Wayfarers FOR

September 25, 2011

I should have time to write a bit about the show in another week or so, but until then, here are some quick shots taken by Zach Seeger before the opening. Enjoy! More to come of the rest of the show soon… The show will be up until October 16th, so there is plenty of time to come see it and the studios in person. Hope to see you there!

one piece on a plinth in the middle of the room

speaking to another piece, embedded in the wall

the window to the second piece

view of the second piece through the glass

Printing

January 7, 2009

Okidokie–the final stage of the project (other than installation of course) is the print transfer process.  Little did I know how unpleasant this would be…  Transferring a couple test prints was totally reasonable, why I thought this would be a good idea for nearly 300 tiles, I don’t know…

I’m making use of a photocopy transfer process that is fairly common in the graphic arts.  You take a nice fresh black and white photocopy, flip it upside down onto whatever surface you want to transfer the content onto and rub the back of it with some sort of solvent that breaks down the binder in the ink, allowing the toner to move onto the new surface.  You can do this with blending markers from your local art store, wintergreen oil (significantly harder to find) or acetone from any hardware store.  I’m sure there are other substances that will do this for you, but these are the ones I know will work.  Pretty simple, pretty straightforward–a little experimenting will quickly show you how easy it is.

For this project, I’m using acetone because I need a lot of it and blending markers are insanely expensive (and uber toxic) as is wintergreen oil.  It was also recommended by another artist who is much more experienced in this process than myself as a cheap and easy tool to get the job done, and I like cheap and easy.  Especially when I have to do it 300 times.

Photo essay style.  I apologize for the bad lighting, these were taken at some ungodly hour of night and I was probably shaky with sleep-deprivation:

padding, tile, documents (printed backwards on a photocopier), acetone, cotton rag (old socks), nitrile gloves, tacky cloth

The setup: padding, tile, documents, acetone, cotton rag (old socks), nitrile gloves, tacky cloth

First I clean the tile with this tacky cloth, which is exacty what it sounds like.  Sticky fabric that's perfect for finishing as it picks up all the little particles you've just sanded and can't seem to clean up any other way

First I clean the tile with this tacky cloth, which is exactly what it sounds like. Sticky fabric that's perfect for finishing as it picks up all the little particles you've just sanded and can't seem to clean up any other way

Place the document face-down on the tile and attack with acetone

Place the document face-down on the tile and attack with acetone

I've found the best way to do this is pour some acetone out in a disposable container, dunk the rag (old sock) in the acetone so it's basically dripping wet and then rub the back of the paper with it--the paper MUST be soaked with acetone for an effective transfer to happen

I've found the best way to do this is pour some acetone out in a disposable container, dunk the rag (old sock) in the acetone so it's basically dripping wet and then rub the back of the paper with it--the paper MUST be soaked with acetone for an effective transfer to happen

And hopefully, if all goes well, you magically have a print on your tile

And hopefully, if all goes well, you magically have a print on your tile

All seems easy enough, but wow has it been a nightmare.  First there’s the simple fact that acetone is nasty with a capital “N”.  I’ve got my scary respirator, a bottomless box of nitrile gloves, windows open and a fan behind me blowing toward the window, but it’s not really enough to counter the fumes.  Not to mention the fact that whoever designed these containers did not have pouring in mind.  Thanks Acetone Can designer, I now have acetone spills in my living room.  And because it evaporates so fast, I need a lot of it…

I'm hoping I'll be able to take one or two of these back, but who knows, I might need more by the morning!

I'm hoping I'll be able to take one or two of these back, but who knows, I might need more by the morning!

