Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Gas Meter Meditations

A person from the gas utility came to our house today to paint the meter. I asked to take pictures, explaining about my art-fascination with infrastructure. He was just performing a simple act of maintenance, but, to me, it was rich with potential meaning, since that meter is what physically connects all those environmental/energy headlines and issues through underground gas lines, to the inside of our house to provide heat and hot water for warm showers and clean dishes.

The meter has been featured in two of my artists books in the past. It is both subject matter for my work and part of the story of our home and our place in the world. 

Page spread from "Dig," 2010, Full Spring Studio

Monday, March 30, 2015

Looking at: "Options," Multiple Visual Reflections by Pat Young

"Options" by Pat Young, shared by permission of the artist
An artist friend, Pat Young, invited me to an opening at Flow Art Space, where she had a piece in the salon part of the exhibition. I'd seen the piece as she'd been making decisions on the final layout and title and it was so nice to see the completed, "Options," at the show. Maybe I'm at an advantage because I know some of the back story, but "Options" is a piece that I can travel inside of - each window an alternate story that could unfold as the traveling figure heads toward variations on a theme. (Like one of those movies, where the protagonist gets to try out alternate futures usually to discover some best option that they hadn't even seen at the beginning and could only know from going through the whole journey. )

I was fascinated by how these images were created. The overlaid imagery looked like some darkroom or chemical alchemy. But the alchemy is positional. Pat explained how she'd noticed that an older framed photograph she'd hung in her apartment was reflecting images of her other artworks on another wall as well as catching light through the blinds at the window. By moving herself and her camera around at different times of day, and playing with what was hung across the room, she could create/discover a series of compositions with variations on all these elements. In addition, she's included a water color impression of the impressions.

Each element has a metaphorical quality to me, especially as they are placed in relationship to each other, suggesting a narrative to be discovered. And each element has personal meaning to Pat, I learned: prior directions in her art that represent certain periods and themes, and also suggesting possible current "options" to pursue. I feel like she's created a menu of portals to enter. Maybe you could call it a time-machine-kaleidescope in reverse - taking all these pieces and fusing them, through the composition/creation process into a collection of views from the present into possible futures. This moment between past and future, poised on the verge of the next path, is a wonderful place to pause and ponder the views.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Orange Beauty - Collaboration with My Printer

Lunar Eclipse 4/15/2014 2:27 am, Full Spring Studio
I remember my mom teaching me about "happy accidents," and how one can make something more interesting by responding to something unplanned, like responding to having spilled ink on your drawing. Later, when I was active in pottery, I saw even more so that letting go of total control of a work can make it more interesting. You have to surrender to fire and chance when you put a glazed pot into a kiln. In that case you don't even get to have the last word. The pot is done - and that can be satisfying if one sees it in terms of a collaboration. So I was delighted when I saw the "happy accident" emerge from my inkjet printer the morning of April 15th, 2014.

Earlier that day, at about 1 a.m., even though it was a school night, our family had woken in the wee hours to view the lunar eclipse. Our older son, was bundled up in the cold, with a book-light, a sketch pad, and his entire set of colored pencils to draw a series of images of the moon as it changed during the eclipse - trying to document its transitions. Our younger son didn't last as long - he was in it for the hot cocoa. I set up a tripod and camera and my husband set up a telescope. That evening our deck was both a night-sky observatory and art studio.
Orange Beauty, 4/15/2014, Full Spring Studio

The next morning, I pasted some photos of the stages of the eclipse in a file to print for my kids to bring to school for show and tell. But the printer was low on ink, and as it ran out, a new interpretation was created. I don't know what programming within its machinery determines how it layers colors, but the orange moon became interwoven with the sky in a way only the printer could have designed. I love this picture - this collaboration with my printer. Somehow in its emptying of ink, the printer captured the transitory feeling of 'eclipse night' in one image, better than I could have with a dozen time-lapse photographs.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Update: River Journey and Earth Systems Journey Presentation Video

Much of my work lately has been on "River Journey: Exploring the Value of the Mississippi River," a year long pilot of the Earth Systems Journey program of Full Spring Studio. There is a website for this project where I post updates, but since it is most of my art practice this year, I thought I'd put a recap of some of the milestones and media related to it here, as a way to share what I've been up to.

August 27, 2014 - River Journey launched, with an opening poem and river education activities. Then students from River's Edge Academy Charter High School started upstream of their 
sink to discover where their water comes from. Throughout the fall, they followed the water on its path from the Mississippi River, through lakes and infrastructure to their sink, and through pipes and the treatment plant, back to the Mississippi River.

November 19th, 2014 - River Journey included in poster presentation at U-Spatial Forum.  The poster, called "Mapping the Journey," described the role of maps in the Earth System Journey model, including in River Journey, which will include the use of GIS digital story maps.

January 15th, 2015 - River Journey included in River's Edge Academy Celebration of Learning, where students demonstrated the River Journey Story Map they created and the "Journey Bottles" they used for collecting water on their travels up and down stream from their sink.

February 18th, 2015 - River Journey included in a talk at Institute on the Environment, Big Questions series: "How can art and story heal the disconnect between modern humans and the environment."  Video here. This talk described the theory and goals of Earth Systems Journey, and shared case studies of River Journey as well as a prior pilot, Downstream/Upstream.

February 23, 2015 - River Journey and Journey Bottles art piece included in "Teaching Through Art" article by Allison Kronberg, in the Minnesota Daily.  This article describes the perspective of several artists, including myself, about the role of art in supporting environmental awareness and action.