Monday, February 28, 2011

"Up, Mommy"

2 layer woodcut with hand coloring
Oil based ink and watercolors on Rives BFK
3" x 5" (image) 6" x 8" (paper)

Hello, little one. Tiny hands reach up, signalling a desire to be carried. So easy to scoop you up with my big hands, and at first you seem as light as a feather. At first. You spent almost nine months inside me and sometimes I worry that you want back in.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"Negishi" by Charles W. Bartlett

I enjoy this print even more knowing that the artist, Charles W. Bartlett, grew up in England, but after some world travel, he and his wife decided - somewhat spontaneously - to reside the rest of their days in Hawaii. I'm afraid to go to Hawaii. I wouldn't want to get seduced by all that fine weather.

In this image, a path of footsteps in the otherwise pristine, white snow winds its way toward the cluster of humble shelters and past a lonely, elegant tree. The people wear shallow dome hats. The hats curve down, their shoulders slump, and while they trudge their feet are erased and re-erased with each heavy step. They are weary of snow, but having to share it with everyone they know, they never complain. In contrast to the people, the trees lift up. Their branches are weighted down by snow, but freed of the burden of leaves. The snow falls lightly. It blows off in the slightest wind, melts in a single day of sun. Winter gives the trees an airy quality, a sort of beautiful and temporary death.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

"Between Curtains"

3 layer reduction
5" x 8" (image) 7" x 11" (paper)
Oil-based inks on Masa paper
Edition of 28 plus 2 APs on Kozo paper
Created for Let's Trade Prints relief print exchange

There is a cat in the window. Like many cats in windows he spends a goodly amount of time watching the world drift by, but without much concern. He isn't frequently noticed. The burgundy black-out curtains obscure much of his body, and the pattern on the second curtain and the way the light shines through with various degrees of intensity help distract from what little can still be seen of the cat: a tuft of fur, the tip of an ear or tail. Pull the dark curtain aside and he will look up with a soft gaze. His whiskers and stripes still blend into the lines of the curtains and squares of white sunlight. The patches of white and brown serve as camouflage. He is protected by this, quiet and calm and safe.

Friday, February 18, 2011

"Chasing Light" by Brenda Everett

Image reposted with the permission of the artist. More of Brenda Everett's work can be viewed and purchased on her Etsy Store.

Pat pat pat pat pat pat pat pat
Feet scurrying up the path.
One foot slips in front of the other
Articulately dodging weeds and
Smooth, brown stones that catch the sun's light.
Sunlight outlines the edges of her hair and dress.
Like shimmering water from the sky
It covers eerything.
Pat pat pat pat pat pat pat pat
Her pink dress flaps against her legs,
And brown ponytail bounces with each step.
She runs and runs past
All the long grasses and red tulips
Racing toward some brightly-lit gate,
Some inviting entrance
To a place where girls can be themselves
Beneath the airy blue sky.

Monday, February 14, 2011

"The Kiss" by Edvard Munch

This print reminds me of Brancusi's sculpture The Kiss. With their lips pressed together and arms around each other, the man and woman become a single form. In Brancusi's it is the eyes and overall symmetrical shape that cause the two to be viewed as one. Munch's is a bit more naturalistic; the man and woman maintain their unique sizes and shapes, but are visually joined when the black of their clothing and hair, and the grey of their faces run together creating a single shape. Munch's print is also more expressive in comparison to Brancusi's highly stylized, blockish forms. Here the man bends toward the woman and pulls her body into his embrace. Their arms curve in a lyrical sweep, where in Brancusi's figures the arms read more like inorganic bands fastened around the block. Through these characteristics, Brancusi's piece becomes more cerebral, a thought about or comment on the sort of kiss that shuts the couple off from the world, giving the two as close to a sense of oneness as separate beings such as we humans can reach. Brancusi's sculpture gets me to contemplate the role of physical love in romantic relationships. Munch's on the other hand causes me feel sentimental as I recall such kisses from my own personal history. Although perhaps the most profound difference between the two pieces is the couples' relationships to their environment. As sculptures of two figures joined by focusing in toward each other, Brancusi's Kiss separates them from the world. The sculptures become a sort of timeless monument. In contrast, Munch's couple is embedded in the grain of the space they occupy. At times when I look at this image, I see rain pouring down and the couple holding each other for some shelter and warmth. The streaks of grain move through them, making them transparent. Instead of a timeless monument, their kiss is a transient moment in time. Brancusi's figures are stylized so as to be universal, but the form of these two is simplified by the distance of personal memory.

