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artist talk / closing reception: thursday february 21st, 5-7

February 19, 2013 at 3:23 am

On Thursday, February 21st, from 5-7 pm in the AS220 performance space gallery at 115 Empire St, I’m going to do some kind of artist talk! Which will probably be more like me saying some things about this work, then people asking questions, and we can all talk about language, bodies, complexity, identity, difference, desire, representation, etc…

Also it’s a “closing reception” even though the show will be up for one or two more days after that — I think I have to take it down on Saturday the 23rd. So Thursday night is a nice chance to check it out, among some other humans, but most likely with a smaller group than at the opening (if you were socially overwhelmed, as I know some folks were)! I hope to see you there. (here’s the facebook event, but all the info is also here.)

Also — Greg Cook wrote a nice review of the show in the Providence Phoenix!

drawing fonts / trading projects

February 18, 2013 at 8:46 pm

a person seated at a table trying to draw with a small dog on their lap

Oh, the assistance of a tiny dog… so crucial for drawing this typeface for Liz Novak’s jewelry line / personal-world-creating self-actualization project, With Care… !

Liz (“E. Elizabeth”) is a skilled pal who I don’t get to see often enough, maybe because we both work a ton? or maybe because I am mega distractable and don’t realize that actually months & months have gone by since I have seen some of my friends? Unclear. In any case, it’s unfortunate… and partly with the ulterior motive of ***hangouts*** I asked her for help with the bandana project that I began for the “Practical Tools For Shifting Reality” show at AS220. She had asked me for help with a letterform project at the end of last year (which I had actually forgotten about in the chaos of holiday-sale-december-time — yikes), so it was a great chance for a work/project trade!

Liz is a jewelry-maker, a proud New-Jersey-ite (and also a loyal adopted Providencian like myself), a seamstress at the local bad-ass-lady-run business I’m Your Present, and a SERIOUS flea-market-hunter and collector of visual & graphic ephemera (check the instagram!). She also makes costumes… knows a ton about fabric & sewing & clothing… & has helped me in the past in various self- and gender-actualization-through-clothing-modification projects!

hankies in progress spread out all over a couch, with a cat on the shelf above[photo by liz]

In the lead-up to the AS220 show, she advised me on some of the fabric stuff for the bandanas, did a bunch of ironing, figured out the use of the rolled hem foot on my sewing machine to sew the tight hems, did a bunch of the sewing, and taught me how to use the rolled hem foot so I could keep doing it on my own… Her help was super crucial to that hanky project actually happening. At the end of our second day of working together, Liz said something like “You know what I really like? Working hard.” I never really think about this, possibly I just take it for granted? But I’m on the same page. And indeed, working hard together was especially fun.

hemmed & folded hankies...[photo by liz]

It helped that the bandanas looked super awesome when we were done!

In return for helping with that project, she had asked me to help her with font & logo design for With Care… which I was super psyched to do, since I had just been in the very rewarding realm of drawing lots of fonts/letterforms for the show.

two words, "correia" and "fabrik", in 1920's letters

Liz had collected together a bunch of objects, decorative items, and (of course) historic letterforms, which I (of course) love looking at, and which gave me an idea of what kind of letters she was interested in for the logotype, and some graphic/visual context to work from…

the back cover of an old magazine titled "your health", with the titles of articles

two words, "charm" and "ferragamo", in old typefaces

So we sat around & talked about different kinds of letterforms (& various other important community news, what some might disparage as ‘gossip’, but is actually crucial) and I drew some letters! It’s a pure delight to take this set of letterform-drawing skills that I have & turn it towards creating a ‘brand’ identity for someone a) who is a friend, b) whose taste I really respect, c) who also respects my aesthetic judgment, and d) who has a very strong vision for what the aesthetic world of their creative project/business is. Wearing my ‘designer’ hat, it’s really nice to be able to perceive someone’s aesthetic and try to follow & amplify it! I hope I succeeded…

Getting ready for some kerning — the letters in “CARE” are awkwardly spaced here, and I wanted to even out the curve to make it more symmetrical:

a drawing of letters with overlapping curving guidelines

The drawing scenario, with bright light (clip lamp) at Liz’s kitchen table, showing bristol board (original drawing), tracing paper (kerned letters), and small black jewelry box which this rectangle is designed to eventually go on:

different tracings of letters "with care" arranged on a table

Final drawing, with gemstone — somehow I have never drawn a gemstone before?

