right now!     ian g. cozzens updates, news, photos, and thoughts

breaking time & space at Slater Mill

May 31, 2014 at 10:46 pm

I just busted out a project that I am really excited about. I finally got to make some really big three-dimensional letters… it is for a show celebrating labor protest history… and it is in a great old industrial building.

slater_n

It is part of a show at Slater Mill Historic Site, a museum that is in the location of the first installation of the “Arkwright Method” of factory textile production in the United States. The exhibit is called The Mother Of All Strikes, focusing on the first factory labor walkout in US history, which happened at Slater Mill in 1824 when women loom operatives walked off their jobs and protested successfully for the restoration of their cut wages. It’s up till July 31st so there is lots of time to check it out — if you want to see it, contact me (secretdoorprojects@gmail) and I think it’s possible to arrange a free visit.

The show includes historical information & imagery, as well as artwork made specifically for it by Christine Ashley, Chelsea Carl, Priscilla Carrion, and Kristina Brown, and me!

I don’t have great pictures of the final installation yet, but here are some process shots and blurry phone pictures of the real thing, with more writing & good pictures to follow!

Slater Mill’s interior, with various textile machines from different eras (some still operational!):

conversation_05

A little chunk of a project description I wrote for a reporter this week:

The piece I made for Slater Mill, and for the anniversary of the 1824 strike, is called, straightforwardly, “Autonomía” — which translates to “Autonomy” in English. The large letters (made of cardboard and silk-screened paper) are staggered in space and take over six bays of the factory building, getting in people’s way — just a little bit! — as they walk around. From one end of the building you can see that they spell a word; from other viewpoints, the shapes of the letters are visible but it’s not quite clear how they fit together.

The idea of autonomy is the idea that everyone should have control over their own lives, projects, work, and associations — it’s a specific way of talking about freedom that is about self-determination and cooperation as well as about independence.

The word was created using a perspectival illusion, based on combining an architectural drawing with a drawing of the letterforms. The furthest-away letters are the largest, and as they come towards you they get smaller, so from a specific viewpoint they all appear to be the same size, floating in space, not subject to the rules of perspective. This was a way of breaking the ordered, regular spacing of the building’s structure, which was part of the control system that Slater & his partners imposed on their workers. The word is only legible in denial of the factory’s regularity, contradicting how objects are “supposed to” behave in space.

I wanted to connect workers’ struggles today to the struggles of workers in the past, and make it clear that the fight continues — right now, with the struggles of fast-food workers across the U.S. and here in Rhode Island for a $15-an-hour minimum wage, among many other battles. The word is in Spanish to allow it to communicate directly to Spanish-speaking museum visitors — and to remind English-speaking visitors that these struggles are happening all over the Americas and the world. (And also to make it clear that I am *not* quoting the 1824 workers, since we don’t have any first-hand quotes from their speeches or meetings in the historical record.)

Some epic process notes….!

Based on the building’s plan, and on my own measurements of vertical elements, I made a perspective drawing (here ghosted out under a couple layers of vellum) and then drew the letters of the word I wanted to build in such a way that it would fit into the museum’s space:

slater_dwg1

Here’s a detail of projecting the letters, these largest ones cut up into overlapping pieces, back in space onto the “picture plane” (a perspective-drawing concept, the plane where all the elements have a “true height” to scale) to figure out how large I would have to build them to get them to look the same height in person…

slater_dwg3

The largest letter was six feet three inches tall, the smallest was about 18 inches tall.

(Most of this drawing was made on a drafting desk with a parallel ruler, but I did have to take it to my parents’ house in Philadelphia with me when I went back for a family wedding in the middle of the crunch time… here it is on their dining room table, with the plan of Slater Mill above the perspective drawing…)

slater_dwg2

The thing I wish I’d done differently in the drawing process: I should have made the original plan at a larger scale; it should have been 1 foot to 1/4 inch instead of 1/8 inch! (or even bigger?) Then I would have had more ability to get accurate detail from the drawing instead of having to do complicated proportional translation. Luckily I had this trusty analog tool:

proportional_scale

The proportional scale! Which I don’t use all the time, but when I do use it, I can’t think of anything that could replace it.