Friday, February 11, 2011

"Abstraction" (one-eyed beastie)

4 layer reduction
11.25" x 15.5"(image) 15.5" x 21.5" (paper)
Oil-based inks on Masa paper
Edition of 4

I had a block and I wanted to make a print. Nothing in particular came to mind, so I made this abstraction. I think it looks a bit like a bird with teeth eating a seed. Or a squooshy, one-eyed beastie from an alien world. Parts of it also remind me of peacock feathers. And I keep returning to associations with leafy jungles and vines, probably because of the tropical colors. Other people have seen "a cut open piece of fruit" and "vagina with legs."

I'm too close to it to go beyond a literal and representational interpretation right now. Reading anything else into it feels contrived. As far as my intentions went, I wanted to make shapes and lines that complimented the knots and grain of the wood. I wanted to play with gradations and overlapping of certain colors. Making this was fun. Making art should be fun.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

"Powerlines" by Layla Messkoub

Images reposted with permission of the artist. Learn more about Layla Messkoub and her art at her website, blog, or Etsy store.

I take it for granted that nature is beautiful. I think of blooming cherry trees, ocean waves lapping the coastline, and the variety of magnificent sunsets, and sigh with awe. What people make is always ugly by comparison, especially when what we make is primarily made to be functional. Especially when it involves technology. Taut wires instead of tendrils and vines, parallel poles instead of unpredictably curved trunks and branches. And yet, something about this order - straight lines, right angles - is comforting. Perhaps more importantly, this is where most of us live, in cities, where the natural landscape has been overthrown by our settlement. Our noise, air, and light pollution. Our distracting billboards advertising everything from corn chips to razer blades. Our miles upon miles of evenly spaced, mammoth poles fitted with metal coils and connected with crisscrosses of electrified wire. This is installation art on a massive scale. This is transformation. Transmutation. Transcendence. This is a different sort of blue sky.

Monday, February 7, 2011

"Hunger" by Kathe Kollowitz

This is the most devastating of all the Kathe Kollowitz woodcuts I've seen. The artist is known for her powerful prints about extreme poverty and hunger. Here a family of four stare out toward the viewer, their unique suffering emphasized in different ways. The top left seems to be a mother, her infant's starkly highlighted face growing out of the shadow of her left side. Though out of her body, the child is still an extension of her self. Part of her hand gently touches her neck. Her expression nothing more than a stiff frown. Both she and her baby's eyes form a black mask of shared pain and stony resignation. Beside her a man grasps his neck fully and with more expressive desperation as if choking on dust. His mouth and eyes are black holes, empty like his stomach. In one bottom corner a small child is caught frozen in a bright light, holding a spoon close to her chest. We see both of her eyes and bony face staring out with sadness and confusion. The final quadrant of the image is a chasm of empty, black space, and I have always interpreted this as symbolic of both the immediate past and future of this unfortunate family. The empty space seems to be a place where someone else should be, perhaps someone who has already starved to death. It also seems to be the place where the four figures are headed. They are each slipping out of the light into nonexistence, and what little we can see of them pleads for aid.

When Americans think of hunger and starvation, I know that I tend to recall images of emaciated Ethiopian children from commercials. But hunger persists as a problem everywhere in the world, even in the United States, as food banks run out of aid for needy individuals and families. Hunger is the most immediate human need, and feeding the hungry is the most immediate form of charity. I take this opportunity to encourage those with the means to donate to reputable agencies. If, like me, you live in the Delaware Valley region, Philabundance is a wonderful organization to send funds.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

"Yellow Children"

5 layer reduction using 2 different blocks
4" x 4"(image) 5" x 5" (paper)
Oil-based inks on Kozo paper
Edition of 4
Available for sale here.

A girl with many hearts, her face
The color of sunshine,
Ducklings, and daisies
Smiles for the camera, while
Her baby brother,
Equally yellow, strains
To peek into the frame.
(His heart hovers over his head.
He'll soon catch up to it.)
They are up front, in your face
Ready for action, yet
Gazing further on.
They are both here and
Somewhere else (somewhere new?)
And their presence here is
So bright and yellow, as if to say
Clear the intersection,
It's time to slooow dooown.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

"Dinosaur and Embryo" by Arthur Hughes

Image reposted with the permission of the artist. More about Arthur Hughes and his work can be viewed at his website here. Specifically, the rest of his bone studies done from the Museum of Natural History in 1967 can be viewed here.

While the overall shapes convince my rational brain of vertebrae and an embryo, certain characteristics in this print defy that interpretation and cause my imagination to run wild. The lines in the bones seems just a bit too wiggly. The embryo almost seems to have a mohawk of hair. And what does the black circle represent? The more I look, the more I see a leafless tree that bends down beneath a black sun under the weight of some horse-like beastie. Maybe the beastie is a dragon whose wings have been clipped. Perhaps he, the tree, and sun are facing demise. Ah, I've come full circle, back to death. But don't we always ultimately end up there?