(Non-sequiter, but I just realized I designed a booth at work today with this exact same blue and orange color scheme…)

So the acetone in the house is horrific–the sooner I can be done with it the better.  The second unpleasantly disastrous issue is the fact that I’m trying to print on porcelain…  Transfers onto paper are really easy–the surface is super consistent so you don’t have to worry about any texture or defects disrupting how the print transfers.  This is not a liquid printing process so the toner can’t fill any divots or dips in the surface like a liquid ink would.  This means a perfectly smooth surface is essential to getting a legible print in the end and I’m finding I just don’t have any good surfaces.  Some of the tiles that I managed to sand really early on are working well, but those all have holes in them from back when I thought I was going to be hanging everything, so those are no longer perfect samples.  I also break nearly half (if not actually) of the tiles due to the pressure of applying the acetone.  In the rare instance when I actually get a good print, the tile is broken before I can mount it to a frame…  It’s all very frustrating.  I knew tiles would break, and in fact, they’ll break when I install them if they’re not broken ahead of time, but I was really hoping to get at least a few “perfect” specimens for the frames and I just don’t see that happening.  I’m OK with mounting one of the broken ones as long as the print is legible, but I’m still holding out, hoping the perfect set of tiles will come along.  As of 10pm, I have about 100 tiles printed and I still haven’t come across one perfect tile, much less 15.  Sad.

There’s also the whole issue that the adhesive for gluing the tile to the frame has to cure for 24 hours and I seriously have to install this thing tomorrow.  If I was doing it right and giving the adhesive its proper cure time, I should have mounted them all this morning… Obviously hasn’t happened and I’m not sure when it will!  But I really do not want to wait until Friday to install.  Something unexpected always comes up during install and I just know if I wait until Friday, something will go wrong and I won’t have any time to come up with  a solution.  On the other hand, if tiles are falling off the walls during the show, that would probably be worse than any installation disaster I can think of…

I just don’t know.  I’m pretty skeptical of this whole project at this point, and whether or not it’s actually going to come together.  I think if I had a fortune cookie right now, it would tell me that disappointment is looming on my horizon…

Frames!

January 2, 2009

So a big part of the “new” version of this project will be wall-mounted.  I was initially very against this idea, but alas, sometimes compromises must be made.  The general idea behind the “new” non-hanging version of this project is to have a large conglomeration of tiles somewhere near the entrance to indicate a critical mass (but not hanging from the ceiling) and then additionally fill the gallery/theater with hand selected wall mounted pieces that people will be able to read and get intimate with.  They will be scattered guerrilla style throughout the gallery in underutilized bits of wall space like around water fountains, elevators, maybe even in bathrooms etc.  The Center for the Arts is filled with useless bits of space, especially walls around access doors to places that are inaccessible–in terms of adaptive reuse architecture, it’s sort of horrifically designed in that sense.  Anyways, the wall mounted pieces are intended to be “special”, beautiful, exquisite tiles with the content relating to its location in the gallery.  For example, a piece over a sink or water fountain might be related to water quality and human health standards of the site prior to or during remediation.  In some ways, I get to act as archaeologist on a whole other level–that of spatial archaeologist, drawing attention to and highlighting all the forgotten spaces in the building.  Unfortunately, I’ve realized that most of my content doesn’t fill this function very well.  It’s not really specific enough to relate to the types of underutilized spaces in the Center for the Arts, but I do think there are particularly relevant and interesting bits of information that will be nice to make use of.  The general idea is that upon entering the gallery, visitors are struck with this critical mass of tiles, and while it may be intriguing on some level, eventually they move on to the next thing as you usually do in a gallery or museum.  As they move through the rest of the building (3 floors in total), they view other pieces and forget about mine until they happen to run into one of these “special” hand selected pieces in an odd spot.  Maybe they engage with it, maybe not, but as they progress through the entire show, they keep popping up, reminding them of their context within the show, within the gallery and within the greater Arsenal and its history.  When they eventually make their way back to the entrance in order to leave the space, they are again confronted with the critical mass, but now it has new meaning.  Now that they’ve seen what some of the content is like, the mass indicates something about the  mass of history, the mass of toxins, the mass of data, etc.  Now you question what other secrets might be buried in that pile of “papers”.

As of right now, I have no idea what that “pile” of papers is actually going to look like.  Neat stacks?  Messy stacks?  Piles?  Spread fairly evenly?  Still in boxes?  Who knows… that might be a decision I make at the last possible second.  But I do know how the wall mounted pieces will work.  I’ve been touring thrift stores, dredging up as many old and used picture frames as I can find in order to convert them into framing elements for the “special” pieces.  The idea is to elevate the wall mounted tiles but still have them somewhat camouflaged with the gallery–they need to be somewhat subtle in order to be subversive, as if they snuck in and settled unannounced–maybe you pass by the first one because it blends in but they keep cropping up so eventually you have to pay attention.  I’m painting all of the frames white (again, playing the archaeologist and digging up these trashed frames and re-contextualizing them) to match the gallery walls and then mounting the tiles directly to the glass so that you actually see some of the “real” gallery wall through the frame in addition to the tile.

Here’s an example:

This seemed like an appropriate frame to explain this process given its content!

This seemed like an appropriate frame to explain this process given its content

Take the frame apart (usually this is easier said than done!) and thoroughly clean the frame and glass

Take the frame apart (usually this is easier said than done!) and thoroughly clean the frame and glass

This one had some ancient vinyl and paint on it so cleanup was a little more extensive than usual

This one had some ancient vinyl and paint on it so cleanup was a little more extensive than usual

And finally repainting and remounting the glass without any backing

And finally repainting and remounting the glass without any backing

It seemed important (and fun!) to document all the frames before I altered them.  I feel like it’s the least I can do since the art that once lived in these frames will most likely be trashed.  Right now it’s all sitting in my living room because I can’t bring myself to throw it away!  They at least deserve some props for giving their lives (some short, some long) to my whimsy so here’s the first batch of frames, pre-paint-job:

This was actually a Target piece so its probably not that old--just a little dinged up and therefore unacceptable to its previous owner

This was actually a Target piece so it's probably not that old--just a little dinged up and therefore unacceptable to its previous owner

Another Target piece, also probably not that old and seemingly undamaged!

Another Target piece, also probably not that old and seemingly undamaged!

There were lots of flowers...

There were lots of flowers...

this pair came from a thrift store in Blacksburg VA, both by the same artist, printed in Sweden, 1980

This pair (and the previous) came from a thrift store in Blacksburg VA, both by the same artist, printed in Sweden, 1980

And of course my favorite, the sleepy cat.

And of course my favorite, the sleepy cat.

To be Continued…

I’ll show the rest tomorrow along with a test tile mount.

And I have heat and hot water again!  Woohoo!

Cracks, Recycling and Cats

January 1, 2009

So the last batch of tiles I made before driving to my parents’ home in Virginia was something of a disaster.  First of all, I broke the slab roller:

The remains of someone trying to fix it...

The remains of someone trying to fix it...

I mean, technically I didn’t break it.  The spring that works the mechanism is apparently cheap and tends to wear out on a regular basis, so that’s not a big deal, but the chain mechanism that controls the height of the roller was loose, plus the threads on the screw that adjusts that height were completely stripped and will need to be replaced.  All of these things are relatively normal wear and tear issues–the slab roller is ancient after all, eventually parts need replacing.  However, I was the one using it when it decided to quit working, and it had been acting funny for a week or so before I actually brought it to anyones attention, which may have aggravated the problems.  So it has officially been out of commission for 2 weeks and won’t be fixed before the show opens.

This means I’ve been rolling everything out by hand, the old school style with a rolling pin and lots of elbow grease.  It actually doesn’t take me much longer doing it by hand, but there is a new learning curve in terms of little details about how you flip the slab, when you cut it up, how you move it around, etc. etc.  My first batch of hand rolled slabs were fine, the second, completed right before the drive to Virginia, not so much…

They all cracked in amazingly beautiful but unuseable ways!

They all cracked in amazingly beautiful but unusable ways!

I think I made about 28 in this batch and was only able to save 5-10 of them

I think I made about 28 in this batch and was only able to save 5-10 of them

I thought this one was particularly beautiful--it was tempting to find a way to preserve them, but that is not what this project is about so I had to scrap them all...

I thought this one was particularly beautiful--it was tempting to find a way to preserve them, but that is not what this project is about so I had to scrap them all...

sigh… so all of those bone dry slabs were broken up and dumped in a bucket to be recycled.  I think I was in a rush before the holidays and didn’t baby them as much as they need.  They were all stuck to the boards so when they shrank during the drying process, there was no wiggle room and they all cracked.  I finally got around to recycling all of that clay yesterday so here’s a quick photo rundown on how that works (feel free to skip if you already know):

All of those broken bits were piled in this bucket and then covered in water so they would essentially dissolve into a slippery sloppy mess

All of those broken bits were piled in this bucket and then covered in water so they would essentially dissolve into a slippery sloppy mess

Once it is thoroughly dissolved, all the goop gets spread out on a giant slab of plaster

Once it is thoroughly dissolved, all the goop gets spread out on a giant slab of plaster

Plaster is perpetually thirsty, so it pulls all the excess water out of the messy clay.  Eventually the bottom side is dry enough to almost feel like normal clay so you flip the mess over so the top can now have water pulled out of it by the plaster

Plaster is perpetually thirsty, so it pulls all the excess water out of the messy clay. Eventually the bottom is dry enough to almost feel like normal clay so you flip the mess over

After a couple hours of drying, flipping and wedging, you magically have a perfectly new block of clay to work with!

After a couple hours of drying, flipping and wedging, you magically have a perfectly new block of clay to work with!

It’s kind of amazing to me that this works–bone dry, unmanageable clay can magically become a brand new block through a few simple steps.  Cool.

Stay tuned for the next episode:  Frames!

On an unrelated note, I think the cat is even grumpier about my apartment’s lack of heat than I am!

Normally she would never tolerate a blanket on her, but this time she meowed pathetically until I draped it over her and then passed out in warm happy bliss!

Normally she would never tolerate a blanket on her, but this time she meowed pathetically until I draped it over her and then passed out in warm happy bliss!

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

New Statement

December 22, 2008

I forgot!  I meant to post my New Title and Artist Statement last week and kept forgetting about it! 

After speaking with Dan about all the revisions to the installation of my piece (just to dash everyone’s hopes right from the start–I’m not hanging ANYTHING from the ceiling anymore…), I felt the need to re-write my artist’s statement.  I did this for two reasons.  Initially, I wrote it as a proposal just to get into the show, not thinking it would be shared beyond that context (on the form, there was no space for a “proposal” so the only place I could enter it was under “artists statement”).  Apparently some sort of book will be published including all the pieces in the show (hopefully sans photography because the photo I submitted is terrible and not descriptive of the piece itself at all) plus basic information about each artist.  I guess this includes the artist statement we each submitted and seeing as my piece has changed pretty drastically from my original vision (and it was not written as an “artists statement” to begin with), it just doesn’t fit anymore.  Not to mention the fact that I really don’t need my BS proposal writing published for all to see…  So I re-wrote it!  In a brief and even more BS-ish format.  At the recommendation of my favorite contemporary poet, I tried out the renga form, which is an ancient Japanese cooperative form, the first stanza of which eventually became the much shorter haiku.  I liked this idea for a couple of reasons: first, I felt like it allowed me to remain sufficiently vague and abstract, the complete opposite of writing the proposal, second, I liked the concept of it being cooperative.  While I didn’t write it with another person as the form requires, I did steal words and phrases out of my conversation with Dan, so in some ways it was a cooperative poem written with him, he just doesn’t know it yet.  And whether he (or I) likes it, he has had a pretty huge influence on how the piece will show so it seems appropriate.  Other than that, the form is utterly unrelated to the piece itself.  Let’s be honest, it saved me a lot of time…

Also a bit about the title;  Post-Processualism.  Actually, I don’t really feel like explaining it–google or wiki it if you want to know more!  It is an archaeological theory related to post-modernism.  Look it up on your own to find out why it is (or isn’t) appropriate in this context.

My Website!

August 20, 2007

Check out my brand spanking new website!  www.msarmsdesign.com

So while this isn’t directly related to the Paper Jungle project, I just wanted to let everyone know that I now have a real website in addition to this blog.  For now, the website is meant to give an overview of some of the work I’ve been doing over the last 4+ years.  Eventually it may be expanded to include other things as my interests and opportunities grow and change, but for now you’ll find a main Projects section that shows a few larger, more in depth projects and an Explorations section with quicker studies and experiments.  Now that I’ve finally graduated, I’ll be moving up to Boston within the next couple weeks to continue to pursue my art and design goals in a slightly bigger city than Providence.  I’m in the process of looking for work, although I’m still not sure I’ve decided what exactly I’m looking for!  So we’ll see what happens.  In any event, you should check out the website and if you’re looking to hire someone, check out the resume that’s posted on the homepage as well.  In the meantime, here’s a few of those transitional Paper Jungle photos that I promised a long time ago.  Thanks to everyone who has been watching this project from the beginning, and to those who are just now checking in.  It’s been a great process to go through and tons of fun.  As always, feel free to contact me anytime with thoughts, opinions, questions or concerns!

View from Outside Reflection of Winter Tree  A couple taken on a cold day in March, about a month after the opening from outside in the sculpture garden, looking in.

Still Some Left  There’s still quite a bit left inside, but lots has come down at this point and paper liters the floors.

The Entrance Detritus Wet Leaves and Dry Flowers These were taken about 2 months after the opening.  The entire central column has been destroyed.  Piles of flowers and plant forms fill the corners and center of the floor.  A rainy April day outside with fallen leaves from the previous autumn looking a lot like fallen flowers.

The End

July 13, 2007

So I know I initially promised lots of updates along the way as to how the installation was progressing and did not follow through. All I can say is sorry and I’ll try to catch up over the next month or so! It is now July so the project is completely finished. I tore down what was left of the piece on June 5th in about an hour. It was actually pretty satisfying to take apart the remainder, even though it only took an hour to tear apart what took countless hours to create. I suppose in the end it was OK simply because the entire project felt pretty successful. Things changed and evolved along the way and parts had to be left out or altered, but for the most part, it all worked out quite well and in accordance with the initial concept. So here are a few photos of what was left on the 5th and the de-installation process. I’ll go ahead and post these now so you can compare them to the opening photos and then I’ll write a couple new posts over the next month that fill in the 3 month gap inbetween. Enjoy!

Welcome to What’s Left Welcome to The End. This is what it looked like when I arrived on a very grey rainy Monday morning in June. Compare, if you will, to the same shot taken through the entry door labeled “Radeke Garden” the day I installed it. Quite different…

Rain Outside Ceiling at End Looking thin as you look out into the sculpture garden, or up to the ceiling. Now the framing structure is very clear whereas upon initial installation it was fairly well hidden. Then the real fun began!

Tearing it Down Pile on Floor Matt Mourning Rolling In It So here’s how de-installation worked. I ripped down everything as high as I could reach, threw it all on the floor and proceeded to roll in it while Matt, my faithful helper, mourned the loss.

CeilingGrid Cleaning Frames The End Next a view from above the ceiling grid I constructed. Now that the paper is mostly gone, you can actually see how it all fit together. We lowered each wood frame out of the aluminum grid, ripped the last of the paper off, took all the wood frames apart, removed the aluminum grid and we were done! That was how months of hard work ended!

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