Sunday, July 29, 2007

back in business

I have been a very, very bad little blogger lately. Actually, I've been an absent blogger, really. Working on the thesis and being out of town took serious priority. But grad school is officially over, I'm back in NYC, and it's time to return to this poor, neglected blog.

First, a short recap of my time spent at the Haystack Arts Camp in Deer Isle, ME. I was there for two weeks, met some really nice people, and got to do lots of art. Also, the food was shockingly good. I expected it to be gross vegan tofu nonsense every day, but there was a huge variety, and LOTS of yummy baked goods for dessert at lunch and dinner. I learned lithography, and made three sets of prints during the first week. I pretty much just took it easy and hung out during the second week, instead of doing more lithos. I needed a vacation. Plus there was only one printing press and eight students, and everybody snatched up the time slots before I could sign up for any, unless I wanted to do it at 3 in the morning (no thanks).

Lithography, by the way, is done by taking a flat limestone, and drawing on it with grease-based pencils or ink. Then you coat the whole thing in gum arabic and do some stuff with caustic chemicals (like lithotine, acetone, and my personal favorite, nitric acid!). You eventually roll grease-based ink onto the stone. The places you drew absorb the ink, and the rest of it absorbs water. So you coat the stone with a thin film of water when you're ready to print, and roll grease-based ink over the entire stone's surface. The drawing absorbs the ink, and the naked parts repel the ink ('cuz it's oil and water--get it?), then you run it through the press and the image goes onto a piece of paper. FUN!!

Here are the three lithos I made and the photos they're based on:

This photo was taken in the print studio at Haystack,
using my Mac's built-in camera set to "comic book effect."

Here is the actual print. I painted the eyes blue
with watercolor and acrylic paint.

This one was printed on this sheer cream paper called
chin colle, which is then affixed to the white paper.

This is Joe's cat, Clark. The photo was taken by a friend of his
who I do not know, but is a super talented photographer.

This paper is dark tan in real life, but my scanner didn't really do it justice.

This is a photo of Joe from a year ago, of which I fiddled with the contrast.

This one was printed on really lovely light blue paper, but again, the scanner didn't pick it up so well. Also, the margins are way bigger in real life, but my scanner can only do eight and a half by 11 inch-size paper.

Since getting back, I've been attending my usual galleries and art activities. I saw Pirates of the Caribbean 3, which was surprisingly good. It got pretty bad reviews as I recall, but I thought it was way better than number two. It was a bit confusing, what with all the new characters who were only in it for a few minutes, and three hours was too long, but in general it was still really enjoyable. Johnny Depp was as fantastic as always, and Keith Richards was a nice addition.

I saw the Simpsons movie on its opening night as well, which was awsome. Honestly, I was really expecting it to be lame. The show itself is nowhere near as good as it was a decade ago. A couple peple I know complained that it was just an hour and a half long episode, but to that I say, then it's the best episode they've made in years. Seriously. The whole theatre was laughing out loud through the whole thing. It had just the right amount of classic Simpsons silliness and jabs at pop culture and politics.

I also went to the Rubin Museum Friday night, which I'd never even heard of before Joe pointed it out to me. It focuses on Himalayan art. It's got six floors of art and a swanky bar on the first floor. On Fridays it's free after 7 p.m. and open until 10. And if you buy a drink (of any price), you can see their Friday night movie for free. It currently houses three exhibits: "What is it?" on the second floor (through Oct. 28), "Wutaishan: Pilgrimage to Five Peak Mountain" on the third (through Oct. 16), and "The Missing Peace: Artists Consider the Dalai Lama" on the fourth and fifth (through Sept. 3).

"What is it?" was separated into four sections covering "
Where is it made?", "Why is it made?", "How is it made?", and "What is going on?". The art on display was all kinds of stuff--sculpture, paintings, embroidery--that mostly consisted of large scenes and/or minute detail. Then all the pieces had long explanations that answered the question of whichever section it was in. I got kind of tired of reading so much text after a while because it was making me pay less attention to the art itself. So I eventually just stopped reading and spent my time staring up close at each piece. Everything was stunningly beautiful. The colors in the paintings on fabric were shockingly bright and the statues and sculptures had some of the most impressively minute detail I've ever seen. And of the text that I did read (which was a lot), it was really fascinating. It explained the roles of the deities pictured, and the symbolism of repeated imagery, and the process that goes into some of the common mediums and processes.

"Wutaishan: Pilgrimage to Five Peak Mountain" wasn't nearly as interesting. It focused on Manjushri, the Bodhisattva of wisdom, who lives on Mount Wutaishan. Joe and I kind of breezed through this part to get to "The Missing Peace," which was fantastic! It consisted of art inspired by or featuring the Dalai Lama, created by people all over the world. It covered pretty much every genre of art: photography, painting, video, installation, ceramics, sculpture... And there was a really wide variation in genders and nationalities among the artists, which is unusual (but much-welcomed) for contemporary art in a museum setting. One of my favorite pieces was this small participatory installation of a shelf holding a number of spools of golden thread. Museum-goers are instructed to stand in front of the shelf and pull the thread out to arm's length, then let it drop to the floor. One and a half spools were empty and there was a big pile of the thread clustered in one spot. I wish I'd written down the piece's explanation (and its title and author for that matter) because I'm gong to bastardize it really horribly here, but the idea is that the many arms' lengths of thread represent, like, joining hands all across the world. I think I'm inadvertently trivializing it with my crummy explanation, but I assure you, it was moving.

As for the overall feel, The Rubin is one of the best organized museums I've ever been to. The pieces on the walls are sufficiently spread out that you never feel overwhelmed, but close enough that the place hardly feels empty. Floating columns and display cases are placed so that they don't obstruct your walking path. The whole place was really clean and displays looked consistent throughout. The lighting was perfect, the air-conditioning was comfortable, the crowds were minimal (it is in a pretty off-the-beaten-path location), I could go on for a while here. Plus--hello!--open till 10 on Fridays with free admission and a free movie? I will definitely be going back in the near future.

No comments: