Monday, July 28, 2014

North Carolina Barn Bling

On a recent trip to North Carolina I was commissioned to construct some barn art for friends that live in the Asheville area. I had mailed them some of my exterior paints ahead of time and was told that they had scrap wood or plywood laying around that I could use, but other than that, there were no plans. I was thrilled that they trusted me enough to let me do what ever I wanted, with no direction or limitations, just the way I prefer to work. 
Moving the finished piece out of the barn for installation.
Unfortunately, I forgot to measure it so this picture is included for some perspective.
Honestly, constructing it was a little nerve-wracking. Because of travel plans and other activities, I was left with only 30 hours from start to finish. Additionally, I wasn't sure what I was doing, or if I'd be able to finish it, until the 27th hour.
Finding a way to get it into place was a little complicated but, thankfully,
not too difficult because it was relatively light.
I was a little concerned when I saw the plywood that I was going to work with was only 3/8" thick because I wasn't sure how well I'd be able to attach the pieces together but it turned out not to be a problem and the thickness was especially fortunate when it came to raising it in place; because it was so light, it wasn't too difficult to work up the ladder. By the way, I find it only appropriate that we used a tractor for the installation, as all barn art should be installed.
Though I try to be as safe as possible when installing art work, I'm always relieved
when no one dies or is seriously injured in the process.
My fear in taking on this commission was that I would get all the pieces painted but wouldn't be able to come up with anything I liked in the allotted time and would have to tell my friends that I'd finish it at some indeterminate time in the future. I was truly working on "a wing and a prayer", just trusting that somehow something would come together if I just followed the process. Much to my surprise, and based on the feedback I've gotten, it seems to have worked. More than anything though, I'm just relieved I'm not embarrassed with it.
3/8" UL plywood and exterior latex paints and stains
approximately 8' x 8.5' x 1" (I forgot to measure)
I've been calling this series "Barn Art" but I like my friend's terminology of "Barn Bling" better. It is located off a rural road and faces away from it so the only way to see this piece is by personal invitation. It is nice to see my work on an actually barn, I particularly like the contrast of contemporary art on an old, traditional, building.

Friday, April 18, 2014

A New Series of Two-Sided Paintings/Sculptures

I recently finished three pieces of a new series that I am very happy with and I look forward to exploring more. They are two-sided paintings/sculptures. I love how they are unclassifiable, in addition to being both painting and sculpture, they simultaneously represent three different art movements: abstract expressionism, geometric abstraction, and minimalism. 
February 2014a (side one)
mixed media on wood
8.5" x 40" x 1"
They have a lot of contrast, complexity, and depth while also being very simple.
 February 2014a (side one closeup)
Personally, I could look at them indefinitely without getting tired or bored. I feel they provide a lot to see, explore, and experience.
 February 2014a (side one closeup)
I am particularly excited about having a completely natural surface being an important part of the piece. It adds minimalism to the work and makes the wood the subject of the art rather than a surface to build upon. I also find the contrast between the two sides to be very interesting.
 February 2014a (side two)
February 2014a (side two closeup)
The base for all three pieces are made with cherry and stainless steel rods. The rods can be cut to any length so that it can stand on a pedestal, table, or floor but I have initially cut the two larger pieces to stand just over 5' and the smaller one at 3'. With the larger ones I've found that this height creates an interesting experience of being at a human scale -- relating to them becomes more personal. 
base design for all three pieces
stainless steel and wood (cherry)
February 2014b was made at the same time and with the same process steps as February 2014a, so they are very similar and can even work as a diptych, but that wasn't my intent so they are for sale separately.
February 2014b (side one)
mixed media on wood
8.5" x 41" x 1"
February 2014b (side one closeup) 
 February 2014b (side one closeup)
 February 2014b (side two)
March 2014 was made at the same time as the other two, and out of the same board of curly maple, but I made a significant change in the painting process early on which resulted in it looking very different.
March 2014 (side one)
mixed media on wood
8.5" x 28" x 1"
March 2014 (side one)
 March 2014 (side one closeup)
March 2014 (side one closeup)
March 2014 (side two)
It is nice to finish work that I believe says exactly what I want them to say. I look forward to seeing and hearing how others react to them.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Bumper Sticker Update #2

I am so happy to have four more bumper stickers to share with the world. It feels great to find enough people interested in having them so that I have an excuse to continue designing new ones. Additionally, though I have no idea if they have any impact on anyone that sees them, it feels like progress to know that thousands of people will see my work, even if they have no idea who created it.

This one, the 13th in the series, was inspired by a friend who said she would want one if I made something with circles and lines.
3" x 10"
limited edition of 10
When I finished #14, I was a little worried about how people would feel about triangles. I never know how people will react to a new design and I'm always pleasantly surprised when they like them enough to put them on their cars. 
3" x 10"
limited edition of 10
The 15th was a radical design departure. With it, I decided to play with amorphous, ambiguous shapes. It has been interesting hearing what people see in a design of which I didn't have any preconceived intention other than to create an interesting shape. I found that It is a bit of a Rorschach test. I love how abstract art allows the viewer to create along the artist. I like how it doesn't tell you what to think, or see, which is the purpose of this whole project. 
3" x 10"
limited edition of 11
With the most recent of the series I continued to explore organic designs and I am continuing to find that people see things I never thought of, nor intended. Although I had only ordered ten of them, the company that makes them for me gifted me another ten so this time it is an edition of twenty.
3" x 10"
limited edition of 20

Because I enjoy designing these so much, and I can't design a new one until I've distributed the latest; and because I love knowing people are seeing my work (even if it is anonymous) I'm still giving them away to anyone in the US who wants one (your first is free but I charge $10 for if someone wants a second). Just email me your address and you'll find one in the mail in a few days.

New Facebook Page

I recently created an artist Facebook page. I'll post my latest work and news there first so I hope you'll considering "Like"-ing it to get the most up to date information about my happenings.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Alison Elizabeth Taylor @ James Cohen Gallery

Since seeing Alison Elizabeth Taylor's work on-line several years ago, I've been anxious to see her paintings in person. Thankfully, I had the opportunity in November (2013) during her solo show, Surface Tension, at the James Cohan Gallery in New York.

Taylor has, at a young age, carved out a place for herself in the art world by creating contemporary paintings using a centuries old technique (marquetry) of assembling pieces of wood veneer together, like a puzzle. As a result, her work, by definition, holds a tension between the past and the present as well as between fine art and fine craft. With work like this, so much of the impact relies on the ability of the artist to master the craft, and I know from experience that images on the web can be deceiving, hiding imperfections and sloppy work. However, after seeing these paintings in person, I can happily report that her work is impeccable. Her execution is every bit as good as furniture makers that specialize in this technique.

Taylor's work in this show is particularly interesting in two novel ways. For one, she is now combining tradition painting (with oils) along with veneer. And secondly, she using the veneer to "paint" wood.

I loved all the work in the show, it is all visually interesting on many levels, but my favorite piece, by far, is Silver Fox. With it, she takes what would normally be an interesting contemporary art idea, painting a sheet of plywood, and takes it to another level by using wood to do it. In addition, the concept is simultaneously minimalist and abstract expressionist -- it is "just" a sheet of plywood (both conceptually and in actuality); but it is also chaotic, unpredictable, and visually complex. 
Silver Fox
53" x 51"
Furthermore, as is a theme in a lot of her work, she is taking an object that would normally be over looked as too common to waste one's time examining, and makes it completely fascinating, forcing the viewer to ask why they haven't looked at plywood more closely before. 
Silver Fox (closeup)
Again, with Brooklyn Navy Yard, Taylor is asking the viewer to really look at something they would normally overlook and, by using a desert sky behind it, she makes it particularly dramatic and interesting. I find it fascinating how using wood as her "paint" for this subject really elevates it to another level, well beyond what it would have been if she painted the branch with oils. Perhaps because doing so makes it simultaneously a sculpture and a painting causing mental conflict and confusion. 
Brooklyn Navy Yard
36" x 30" x 3/4"
With Into the Wild, Taylor creates a seductive scene and again makes an interesting tree painting with wood, 
Into the Wild
52 1/2" x 38 1/2"
but what really makes this piece is how she uses the wood grain to form ripples in the water. It is such an important part of the painting, I wonder if it was the inspiration. 
Into the Wild (closeup)
In Kelso, Taylor again focuses on a something that would normally be over looked and creates a fascinating work of art -- a neglected home with layers of paint, wall paper, plaster, and lath falling apart.
50" x 47" 1 1/4"
The title seems cryptic, perhaps it is the name of the last family to live in this house, or the town, or street name, or who knows -- interpretation is left to the viewer but, cleverly, the mystery behind the name helps to make the painting more real.
Kelso (closeup)
Laocoon is my favorite of several tree portraits in the show. With its broken branch and multi-directional limbs, it is the most interesting of the series. 
58" x 76"
I assume title is a reference to a Trojan priest that warned against accepting the Trojan Horse as a gift from the Greeks. Perhaps the twisted and broken branches reminded Taylor of a famous sculpture of Laocoon and His Sons at the Vatican.
Laocoon (closeup)
And finally, with The Optimist's Ennui, Taylor again paints a sheet of plywood, but this time with a hole that give a view of an exterior desert scene, leaving the impression that the plywood is being used as an interior wall of a shack.
The Optimist's Ennui
62" x 46"
With the hole in the wall she is able to create a story that is both dramatic and open for interpretation.
The Optimist's Ennui (closeup)

If you are interested in seeing a complete inventory of this show, more and better images are available on the gallery's website here. I'm stilled thrilled at having a chance to see it. Not only is her work unique, fascinating, and well crafted, I also love that she is continuing to evolve, adding elements, themes, and new techniques to her work. It is wonderful to see paintings that combine so many disparate ideas, styles, and media so as to be a part of history and original at the same time.