Drawings were scaled up and then transferred to cardboard. I got all this two-ply bike-box cardboard which was nice & rigid (thanks, bike shop pals!), and perfect for being able to create a gluing surface on the edges, by peeling off one layer of corrugation, and bending back the other layer to give the hot glue something to hold on to.

Draw letter, add a 3/8″ border, cut partway through & peel:

slater_edge3

Cut through the middle flat layer:

slater_edge2

Gently bend back the bottom corrugated layer, and squish the corrugations down:

slater_edge4

Cut two-inch strips of cardboard and hot-glue them to the folded-down edges (the paper-wrapped bricks are weights to hold the whole thing in place & keep the glued parts pressed tight together while the glue cools):

slater_edge5

If you drop your razor knife with the blade fully extended like that, don’t try to catch it! (I didn’t… but just barely)

Some complete letters stacked in a nice-looking pile…

slater_edge6

Each letter had its height divided in four, and I made four stripes of this pink paper that Alison Nitkiewicz & I screenprinted more than two years ago

slater_os

(the Os extend a little beyond the top & bottom line of the letters, so they got a tiny stripe of another color pink added on the top…)

The biggest letters (the first ones that were done!) loaded in the van to go to the mill (and yes, the colors did look completely different in the daylight vs. in the studio lighting):

slater_van

Late nite install:

slater_ext

Scøtt was a crucial, crucial helper in the hanging process, I really wouldn’t have gotten it done without his help… the timeframe was tight enough that we didn’t take any installation shots except this one, when we were almost done:

slater_hang

Jeremy Ferris took this nice picture at the opening, really showing the size & scale of the largest letters:

jeremy

And here are another couple pictures I took as things were winding down:

slater_opening

slater_full

And… just some of the smaller scraps of pink paper left over in the studio afterwards:

slater_scraps2


… and while we’re looking at letters, here are two variant proportions for the same letters from stops along the C subway line in Brooklyn.

These are different shapes, to fit a different size panel & with different street names (the first one is Nostrand Ave, the second one is Kingston-Throop Av), so the angles are all different… BUT the small tiles are the same size, and the “style guide” for how the tiles are cut and placed is the same, including the extension of the top point of the A and bottom point of the V past the bounding line for the rest of the letters.

nostrand_ave

kingston-throop-av

Things I like to look at!

I have been posting a lot of found letterforms, also cool architectural things, process work, and occasional cats, on my instagram recently, I’ve been really psyched about that format for internet interaction… follow if you’re into it!

“I feel like… sometimes…” (in the new year, part 2!)

April 3, 2014 at 5:50 am

Yikes, I meant to write about this a while ago! The short version: I have a piece in a show at the Carpenter Center at Harvard U. in Cambridge, MA; it’s up till April 6th, 2014; you can see it for free. The whole show is vast & awesome, featuring some hyperlocal as well as global “social practice / art & activism” projects. The work in the show is generally extremely generous, inspiring, & great.

My piece was made specifically for this show and context, & the way you look at it (through a viewport hole, at a certain height) is an important part of it! I hope all y’all New Englanders get a chance to check it out before Monday!

More details & background follow…

sometimes_01

Late last year, I was asked to be part of a group installation along with other former and current members of the Dirt Palace, a feminist / women’s art space here in Providence. My relationship to the Dirtpal has always been a little complicated, which meant I didn’t automatically agree to participate… but I did my research about the larger show that the installation was going to be a part of, called Living As Form, and the approach the Dirt Palace’s owners were taking to the whole thing — asking every person who had ever been a member of the space to contribute a piece of their current art that would be assembled into an installation — and I got psyched about making something… also because one of my stated goals for 2014 was to “make more three dimensional letters”, and this would give me a chance to do it.