a person's hands holding a tracing of a gemstone onto a drawing of letters
[photo by liz]

Next steps for this guy are a little bit of cutting & pasting, to make it fit the differently-proportioned rectangles that Liz needs (Etsy-store header banner, two different jewelry boxes, postcard), rubylith cut-out (to get clean-but-slightly-wobbly lines without using a computer), scan rubylith & clean up on the computer. At some point I might draw some different versions of it at different weights or with a three-dimensional shadow on it… infinite possibilities… !


postscript: Clearly, the “animal in proximity to project” scenario is not unfamiliar to me:

a person seated at a table trying to draw with a small dog on their lap [Martin, at Liz’s house]

a person trying to work at a computer with a cat sitting between them and the computer [Buio, at my house]

“practical tools for shifting reality” – snapshots & statement

February 7, 2013 at 3:10 pm

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The show is up! & I am on to the next projects (and of course finishing the things that I didn’t have time to complete for the show itself!). Here is an assortment of snapshot-based documentation, plus the artist statement — written the night before the opening, but based on ideas that have been rumbling around for a couple years now, as usual.

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Practical Tools for Shifting Reality
artist statement

I was a nearsighted, nerdy, artistic, attention-hungry, weird little kid: fascinated by printed objects around me, terrified of losing unique things (and pretty much everything, even trash, fell into this category), captivated by odd dreams of creating my own brand of notebooks, and compelled to learn to draw horses realistically. The horses thing kind of faded away (for the better, probably), and I long ago stopped collecting boogers & dust balls (for the better, definitely), but the rest of it remained — along with all the drawing practice I had done, and the terror of loss — as a great recipe for becoming a meticulous maker of screenprinted posters.

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Additionally, I was a boyish kid who didn’t really understand why she couldn’t be in the Boy Scouts, have short hair like her brothers, or be called “Keith” on a regular basis. In recent years, as I realized that I didn’t actually have to be “a girl”, and became aware of the validity and realness of my gender variance, I worried that much and maybe all of my single-minded, perfectionist, intense-work-ethic art- & poster-making had been born from the combination of the attention-hungry kid with the teenage girl who didn’t identify at all with her perceptible, supposedly “girl” body. This person figured out that if they could draw the most complicated drawings, make them into neat-looking screenprints, and distribute them, that people would pay more attention to the images than to the physicality of the human behind them…

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This tactic worked for almost a decade; it was a good one! But it stopped working when I realized I had the chance to figure out an embodiment and a physical presence that would potentially feel more true to myself. The fact that the posters were no longer the point of my life revealed the fact that they had been: that much of my identity and even my physical presence in the world was wrapped up in the work I had made. For a long while after that, when I was working on art, it felt like I was actively avoiding having a gendered body — a continuation, perhaps, of the avoidance/distraction/dazzle-camouflage scenario that I had been constructing for so many years.

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At the same time, I knew that that was not the only purpose my work had served. As a poster-maker with my art practice founded in my community of friends, I knew that screenprinted posters & prints, distributed as limited multiples, become important objects to other humans, and carry strong associations for everybody whose lives they touch: “that was the gallery opening where my partner and I first kissed”, “that was the last show in our house before we got evicted”, “that was my favorite building before they tore it down”, “that poster was above our kitchen sink for six years, I looked at it every day…”

These printed objects hold power for creating our lives & realities, for piecing our stories together, for sharing them with each other, based on memory, imagination, delight, the irrational, the impossible, the failed & beautiful. Shared self-made graphics allow our lives to be located outside of a dominant or market-logic paradigm, through a visual language that we teach each other & make up together as we go along. I realized that I wanted to turn this power towards furthering validity for trans, queer, and gender-variant existences like mine — towards making complexity visible, and by showing what I saw of it, to create chances for further complexity in the world.

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I wanted to put visual tools in the hands of others like myself, who might occasionally need a reminder that they are real, when from many sides they are told that their existences are impossible. I also wanted to get to do more of the practices that are the most engaging & interesting for me — drawing, first of all, and also printing, but not printing epic, grueling editions (which I do enough of already): “fun printing.”

