Friday, February 12, 2016

"Silverbacks" by Jeff White

Image used with the permission of the artist. Jeff White is a publisher and project facilitator at Totemic17. Check out his website to learn more, and fellow printmakers check out this Open Call for Artists.

I am not big into celebrating Valentines Day or Presidents Day, but I do enjoy celebrating another holiday that happens every February 12: Darwin Day.

In college I first saw the satirical cartoons from naysayers of the Theory of Evolution, depicting Charles Darwin as an ape. (See below.) I remember thinking, Why is this an insult? Apes are beautiful, intelligent creatures. At the time I was still naive about how apes had been largely regarded by those in Western civilization as exhibiting all that is disgraceful about humankind.

Looking at apes as a kid, I thought it was obvious from appearances that we're closely related. I have an encounter burned into my memory of a gorilla at a zoo placing his hand on the glass enclosure that separated us, and being utterly stuck by the similarities between his hand and mine.

My graduating exhibition at Ohio State University was titled "In Search of Ourselves." My major had been fine art, but I minored in physical anthropology and was fascinated by human evolution. Many of my paintings and prints at the time depicted great apes in a manner similar to this woodcut by Jeff White. In other words, images that sought to get across the emotional and social complexity of our closest cousins. I revisited this concept more recently with the first entry in Cats A-Z: All Ball.

In our correspondence, Jeff mentioned, "I don't know that I'd ever choose a kozo with mango leaf inclusions for anything else but I liked it with these gorillas!" I like it, too. There's something about how the leaves obscure and interrupt parts of the image of these two holding each other close. The scene is is already closely cropped, giving us only this moment of intimacy and affection, and even that seems to disintegrate a bit along the edges in a bustle of gouges and grain.

I feel something important, but not well-enough understood, is slipping away right before my eyes.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

"Shinabazu Pond in Snow" by Unichi Hiratsuka

I could stand here a long time. There are a thousand tiny ripples in this standing pond, a thousand soft symphonies in this moment of silence.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

"Gus" Revisited for Baren Forum Exchange #67

To start out the new year I've decided to delve into the recent past by finally doing an edition of Gus, a woodcut I created in 2012, but never went beyond proofing. I resurrected this woodcut for two reasons.

First, while setting up my new studio (I moved a month ago) I found this block and liked it much better than when I first carved it. Sometimes I feel overly disappointed in a first proof, especially if I have a specific idea in my head of how I want an image to turn out, and in this case I had. Now that original vision is far enough away that I can enjoy what actually came out of this block.
Incidentally, I also realized that the size of this block was just perfect for Baren exchange #67, which is due February 1st.

My second reason for revisiting Gus is that I'm interested in starting a series called Dogs A-Z, which would be a sequel to my Cats A-Z series. As with the cat alphabet book, this would be a collection of black and white woodcuts. I figured finally giving Gus his own edition would help get me into the headspace. Although honestly, I don't quite yet feel I'm there, and will probably have to get some other ideas out of my system first.

Highlights from Baren Exchange #66

 These are three of my favorite prints from Baren Exchange #66. The technique challenge was "White-line (open to interpretation)" with a paper size of 8" x 10". I was especially excited about this exchange having suggested the technique challenge.

This first print is Under the Blue Tree by Anne van Oppen. There is something just so satisfying about this whimsical, airy little print of a lion standing under an elongated tree branch laden with oversized leaves and plump and sunny birds. I am planning to frame it and hang it in my kitchen to cheer me up while I cook.

My next favorite is If I'm very still... by Jenn White. I enjoyed this image as soon as I laid eyes on it simply because of the interplay of shapes and colors. Then I examined the actual imagery, realized the wonderful tension of the moment (notice the cropped paws on the higher shelf) as well as the suggestive details found in the books and framed picture of the rabbit, and I just fell in love. Looking at this print reminds me of how I feel engrossed in bird watching or reading Walden. I should add that I'm completely impressed by the artist for making a reduction print with 13 colors for an exchange!

 And last but not least I am completely enamored by the print White Line by Theresa Martin. I appreciate this creative interpretation of the technical challenge. I have a difficult time putting into words the response this image evokes in me. The best I can do for now is to share that the literal white line that wriggles up the center of this portrait immediately brought to my mind the Flamenco dancing of Antonio el Pipa accompanied by the earthy, soulful voice of his Aunt Juana. (Check out one of their performances below.)

Friday, January 29, 2016

"Tsurzure" by Ishikawa Toraji

Hunched over and engrossed in pictures on the floor that caught my attention after the bath. I am like my cat, curled up on a small, red island of now. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

A Winter Scene by F.E.

A few years ago one of my middle school students gave me a framed copy of this lovely 6" x 4" print of a winter scene. She told me that her grandfather had made it (it is only signed by the initials "FE" carved into the image), and she thought I would enjoy it because I am a printmaker.

She was right. Over the years this gem has occupied various places of honor in my homes. I just moved and it is currently on the desk in my studio where I am typing this blog post.

What I love best about this print is the cheery yellow that lights up the windows in the house and moon as, well as the confident swathe of deep, dark blue that fills the night sky. Oftentimes a black and white woodcut stands well enough on its own and color only flattens not only the sense of space, but the emotional depth of an image. But here I find that the color lends volume to the snow that covers the ground and structures. The freezing temperatures are, too, emphasized by contrast to the warming yellow light. And that sky, by virtue of its distinct hue (if not distinct value) seems all that much more distant and vast.

Winter is humbling.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Hans Frank's Deer

For anyone curious to learn more about the artist Hans Frank, click here.

The young deer sharply turns, points his ears toward the sound. He hears things we don't. Or perhaps more accurately, most of the time, hears things we don't bother to notice. Oh big brain, monkey mind, this great eraser of sights and sounds no longer of any practical use or obvious consequence! What symphonies will never be revealed to me?

I do not envy the deer, this overgrown, ennobled forest rat, despite his large ears, graceful leaps and penetrating gaze. I do not know what it is to be a deer. I can no longer listen to his music than he can comprehend mine.