So then in the fall I was really really busy, with the fall & holiday art sale seasons, moving stuff out of Building 16, my show at URI, etc. The first two weeks of January I spent doing a lot of house & general life projects that had gotten put off since, like, September… Then in the third week of January I realized that the deadline for the Dirt Palace installation was upon me! So I worked really hard for FIVE DAYS (!?) & busted out a thing.

sometimes_02

I had known I wanted to make a three-dimensional diorama, based on the awesome time I had had making the poster for my show… the Dirtpal folks had given me the maximum dimensions that the work needed to fit within, and I had told them that I wanted a 6″-diameter hole in the wall that all the art works / dioramas / slide-viewers were going to be set behind. I built this box out of plywood… & made a cardboard mock-up to show the placement of the viewing port… & started drawing and cutting out letters.

sometimes_03

sometimes_04

sometimes_08

The words in the box make a sentence that is a lil’ joke on me, a lil’ joke on Dirt Palace house meetings, and also a really true idea that might be the most important thing I learned while participating in the group processes & workdays of the Dirt Pal.

(…and I’m not gonna say “it’s supposed to be illegible”, cause that’s a little bit of a cop-out, but I will say “it is definitely intentional that it should take a certain amount of effort to read” — that’s for real.*)

sometimes_06

sometimes_05

sometimes_10

sometimes_11

sometimes_12

sometimes_13

This was fun fun fun to make and I worked really directly and I moved things around and when I liked where they were (from the viewpoint determined by the porthole) I glued them down with hot glue. YES! (ahem, excuse me, “thermoplastic adhesive”…) Part of the reason I hope folks can go see this in its installed context is that it is meant to be seen from a specific angle and I don’t know when the next chance will be to display it that way…

Also because it was made specifically about the Dirt Palace, and for this show Living as Form which talks about “social practices” and “community engaged art” and a whole bunch of other buzzwords which I am all for as real things, but which, as words, often get bandied around without people’s feet being on the ground. In figuring out what to make, I wondered: what is a way I can talk about real horizontality, true non-hierarchy? And I feel that, like washing your own dishes, shutting up can be a deeply radical act — especially when practiced by those who aren’t often required to shut up (aka. white, masculine-appearing know-it-alls like myself). !!!

sometimes_14

ALSO! the whole Dirt Palace installation wall (seen above) is great, and does an excellent job of celebrating the history of the building and the contributions of all the alumnae (& alumni) of the D.Pal — while also extending to all those people an opportunity to have their current personal work showcased in an international show, at a fancy institution.

So much work went into the installation on the part of Pippi Zornoza and Xander Marro, Arley-Rose Torsone who drew the wall text, and many other helpers & installation workers, not to mention all the artists themselves! The labor of all the people who have worked to build the Dirt Palace into what it is today often gets erased in the magical-seeming glow of the physical building as a desirable object, and by the oft-told, simple narrative that tends to glorify the owners of the building… and it’s way more complicated than that. This installation begins to get at the multifariousness of the 40+ people who have lived & worked at the Dirtpal over the past 14 years!

groupshot_small

In some aspects, this felt like a reunion — though we didn’t all live at the Dirt Palace at the same time, of course — and this was actually the first time I had really met a couple of these people. I was struck by the honor and delight I felt at being able to exist in this awesome company — being able to be associated with this intense, thoughtful, & creative multigenerational crew.

Here’s the one other piece in the Dirt Palace wall that I took a picture of, “Chosen Family” by the brilliant Samuel Lopes:

sometimes_15

And here’s a picture from what was, in my opinion, the best project of the show, whereby a Harvard Business School associate seated at a desk offers financial advice to gallery-goers… the associate puts each question through a pneumatic tube through the wall behind them… on the other side of the wall, a child writes an answer to the question and sends it back. !

sometimes_16


Some close-ups of my “RIGHT” letters, which kinda get lost in the back of the diorama… construction process:

sometimes_19

Graphite, white colored pencil, and watercolor on pink paper:

sometimes_20


and… infinite shout outs from me & JR to the butches, fags, gender-non-conforming folks, & queers of the dirt palace and the hive archive (its previous, collective incarnation)! “we are everywhere, making foolish smiles”

sometimes_17

(n.b. all photos by me, except for: Emmy Bright took the “horses” picture & the picture of me & JR… and I am not sure who took the group Dirt Palace picture, I snagged it off their blog!)