So, the work brought together in the gallery here is a beginning stab at both those projects. There are lots of hand-drawn words & letterforms, which hopefully reveal my discovery & delight in the drawing of them as well as the self-imposed limits (and also delights!) of following a system, creating a graphic space that is coherent and includes weirdness, and learning deeply from drawing things seen in the world around me.

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The “word prints” (the ones in white frames, two of which are in the photos below) are a group in which there are no mistakes. Each one is different; every print that gets made is part of the continuing whole, and any strange or unexpected color layer simply presents a challenge to figure out what the next layer and color on that print will be, and/or a (parallel) challenge to understand the existing combination as complete and unified.

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All of this work involves interference between patterns, scales & layers, as well as colors and images overlapping by chance and by intention. Language as action, graphics as tools, words as accumulated structures. Printed things as evidence of thought, of having an idea & making it real & sharing it with the people around you, providing them yet another piece of structural existence to build their own selves with. The dissonant territory between “reading” and “looking”, between up close & from across the room, between what we can see & what we can’t see. Creating reality, creating our bodies and existences, and the world around us, through strategic and/or magical language and significant objects — as well as through improvisation, accident, making do with what is there, making it into something else, making it into what we want to see in the world…

February 1, 2013

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[from the wall with the letterform drawings on index cards, this text says: “To wrap something in stories rather than in theory is to let words work at its strangeness rather than at its credibility. — Robin Evans, Translations From Drawing to Building” … I couldn’t resist the (un-posed) reflection of a gallery visitor reading the hanky tags near the opposite wall…]

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[I drew & printed the bandanas — the color is ink, the white lines are negative space, Liz Novak and I hemmed them all on the sewing machine! Somewhat impulsively, in the middle of a late night, I sent some emails asking the people who had requested a specific color how they wear their hanky (or hankies), what color(s), and why… It soon became clear that those statements would be a really crucial part of the project, and that the accumulation of different colors of hankies and of written statements of visible desires, attached to these significant, coded, yet potentially infinitely varying objects, is its own project and will probably go on for a while… If you’d like to contribute thoughts about how & why you wear a hanky, please get in touch!]

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[“…starting the revolution by publicly announcing the object of your desire, and asking in public who desires you…” this Guy Hocquenghem quote was on the wall of hankies/bandanas.]

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[this Robert Venturi quote has been kicking around on the bulletin boards in my room for about four years… I think I’ve finally made some of the work that can properly have this text displayed alongside it, in my general realm of “thinking about bodies like thinking about buildings”, and possibly even “thinking about words like thinking about bodies”…]

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[A friend bought this little print, which is a rectangle cut from a chaotic test print that I have been printing on since 2010 or earlier… the orange curlicue & blue-gray rectangles are elements of a test from when Meg Turner was printing this poster in my studio a couple of years ago!]

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[The “our complexity is the world” print, originally made for this portfolio, serves as the textual & conceptual backbone of all the work in this show, I hope…]

[below, a shot from while I was installing… (if you haven’t, please read Mark Aguhar’s blog.) These are re-prints of the stickers that Meg Powers & other friends & I made this summer; they’ve now been Risographed by Walker Mettling (and look beautiful but the ink is smudgy, so they don’t make great stickers as such — it was experimental anyways!)… BUT look how nice & serious & real things look when they are behind a little sheet of glass!]

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giving all my (rubylith) secrets away…

February 6, 2013 at 8:17 pm

So, I’ve written a bunch before on here about this red-and-clear double-layered-plastic that I use all the time called rubylith… and I’ve written a little bit about getting to teach Noel (below) and Priscilla how to use it, and about past classes I’ve taught at the New Orleans Community Printshop and at my house.

Now I’m bringing the whole weird set of rubylith & transparent color screenprinting skills that I’ve developed over the past bunch of years to a class at the AS220 Printshop here in Providence.

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So… are you interested in learning how to cut clean-line rubylith stencils and set up multi-layer transparent-color silkscreen prints *without* the aid of a computer? while experimenting with color & rainbow rolls? and spending time getting nerdy with other silkscreen enthusiasts? If so, you should consider taking this class!

It’s on Wednesday evenings, 6-10pm, February 20-March 13 (with one extra evening class session — a printing/experimentation open shop time with the instructor (me!) — to be planned based on students’ schedules). The cost is $150. Details & registration info here.

