Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Awakening from the Consensus Trance

I watched a documentary last night called The End of Suburbia: Oil Depletion and the Collapse of the American Dream and I came away feeling gratitude for the ability to sustain myself in such a beautiful area of New Hampshire. The film's bonus features include two vintage shorts: [Black and White and Color] In the Suburbs (1957: Redbook Magazine) and Destination Earth (1956: American Petroleum Institute).

I was raised in suburbia during the 50's and 60's (and was subsequently force-fed the American Dream of two cars, two bathrooms, wall-to-wall carpeting and a weed-free lawn) so the first viewing of In the Suburbs held me spellbound. . . there was my aunt's dining-room wallpaper and my parent's station wagon. So many memories were dredged up that I had a funny feeling in my stomach, as if Redbook's PR department got their hands on some of my Uncle Al's home movies.

Credits include: Jean Sharpe, Carlo Arcamone, Joseph Cole, Tracy Wood, Herbert Hagers and Bert Spielvogel. I wonder who created the films collaged title screen:

There were some interesting social messages in API's animated short on the miracles of oil, as well. Here are Destination Earth's production credits:

Although The End of Suburbia's extras invoke nostalgia, the combination serves as an extremely perturbing wake-up call. I've been looking at my state of car-lessness as the result of temporary poverty up until now. But perhaps, like world oil supply, my ability to invest in material goods has peaked. Consumerism as an antidote to boredom has now been surpassed by "the thrill of waiting up for the end of the world."

A blog called Survival Acres provides this fascinating take on The Consensus Trance.

Friday, September 25, 2009

X-Box Mandala

This was done with two brushes in Photoshop using a grid from one of my "Fits and Starts" as a starting point.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Fits and Starts

Here's a line-up of work in progress. My goal is not to dwell too long on these. Not to build up the importance of this exercise in my mind. I like these so far for the way that the lines don't quite touch where they would otherwise intersect:

I have a lot of little coated extras to use up. They are such a pain to store. No matter how carefully I lay them out, they end up shifting and sticking together in the wrong places. Here's one called "Head Stone" with a few extra of those two Zinc Penny guys:

This one is acrylic on black charcoal paper unfinished since year when I first started painting the dots (it began as a follow-up to Primary Dots On Black) .

And this little pile of remnants holds promise:

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Fall Cleaning

Brought some of the "Dots" out of the flat files this morning to create an impromptu art show.









Monday, September 14, 2009

You'll Be Sorry!

I've been building a clipping file of collage material about the history of the atomic bomb. I recently added these two articles published in The Christian Science Monitor in 1946. The paste-up dept. did an interesting thing here. I love the choice of advertisements to juxtapose with them.

Woman in the Dunes

The state of restless continues. The excitement of learning new Photoshop tricks for digital collage has faded. I need to create art in the physical world and I'm easing myself back into it. My bead shop was open 7 days through Labor Day so I had no days off in which to totally immerse myself. Instead, I felt like Pavlov's dog waiting for the bell to ring, unable to relax into the process.

But now I am getting back into my regular routine of two days off for art. I'm dealing with the restlessness by trying to achieve mental clarity. I won't allow myself to think too far ahead and worry about money, or snow, or sickness and old age. (See how easily I go there!) Instead, I force myself to focus only on the here and now. I'm living in a place I love, I'm doing what I love, the sun is shining, and I didn't have shovel a path to put out my "Open" flag.

Nothing else really matters but the art. I'll be OK as long as I keep making progress. It's easier than that, even. . . just keep making collages and the progress will take care of itself. So why do I feel like the woman shoveling sand in Woman in the Dunes?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Maps and Edward Tufte

I seem to be off on a map-making tangent. It all started with a few pieces of old wallpaper that I pulled off the wall in my front hall. I've been trying to collage with it, but the printed pattern is flaking off and covering it with acrylic medium only makes it flake off faster. So I decided to scan the best remaining pieces and work with printed reproductions.

In the process of doing this I have learned a lot more about Photoshop. I wasted about a half a day trying to figure out how to get a dashed line (so easy in Pagemaker), learned some useful selecting and masking tricks, and finally settled on a dotted line instead. I used my new Photoshop skills to create a digital map of a fictitious state, the first in a series called States of Mind.

Eventually my favorites will be translated into traditional cut-and-paste collages. But I am enjoying making digital creations as an aid to experimenting with design. I want the maps to be somewhat surreal, mysterious and beautiful in the way that old maps are beautiful. So I have been looking for examples in my clipping files and old books.

As part of this process I have been re-acquainting myself with a wonderful book by Edward R. Tufte titled Envisioning Information. In the introduction, Tufte states: "To envision information--and what bright and splendid visions can result-- is to work at the intersection of image, word, number, art. The instruments are those of writing and typography, of. . . line and layout and color. And the standards of quality are those derived from visual principles that tell us how to put the right mark in the right place."

He later states: "Confusion and clutter are failures of design. . . And so the point is to find design strategies that reveal detail and complexity. . ."

The whole mind-set of layers reinforced by Photoshop helps in the appreciation of his next statement: "Among the most powerful devices for reducing noise and enriching the content of displays is the technique of layering and separation, visually stratifying various aspects of the data."

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

From the Shelves of Paul Beliveau

I'm always interested in other people's bookshelves. (As a librarian, I spent many hours shelf-reading.) You can tell a lot about a person by scanning their shelves.

Artist Paul Beliveau (b. 1954) makes some intriguing compositions of book spines, juxtaposing nostalgic subject matter. His serigraph Les Humanites provides a nice example, as does Les rencontres #1. See his most recent acrylic paintings at The Arden Gallery on Newbury Street in Boston. I enjoy the different type faces in Les rencontres LXXXIV (the one with Kennedy and Pop Art). And if I had 10 grand to spare, I'd like to have Les rencontres XCII (with Charles Rennie MacKintosh) for the spirals and dots.

Beliveau's oil paintings bring to mind collages. And he's done a series of assemblages that suggest stacks of books. I absolutely adore this mixed media on canvas titled Theatre II: a l'italienne. The pencil drawing on the "transparent cement" wall is so beautiful. I can envision a whole series of objects from my curio cabinets making their debut on stage!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Zinc Pennies

A friend gave me some old issues of The Christian Science Monitor dated 1946 which are very interesting to read. I found an article describing how two tons of zinc pennies were about to be dumped into San Francisco Bay.

Sharing the same page were photos of the vice-president in charge of metallurgy and research for the Carnegie-Illinois Steel Corportion, and the newly appointed vice-president of the Bank of The Manhattan Company.

The pennies to be disposed were zinc-coated scrap steel pennies minted in 1943. Since 1982, the United States has minted pennies as copper-coated zinc wafers. Canada also changed to the primarily zinc penny in 1997. Check out this site for more than you probably will ever need to know about zinc! The site is a creation of Theodore Gray (no relation to the late Spaulding Gray).