiharu Shiota, whose installation I saw at the Sackler Gallery in Washington D.C. in 2015:

She had people write write notes that told stories about each particular shoe.  The note attached to the sneaker below says (translated from the Japanese):  "The time they were worn: November 2005 to October 2007. Place: from my home to my work place and the pilgrimage of Shikoku’s 33 temples. The memory: These were familiar shoes. When it rained, water went into the shoes. At the end of the life of the shoes, I wore them only when it was nice out. When I did the Western pilgrimage of the 33 temples they served my purpose very well. In addition, every time I went out running, the laces became loose." 

Each of these three artists is quite different; each makes use of shoes in their own unique way.  What they have in common is being touched by the life of ordinary everyday objects and the stories they tell about the people who previously wore them.  They make art out of objects touched by human sweat.

Shoes have played a role in my own work as well, and I gather them at thrift shops and garage sales whenever particular ones catch my eye.  This piece  makes use of a sneaker that had been my father's.  

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Big Apple Binge: 5 museums in 3 days

Even the kitchen sink can be found on the sidewalk in New York City. 

David Hockney got me to the Metropolitan Museum.  Michelangelo alone wouldn't have done it.

The Hockney retrospective was exciting, energizing, and uplifting.  He experimented every which way. 

I especially loved watching the three LED screens that showed the drawings he makes every morning and evening on his iPad.  Sometimes the program showed him doing it - actually revealing his process. 

The other "must see" at the Met was Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman and Designer. Being in the presence of so much of Michaelangelo's sketch book material was overwhelming.  It was like the inside of his mind.  Here he used his sketch paper to write a poem.  It's clear that as a gay man, he loved to sketch hunky guys, even if under cover of studies for Christ on the Cross.  (I didn't notice the Met mentioning his homosexual orientation, but I didn't read all their materials.)

He was interested in everything and learned from everywhere.  I love what is considered his first painting, The Torment of Saint Anthony.  It is legendary.

He was clearly familiar with Bosch and other Netherlandish painters.

The next day, Thursday, started at the Rubin Museum of Art.

I was fortunate to catch Henri Cariter-Bresson's  India in Full Frame before it closed.  

His photos of Gandhi's final days and funeral bring the viewer present.  We become one of the crowd watching Gandhi's funeral pyre burn.

According to the Tibetan Divination chart above, the next year will be uneventful for me.  I hope that means no major obstacles or bad news.  (They had a touch screen program where you could figure it out according to the year you were born.)

This reconstruction of a temple wall provides a better view of the mural than the original, which is sadly degraded.  This detail of it especially intrigues me:

It reminds me of this print by Lesley Dill, who lived in India as a young person and has remained influenced by it ever since:

From the Rubin I went to the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art.

Barbara Hammer's retrospective included a lot of video.  I espcially enjoyed T.V. Tart:

From there I walked to the New Museum to see this:

So much of the commentary was blah blah blah.  I'm glad I didn't become an art historian.  I'm definitely glad I saw it, even though much of the work was meh. The New Museum didn't have any working bathrooms.  A pipe had burst because of the cold and was being repaired. It was a long day and definitely time to get back to my hotel.

I did wonder what the crowd at the New Museum and Leslie-Lohman would think of the many Michelangelo sketches of young studio assistants...

Friday was for the Whitney.  A quick run through of:

Yeah, so familiar.  We were there...

The Non War Memorial by Ed Kienholz (1970) is powerful and touching:

Faith Ringgold's silkscreen from 2007 still speaks to us today:

It is Jimmie Durham: At the Center of the World, that got me to the Whitney now. I was able to take an overview look at it and then catch the excellent docent talk at noon.   This is a detail of his self-portrait. 

He is truly a citizen of the world, a poet and an activist as well as an artist, 
who identifies as Native American and lives all over Europe and the world.  Here is the full self-portrait:

One installation included family photos.  A man in our group said, "That's my father. We're cousins.  It's strange to see my father's picture in the Whitney."

Durham uses found objects juxtaposed in unexpected ways.  An inspiration to Dumpster Divers!  I came away with a greater appreciation of him as a spiritual leader as well as an artist.

It was a 3-day marathon.  I'm glad I came home to a weekend with nothing planned except rest.  

I'm grateful I could do this binge, my birthday present to myself.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

The Last Clay Monoprints of 2017

Timeless Moment  is a mixed-media clay monoprint that makes use of gampi silk tissue, whose transparency I love.  The groom and bride are suspended in time.

We weren't in Nashville very long on our road trip, but it was enough for me to be captivated by its creative synergy.  The clay monoprint above is titled Nashville.

The one below, Rain On My Windowpane, looks through the curtain on a rainy day.

I've had a flu-like cold for a couple of weeks now, and haven't felt up to making a new batch of clay monoprints.  At least today I finally felt well enough to photograph these and post them to