Archive for March, 2016

March 25, 2016

The Eels are alive….with the sound of the wet market

I would like to make two disclaimers before you read this entry. First I broke my arm and I am using my left hand to write this entry into my journal so I apologize for any typos.   Second no eels were harmed during the making of this project in fact they were spared a date with the dinner plate.

When I broke my arm I decided to go back and do some exploratory projects that I had thought of when we first arrived in Shanghai. We made our first visit to the wet market upon arriving in Shanghai. This is where we saw eels, turtles, prawns, frogs, and an assortment of fish in shallow white Styrofoam coolers. The coolers took the shape of the canvas and the textures that were being made in the water were amazing. I grew up around seafood and am quite adept at catching and cleaning and eating it, however I don’t think I have been ready to see it in this manner. Not in a bad way but just a very different perspective.

I wanted to create a piece or pieces that involved these creatures, while they were alive and that and would not kill them. It was most intriguing to create the texture or movement I witnessed in the market. In addition I wanted to use traditional materials in a non- traditional way. I chose to paint or let the eels paint the canvas by placing a plate of traditional Chinese calligraphy ink in the middle of the canvas and allow the eels to swim from the plate across the canvas.

The process consisted of three days.  The hardest part was giving up control of the physical process to the volunteers who wanted to be part of the process. It is harder than you think to allow your ideas to be carried out by other people. A special thank you to the eels, Nicole, Dan, Max, Kari, and Nicole for your help. Each day was a different layer that created a different color each day was basically the same so I will keep it short

Day one.

  1. Buy live eels
  2.  Prepare canvas, mask off rectangle in middle in the shape of the wet market.
  3. Add black ink to plate,
  4. Place live eels in plate
  5. They swim and squirm across canvas.
  6. Rinse and release eels back into the canals
  7. Wash smell and ink off hands
  8. Watch paint dry

Day Two.

  1.  Buy live eels
  2.  Prepare canvas, mask off rectangle in middle in the shape of the wet market.
  3. Add White ink to edge of rectangle,
  4. Place live eels in middle of piece
  5. They swim and squirm across the black layer and reactivated the black ink creating gray layer.
  6. Rinse and release eels back into the canals
  7. Wash smell and ink off hands
  8. Watch paint dry

Day Three.

  1. Buy live eels
  2. Prepare canvas; spay a flat acrylic varnish to seal in the first two layers of ink. Mask off rectangle in middle in the shape of the wet market.
  3. Add White ink to edge of rectangle,
  4. Place live eels in middle of piece
  5. They swim and squirm across the canvas creating a third and final white layer.
  6. Rinse and release eels back into the canals
  7. Wash smell and ink off hands
  8. Watch paint dry

All said and done I had purchased, painted with and released approximately 4 dozen eels.

Took me back to elementary school age when I would do fish prints or to the beach where I would spend house watching minnows swim in the shallows.

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March 7, 2016

The Gardener, The Tree Guy, The Foundry Man. & Lin…

The Gardener.   A few weeks ago I found the bottom structure of an old wheelbarrow. It was dirty, rotted in spots and in general disrepair. I like looking at and thinking about the history of these pieces. I brought it to the studio and originally thought it would make a great coffee table. I took it apart, reinforced it with steel rods and auto body putty,  then began drawings for the small Gardener men that would become the legs.   AS it turns out, I liked the drawings better as drawings, and turned them into a painting of a Gardener on a wooden plank to be attached and displayed as a large wall hanging.   It works well and draws a nice relationship to the history of the tool and the person who would have used it.

The Tree Guy was found when I went looking to purchase some body putty to repair the wheelbarrow mentioned above. While searching for auto repair shops I noticed a vacant lot full of large tree trunks. I came back another day and asked the tree guy if he had any small root systems or interesting pieces. We walked in, on, around, and over large pieces of tree trunks. We found terrific little bits.  We needed to get them home so we stopped a lovely lady with a large tricycle to deliver them back to the studio. This is a very normal occurrence…   I offered to pay for the scraps of wood, but instead the tree guy asked me to return once I had used them to make something interesting and show him pictures of what I had done with his interesting scraps of wood.,  He said then we would celebrate our cooperation  with tea. Very cool, agreed and the pieces are on their way to the foundry today.

The Foundry Man stopped by with his team, Sun, and Alex.   We talked, had tea and coffee and looked at how they would create bronzes from my waxes and other pieces.   One wax sculpture is to become bronze, another to be bronze combined with wood from the tree guy, and finally another wax sculpture to be cast in bronze and in aluminum and combined with metal and paper dragon fly wings that I made with Lin..   Handing over the last two months of work to a relative stranger who assures you everything will be all right is a study in letting go.

Lin is a very nice and gentle man who I met while shopping for a new dresser for my wife. His wife and he own a furniture and light store in Shanghai. She introduced me to Lin because I told her I was a sculptor and wanted to meet someone to do some metal work. AS luck would have it, her husband did just that. We have since formed a nice relationship and I spent the day with Lin working on and designing the wings out of metal that will later have traditional Chinese lantern paper on them as a translucent skin.

These are the fun, intertwined, interesting, and unique adventures that I am afforded because of this crazy, what the hell are you doing, what were you thinking, are you sure you want to move to China life… ?!!!!

(Small print…   I have attached pics of all the pieces in process to this point.  Also, please understand that much of this is made possible because I have an apprentice named Max who is handling all the translating on these adventures, in turn I am instructing him on the artistic process)

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