Sunday, September 17, 2017

Sketchbook Sunday: Barred Owl on Handmade Paper

This year I learned to make paper. I learned about and made paper along with campers at the Community Arts Center with Summer Spree Fellow Carol Gannon. I took workshops with Cozy Bendesky at Historic Rittenhouse Town, using seeds, leaves, and flower pedals, and plants, and then did the open vats workshop.

So now I have all this random handmade paper, some of which I have plans to print on, but lots of which I have no plans for yet. And I've been really lazy about doing my Sketchbook Sundays, so the obvious solution is to start drawing on some of this lovely paper. Here's my first attempt: a barred owl in flight.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

"Sunset Glow at Sakurajima" by Hideo Hagiwara Hideo

We claw our way up and tumble back down, and now drift by, slowly, silently, in the waning light of day, witnessing the exquisite aftermath of erosion.

Friday, September 15, 2017

"Moth" by Paul Shaub

Butterflies get all the glory,
But the moth flittering under the moonlight

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Pilgrimage to Dog Mountain

Last week I finally made it to Dog Mountain, the home of artist Stephen Huneck's gallery and Dog Chapel in Saint Johnsbury, Vermont. I have been a great fan of Huneck's colorful woodcuts for years. I first wrote about his work in 2011 on the one-year anniversary of Huneck's passing.

This year was the perfect time for my family to take this trip. For one, we said goodbye to our beloved, 19-year-old cat Aubrey a few months ago, and were able to pay tribute to him at the Dog Chapel. For another thing, we just adopted our first dog - a friendy, spunky Australian Shepherd named Choban.

These are some of the photographs I took while visiting Dog Mountain. I highly recommend the trip for any lovers of dogs, cats, woodcuts, and wood carvings. More information about the place can be found at the website.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Dinosaur Monotype

Well, the school year has certainly hit the ground running. My mind is packed full of curriculum I've been designing and trying to learn the names of all my new students.

This is a monotype of a dinosaur I made this week. I don't have much to say about it other than I like it and it was fun to make.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Margaret Preston and Cultural Appropriation

I've always aesthetically enjoyed carvings and paintings of Australian Aborigine culture. Recently I became curious about whether any contemporary indigenous Australian artists had translated their traditional styles into works including woodcut printmaking. But all my searches are overwhelmed with the fine art prints of Margaret Preston.

Preston was a highly prolific and acclaimed modernist painter and printmaker. Last year I blogged about her The Bark Bag. Much of Preston's work directly references Aboriginal styles and motifs by integrating them into her compositions. Many works, such as the one featured here, are essentially reproductions of indigenous works. Seeing all this, I began to assume that Preston must be at least partially of Aboriginal ancestry. But she was not.

Preston was drawn to the Aboriginal work for many of the same reasons I am - based on aesthetic arrangements that struck her as fresh, striking, and beautiful. When interpreted through the philosophical lens of Modernism and imitated by her, Preston thought such styles and motifs to have universally appealing qualities that would transcend cultural and ethnic boundaries between people of European and indigenous ancestry, and thus be employed to establish a distinct and unified national art for Australia.

But what these imitations and Modernist interpretations also do is negate the meaning and purpose the original, indigenous works had for the people who created them. When I view works by indigenous peoples' (or historical works of art, for that matter) they are accompanied by information that sets them in context, presumably because that context is of utmost significance to fully understanding the works. The art and the anthropology cannot be separated without losing something essential to the work. I first viewed artwork by contemporary Australian Aborigine artists at the U Penn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, and included were written, photo, and video explanations that attempted to give outsiders such as myself some broader understanding of what the works meant. Sure, I still enjoy the works on a purely aesthetic level, and I also cannot help but interpret them in my own way based largely on how my mind and eye have been trained to see them. But I don't pretend that my artistic sensibility - that is influenced by my own subjective cultural experiences - is somehow more universal and of greater significance than that of the artists foreign to me.

We cannot help but be influenced by what we see all around us. Picasso's art was profoundly effected by his exposure to traditional African sculptures and masks. Matisse's art was heavily influenced by his exposure to Japanese wood block prints. Japanese art has been influenced by waves of exposure to foreign cultures (primarily Chinese) transformed and made their own by Japanese artists. I don't know if there is a hard line between cultural misappropriation and the sort of cultural diffusion that is inevitable and oftentimes transformative.

Sadly, I don't find many of Margaret Preston's works which obviously feature Aboriginal styles and motifs transformative. The references are too blatant. Maybe I'm missing something, but many strike me as little more than the observational studies of an outsider. Like when an art student sits in a museum making a copy of a masterwork.