*if your device can’t display the hover-over title text on the diorama images, the sentence is: “I feel like… sometimes… to create a truly anti-authoritarian space, … the people who know the *right* way to do things… might just have to… shut up…(question mark)?”

cutting up nice things

October 16, 2013 at 6:58 pm

Finally I get my act together to make some three dimensional letters. This has been a written-down goal on the list for about 3 years now.

Three-dimensional letters, version one:

  • freehand-cut slightly ‘wacky’ letters out of overlapping test print
  • cut meticulous z-axis part out of screenprinted paper, with lots of lil tabs, tiny folds, & vigorous cursing
  • glue z-axis part to back of letter with white glue, toothpick, bone folder, and more cursing
  • glue traced/cut copy of letter (out of orange paper) to the back of the z-axis part to complete ‘box’ of letter
  • realize they look cooler incomplete, also this is taking WAY too darn long, so leave a bunch incomplete (for now)

3d-letters_00

3d-letters_01

3d-letters_02

3d-letters_03

three-dimensional letters, version two:

  • take an old print of which you have a lot of non-edition/”slightly messed up” copies that have been sitting around in the studio for 3+ years
  • cut letters out of it, slice slice! selecting for cool color/pattern moments
  • use a little template card to get the angle and widths consistent, curves are by eye/hand
  • cut up a lot of cardboard pieces, don’t cut yourself or hurt your wrist, ok?
  • stack stack stack!

3d-letters_04

3d-letters_041
(template guy, knife for scale)

3d-letters_05

3d-letters_06

3d-letters_07

Okay!

roll over, more to come

September 30, 2013 at 2:05 am

This was the ten-thousandth (at least) picture taken on my little camera:

next_things_01

The other day, the camera created a new folder on the card & started putting pictures in it, and I was like “huh?” until I noticed that the first image in that new folder was titled IMG_0001.jpg. Looking back, the first picture I took on the camera seems to have been IMG_1576.jpg, so I’ve taken eight thousand four hundred and twenty four pictures since March of 2011… & a bunch more photos must have been taken by its previous owner (I can’t imagine that he only took 1575 pictures with it, but it’s possible?)… (and it’s a canon powershot sd1000 “digital elph”, if you’re curious.)

So, good going, lil camera! Thanks for being tough & sturdy, fitting snugly in my pocket, having decent battery life, and letting me take literally thousands of pictures of manhole covers, building details, hand-drawn letters, and cool-looking cats, etc etc, that I am happy to have recorded somewhere, even if they may never see the light of day…


I realized that in the last post I totally forgot about two other event-type things that are happening soon! Crap!

October 2nd through November 2nd, in Lowell, MA, some of my poster work is going to be part of a show at Zeitgeist Gallery, called “The Message is the Medium: Prints, Propaganda, and Persuasion”. There are two opening events, one Thursday Oct. 10, 6-9 pm, and another Saturday Oct. 26, 6-9 pm. Lowell is having a celebration of printmaking (?!) this fall and the folks at Zeitgeist decided to showcase political print work, and asked me & some other Providence artists to be part of the show. I don’t know what it’s gonna look like but I am excited to go & check it out, and I’ll try to make it to at least one of the openings! (Lowell is a really, really beautiful mill town… and when I’m there I’m gonna be looking around to catch a glimpse of a cat, so I can make the dumbest joke ever….)

Here in Providence, on Sunday, October 20th, from 2-4pm, I’ll be doing a presentation about my methods & process of working on things by hand, and leading a conversation about intractable, flawed physicality, at the RISD Museum.

material_banner_flat

My talk/presentation/conversation is called “Material Resistance”, it’s a “Demo & Discourse” event in the “One Room” series of presentations that is part of their “Locally Made” show happening now through November 3rd.

Confused? I am too, a little bit. But it should be good, I like showing & talking about my process work (as readers of this blog already know), and I’m excited to get to link the materiality / immateriality of the artwork I do with the materiality / immateriality of the body, language, and body+language stuff I think about a lot. RISD Museum admission is free on Sundays! FREE!

