Field Notes

September 16, 2014

A collection of my prints is currently on from September through October in the Waage Gallery at Minnesota State - Fergus Falls. The show is called "Field Notes" and is a series of twelve of my intaglio works that incorporate multiple plates and chine collé processes in order to establish a different story or history for each piece. Though the processes in printmaking are repeatable, I use them in such a way that the outcomes are unique. The reception is on Monday, September 22 and takes place from 2-4pm, during which time I'll be giving an artist talk and discussing my work further. I'll also give a chine collé demo to the printmaking students, which I am really looking forward to doing.

"Florida History" installed in Waage Gallery. Photo by John Cox.

If you are in the Fergus Falls area and have time to come to my artist talk, please do! If not, the show will be running through the end of October and the Waage Gallery is located on the M State Fergus Falls campus in the Fine Arts Center.

"Field Notes" installation view. Photo by John Cox.

Thinking About Sand

July 29, 2014

Taking steps into the world of what's beneath the surface of things is a little bit scary. I remember the first time in Sedimentology lab that we were assigned to identify rocks, and with no minerology or chemistry background, I sat bewildered by what I might see through the lens. I tried to make excuses as to why I could just hold a lithic arenite in my hands and know that's what it was. I'd been using my eyes for thirty years and I got pretty used to trusting them. Besides, how could I tell a feldspar from a quartz grain?

Untitled (Emptiness Is Meaningful)

My professor noticed my trepidation, perhaps because I was the only art major in the room, or perhaps because he's good at getting people to look at things. He slid a tray of soft sand under my scope and said, "Take a look at that." Over the inital embarassment of lifting my glasses away, I adjusted my eyes to the incredible magnification. Was I seeing this right? This was just some tan beach sand a second ago, but through the lens I saw brilliant pink hues, marvelous white calcite shell fragments, and what looked like pieces of glittery gems. I stared away and then back again. I'd later come to learn that sands from different places are made up of differing bits, and just by identifying the components of these sands, a well-trained geologist could trace the sand to its source. It's as unique as any person in that it is a product of it's origin. Sand can't tell you a lie. (Why that was so attractive to me is another story.)

I immediately started looking at all the things under the microscope, even the really obvious samples that were being easily identified by my lab mates. If I'd tested its hardness or streak, and confirmed that I knew what it was, I still placed it under the scope. Looking at rocks so close became an instant joy.

Florida sand beneath my feet

When I think of my contact with rocks, most of it has been in the form of it's detritus - sand. My youth in Florida had me form attachments to a sandy place, with tall pines that seemed to go hand in hand with the lithology. When I did collect rocks, they were hard-earned: digging them loose from the alleyway behind my house where I'd sometimes spy a gopher tortoise, or coming across a limestone, white and porous, like a strange visitor from another place. That "other place" was just tens of feet below me, in the form of the Ocala Formation limestone which made up part of the aquifer from which I drank. As a child, it seemed to be more fun to collect shells, and I anxiously awaited the weekend trips to the shore when we could spend hours picking up Conch fragments - a contest between my brother and I to see who could find the most complete one.

I didn't realize then that all those little shell fragments were just pieces on their way to becoming sand. Even the limestone I'd found at my grandparents house and scrawled my name with on the driveway (because it made a pretty decent white streak) was in a stage of erosion into sand. My artistic endeavors had helped it along, by smashing the soft matrix of the calcite stone against the harder concrete, turning rock into dust.

The Beginning of Looking Close

June 15, 2014

a new lexicon to use

Recent explorations in the studio and in the long-buried recesses of memory have opened a vein into where my new work is headed. These intricate and overlapping pieces of time that I collect and keep buried are akin to building my own world - a place of wonder, cold truths, and some pockets of pain and anguish. In an effort to catalog and understand my own inner-workings, thereby creating a system of knowing, I am slowly going through piece by piece of data. Instead of the large, pulled away and necessarily distant view most of my work has taken, inspired by maps that seem to dominate a terrain by labelling them, I am now ready to come closer. I'm willing to accept that previous systems of analyzation may not have been the only way through this territory.

new little icons for meaning-making

Everything has always been so precious. I think my early attraction to printmaking is rooted in the nature of its traditions and craftsmanship. With a foot in that world, I'm inching my way more and more into a mode of working in which the purely ephemeral is allowed in, and I can actually let go of some of my most deeply held truths in order to obtain a larger goal. But what is that goal?

I am now on that journey. This is the beginning of looking close.

new post up at NASSR

June 3, 2014

blubonnets growing in a dry riverbed.

My most recent writing, The Desert: Spirit of Place and Encountering the Dream, has been posted on the NASSR Graduate Student Caucus homepage. This narrative piece follows my first visit to the west Texas desert and revelations about its nature versus the imagined place I dreamt it to be in my expectations. In the place of adventure and openness to experience, I find that there is room for new ideas and thought to take root; the old assumptions of a world's descriptions for a place no longer fit my frame of reference. I find that the desert is not a place that feels foreign to me, but a calm and reclusive silence that, not unlike deep piney woods of my youth, could be as dangerous as a swamp if I don't know where I'm headed.

A new press enters my life...

May 8, 2014

bringing home a new press

Just a few weeks ago, I got a lead on a little baby Adana Five-Three that was for sale here in town. I went and checked it out, looked over the parts it had, the condition it was in, and even some type that it came with and ended up bringing it home for a very good price. The press even came in its original box which was a treat to see, though the box is moldy and needs to be thrown out. This press was manufactured sometime in the 1960s and still has its manual and typesetting handbook with it. I immediately fell for its bright red color and tiny size. It doesn't weigh very much and could transport easily for demos or little workshops if ever needed.

sorting through the type and spacers

First things first, after a quick dust off and oiling, the press definitely needed new rollers in order to function again. I browsed several resources on the internet for replacement rollers and found that Caslon Limited in England would offer the best quality rollers for my little press. They also make replacement parts for the Adana should anything break or go missing. The rollers are a bit pricey with the currency exchange and shipping, but it's a good investment in the press itself. I also saved a little bit of money by reusing the old trucks that came off of the original, damaged rollers. They were in fine condition and just in need of some cleaning. While waiting for the new rollers to arrive, I had plenty of type to sort through from the haul that came with my press. Because it's chase is so small (5 inches by 3 inches, thus the name Adana Five-Three), it can print some pretty tiny type. I was bequeathed some 6pt Sparta, 10pt Times New Roman, and 14pt Times Bold. Amazingly, the 14pt actually seems quite small when I printed my first test print, even though it is the largest of my type. I can tell that I've got a lot to learn about the finer points of this little press. The manual for it boasts that no quoins or keys are required for lock up, but I am still cautious about this claim. I'm hoping the more I print with it, the more I'll get the hang of it.

new rollers and old trucks (runners)

The day that my rollers arrived in the mail came rather quickly as I had only to wait about a week for them to show up on my doorstep. I was really excited to find that the trucks fit perfectly onto the new rollers and, once in place on the press, they ran smoothly. My first inking was not with letterpress ink but with a Gamblin relief ink, and my first print was a small typeset tryout of a birthday card that I wanted to try printing at least once to see if it could be done. Hopefully the next time I give it a whirl, I can learn more from the process and develop a knack for lock up on this little thing. And I do believe it needs a name.

my little red press in its new home

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