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Last night I went by AS220 Industries‘ open house to show some student work from previous rubylith/transparent-color/hand-cut-color-separation classes I’ve taught… and to talk (semi-coherently, I hope — I was tired…) to potential students about what the class will cover.

In the photo above, these (unfinished-state) projects from my earlier classes on the same subject are by (clockwise from top left) Kitty O’Connor, Vanessa Adams, and Jori Ketten… and below is a poster I made that has more than two colors, but uses the same techniques of overlapping transparent colors, printed from hand-cut rubylith layers, with no “key” (or outline) layer, to create an image.

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from the class description (that I wrote in a very excitable state, late at night, a couple months ago):

What will students learn & get out of this class?

Students will learn a bunch of different advanced silkscreen techniques and methods: precision alignment, rainbow rolls, using transparent ink colors, complicated hand-cut stencils, careful ink management & printing techniques (including the “plastic mountain”!). They’ll try out a strategy for thinking about color separations & color graphics that will hopefully apply to various different artistic pursuits. We’ll also get to experiment with colors, inks, & printing in a low-pressure way — allowing ourselves to not have an end goal but to see what looks interesting & to try new things that might look weird. Oh, and each student will also make a good-looking finished print of their own, and we’ll do some kind of print trade at the end so we all get a copy of everybody’s print…

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[Kitty O’Connor looks at different color versions of her print, at the end of the class in New Orleans]

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[two-layer print by Rachel Speck]

Each class participant will be making a two-layer print based on a photographic image — we’ll be keeping it *relatively* simple for the print we make in the class, so everybody has time to figure out rubylith, and to experiment with colors and inks — but the concepts & techniques will be applicable to further projects. Vanessa Adams, who took this class with me in New Orleans, put the techniques immediately to work, making the poster that this image is a detail from right after the class was over:

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One of the most exciting things for me about teaching screenprinting is seeing how people use what they have learned in the next things they make…

What is the benefit of hand-cutting stencils for silkscreening?

One of my teachers, David Gersten, when asked why he doesn’t use a computer to make drawings, because “it would be faster and save you time”, responds, “Why would I want to spend less time thinking?” Any process that is done by hand, engaging with the physical, material world rather than the immateriality of a screen, offers a chance for our thinking, made manifest in our hands and bodies, to interact with the world around us… and the energy (conflict, friction, complexity, resolution!) of that interaction is always evident in the resulting work.

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[Will Bowling working on the rubylith transparencies for his print of his church, below]

Cutting rubylith stencils is drawing with a knife — and instead of your line having a thickness, you are actually cutting a perfect Euclidean geometric line — it has no existence of its own, it just exists as the division of two things.* Then through screenprinting, that line gets filtered through another material interaction and becomes the division between ink and paper, ink & the ink below it, ink & the other layers of light & ink passing through & reflecting off the ink & the paper. Okay?! Also they’re beautiful.

Hand-cut stencils aren’t right for every scenario, but they’re perfect for situations where you want a sharp edge on your graphics and a clean division between colors, and where you want to cover large areas with solid expanses of ink, and where you want to simplify and stylize complicated forms into graphic shapes.

*credit goes to Jacob Berendes for this astute observation!

Some more student work:

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[two-layer print by Emmy Bright]

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[two-layer print, unfinished state, by Will Bowling]

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[different color versions of a two-layer print by Walker Mettling]

What are some of the results and rewards for experimenting with color?

Oh geez, how to answer this question? What are the rewards for experimenting with anything? You see things you wouldn’t have thought of doing if you hadn’t tried them, you get new ideas for things to try next, and you maybe find the perfect weird color combination for your project. Or you just get to play around in unfamiliar territory. We’ll be sharing ink colors and color combinations with each other, so we’ll be challenging each other to use colors we wouldn’t ordinarily use! Often with screenprinting, we are content to stick with what we know or with “poster colors” straight out of the jar from the store — this class will just be pushing a little ways out of that territory, hopefully to everyone’s satisfaction.

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[transparent color overlay test strips by Li Pallas]

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[two-layer print by Kitty O’Connor]

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[two-layer print by Hannah Jegart]

If you’re intrigued, here’s the extended class description, and here’s some very specific details and how to register!


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