Here’s the statement for that talk, which I just re-wrote & expanded from what’s actually on their website at the moment… hopefully they’ll switch it up…

I’ll show some of the layered process work and test sheets from my silkscreen prints, and some recent drawings of buildings & spaces in Providence & the surrounding area, and maybe some other new projects. I’m interested in talking about how the physical substance of the world is crucial and everpresent — and always incoherent and stubbornly inaccurate. We muster up all these tools to bring our worlds into being, whether they are pencil, ink, & paper; structural and sheathing elements of the buildings we create for ourselves to live in; or the ways we dress, modify, and present our bodies to enable our existences… and even though all these attempts will fail us in one way or another… we do them anyways!?

ian_cozzens_risdmuseum_smaller

I will also probably talk about screenprinting as a one-, two-, and three-dimensional medium… and about dazzle camouflage as queer protective/illusive body strategy, via analysis of scale and pattern in architecture… just some things I’ve been thinking about recently all the time…


next_things_06

Today I got to hang out with Tara Cavanaugh and do some co-directing, kind of, of some video documentation of my process & existence…? It was fun, we noodled around the Paragon Worsted Mills building and Tara took some footage of me drawing on the drawing of the loading dock alley that I’ve been working on (slowly!) since April 2012… and she got psyched on the afternoon-light-gorgeousness of that seemingly infinitely complex structure; it was cool to share that building with a friend…

next_things_05

Then we walked up Manton Ave to the house & she documented my visually hectic studio and me cutting tiny rubylith things (last steps on the power station rubylith!), and then we did a hopefully cool process walkthrough of shooting a screen, washing it out, setting it up, and printing! Bam! It will be very useful (as a teaching & explaining tool) to have this all well documented; I will share it here when it’s done!

Here is (slightly sloppy) evidence of demonstration printing of the 1-color version of the power station print; it’s come a long way from back in May

next_things_02


Well there’s already been some building details on here, but we need our hand-drawn letters, stuff on the ground (no manhole covers this time, sorry), and cool cats… in the interest of letting photos see the light of day, here you go!

Hand-painted sign plus doughboy doll from Mr. Doughboy in northern R.I.:

next_things_04

Some squished garbage that is totally gonna be the beginning of some art thing:

next_things_07

Rowan and a kitten on a string!

next_things_03

ephemera / evidence

June 20, 2012 at 6:30 am

I think Alison took these pictures…

This was us interpolating ourselves into the Pride parade here this past Saturday. I drew/painted and built two giant banners (and got them across town) in like 4 hours the afternoon before the parade? (That question mark signifies my disbelief that this actually happened.) There was awesome help from Christiane, Chris G, Olivia, Nathan, Alison, Katie, Rowan, & more. The other big banner said “Free CeCe“. I also drew & painted the ACT UP banner that you can see obscuredly in the background of both photos…

Featured in these photos are the awesome nitili, kidbijou, and patchthatsweater!

Also, Meg Powers & I made these stickers, with a bunch of slogan inspiration from other friends… Meg drew the drippy triangles & the grody tongue-&-fingers combo, I drew allll the letters! We passed them out during the parade, people really liked “Stonewall didn’t have sponsors” but were somehow not as into “Gay END Marriage!”


(downloadable 400dpi print version)

“get em, print em on sticker paper, cut em up, destroy the souls of your fellow townspeople”

Here’s what my friend & colleague newspaper publisher Jacob P. Berendes has to say about witnessing your work become garbage, in this recent interview in the Providence Phoenix:

It’s stuff like seeing it as trash blowing down the street. It was raining one time and I saw somebody use it as a hat. Really it’s nice to see your project be just another thing in the world, you know?

[hey, to participate in this process, you can SUBSCRIBE to Mothers News, the monthly paper that Jacob creates!]


(downloadable 400dpi print version)

There’s something to be written about making things that are evidence of our existences in the world, that just go into the world & become part of it & our lives are built out of and around them. I’m pretty sure that’s the role my posters & prints have always played since I started making poster-type images maybe 17 years ago. (The image I am tracing this back to can be seen at the bottom of this post. 1995! Senior year of high school! Aaahhh!)

I don’t know what to say about it exactly. I LOVE making things that become objects in the world, it’s deeply important to me to see things I’ve made become integral to people’s understandings of themselves, it’s always a privilege and an honor. More recently, though, that feeling is surrounded & hemmed in by serious frustration about not being able to set time aside to make art that might not have a literal “meaning”, always feeling like my art has to have a meaning for other people. I am pretty sure that I’m discounting my own existence and *forcing* things into meaningfulness for others because of the satisfaction that comes when other people tell me that something I made means a lot to them.

And obviously, every object has a meaning whether the creator intends it to or not, so every artist must take on the responsibility of being a “meaning-maker” rather than just an “image-maker” (differentiation thanks to Chicava HoneyChild, in this good interview about race in performance!). Can I reconcile the pride I do truly have in making images & graphics that people identify with strongly, that create important evidence of my & my friends’ precarious reality in the world… with my own need to push myself to make art that is seriously personal, looking inward & helping me figure stuff out, rather than make art that looks outward and fills a need of my community?

… I know that the art I make that is personal will have meanings for other people too, and be useful to them… and that the outward-facing art I’ve made has also been deeply personally indicative & fruitful. There’s no escaping making meaning, there’s no escaping making something that reflects myself. I just have to not be scared to approach it, to not set it aside as impossible, to let myself work on it every day, to not hold myself to untouchable standards on it…


OKAY HERE YOU CAN LOOK AT A DRAWING I MADE IN HIGH SCHOOL
This was a pencil sketch that I made of me & all my friends (in some weird russian context), I photocopied it for them and they loved it. One of them colored it in. About a year ago it showed up on facebook……!

police! stop judging people by their skin color

May 31, 2012 at 5:37 pm

I am excited to have been part of this rally against racial profiling — actually, a rally to push the RI state legislature to get the long-delayed racial profiling bill out of committee and passed — that PrYSM, a Providence youth activism organization, put together. I also got to help make some signs: yaknow, drawing letters freehand, my favorite thing to do!

PrYSM is a great organization & their collaborative campaign against racial profiling, especially profiling of youth, is really strong. They made this video, Fitting The Description, to talk about why they are working on what they are working on:

Here’s one of the signs I made, note the piece on the right-hand side cut off the left-hand side & taped on when I ran out of room to finish the word “profiling”, ha!

…and captured in action during the protest. Photos by Tina Meetran.

The man carrying the sign in the photo above is a former police officer… !

This sign went back to PrYSM’s office with the others, but I watched one of the protest attenders walk away with the other sign, the one that says “Police…” Who knows whether he was into it, or it was just an absentminded acquisition? I hope the former — it is always an honor when any of my work finds a resonance with somebody — but you never know.

it’s that time of year again…

April 22, 2012 at 3:16 am

…past time, actually. But I’m excited to be working on the Southside Community Land Trust‘s Plant Sale poster again, the fourth one I’ve done so far!

(my past posters for SCLT: 200920102011)

Sneak preview.

letters (click for larger, in the upper-left-hand corner check out the pinpricks I used to transfer the letters from tracing paper):

more letters, all related:

laying out the drawing on the kitchen floor so I can make a vanishing point that goes *way* off the [very large] page!

The actual imagery of the poster (slightly visible in the photo above) is much more developed now, that photo is from a week or so ago…

I get super melancholic when I think about how many beautiful buildings & places & spaces have disappeared from this city since I moved here (1999).

I’ve (finally?) turned to photography as a consolation for this, and as a way to remember that things are always changing & to be okay with that. I used to really look down on carrying a camera; I was against “instant nostalgia“, against “making memories through taking pictures rather than remembering”, and all: “I can draw it better than I can take a picture, and I’ll learn more about it while I draw it!”. I still mostly believe those things… but at some point I realized that I can’t draw fast enough and ultimately just can’t draw *enough* to document all the beautiful disappearing things that I will want to have a record of in the future. So photography becomes a necessary-yet-incomplete resistance to the constant forgetting that life in a changing city consists of…

But yaknow, it’s also springtime so what better moment to bike around & take pictures of hand-designed, yet still-not-all-obsolete, signs in Providence!


this work is copyright to jean cozzens | Secret Door Projects

Creative Commons License
most of it is also licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.
for more licensing & copyright details, check out the credit page.