Monday, August 31, 2009

Double Your Pleasure, Double Your Fun: More Chewing Gum

I feel compelled to respond to Allie's last post about Maurizio Savini with a discussion about the grandmommy of chewing gum sculptures, Nellie Mae Rowe. Considered a master of American Folk Art, Rowe's work has influenced artists and designers (check THIS out) since the 1970s, when she was first recognized as an artist.

Rowe, like many great outsider artists, was prolific, using every scrap of paper for drawings, and recycling any spare materials she could find into her artwork. Childless and a two-time widow, Rowe devoted herself almost completely to art-making after the death of her second husband. Every inch of her home and yard were filled with drawings, sculptures, and dolls. She is well known for her chewing gum sculptures like "Woman in Bonnet" pictured above, though there are surprisingly few images of these to be found on the web.

Want more Nellie? Read John MacGregor's "I See a World Within a World: I Dream but Am Awake." (No, it's not online, you have to go to the library or a bookstore for this one **gasp**)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

But Do They Come in Spearmint??

Who doesn't like a larger than life poodle surrounded by hungry alligators? And YES, those bubble gum pink figures are GUM. Italian artist Maurizio Savini makes these delectable sculptures from a combination of chewed and un-chewed gum over a fiberglass core. Once assembled, these sculptures are treated with astringent and formaldehyde to keep them from spouting mold (so don't think about breaking off a leg to take home for later). Still, I would like to think that the smell is terrific.

I really like these. It isn't just because they are fun and unusual; to be honest, it is one of my pet peeves when someone uses an unusual material for no reason in particular instead of some intended conceptual reasoning. In his interviews, Savini always describes the gum as a more intimate material that can retain a flesh memory. I can get behind that. You look at a hunk of gum and you can't help but think about the intimacy of chewing and taste. And then there is the visual appearance...PINK: it just brings on the whimsy. As a material, gum is funny with its soft, fleshy, moist mass once chewed and its clean, crisp look when it is fresh out of the wrapper. You really can achieve many visual effects. It would be easy to build with since it sticks and doesn't really crack when dried. Actually, it is a near ideal sculpting material other than the cost. Just think about how much a roll of Bubble Tape costs, now add it up to a life size alligator. Also, I would think that the sugar content would get to you eventually. I hope Savini has good dental.

Molto Maurizio:
Maybe you want to see some more poodle art? I apologize in advance; I just am staggered by what people do with their pets and free time:

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I'm Down to Two Pictures a Day

You might have seen these around. Or like me, you lived next to them and never noticed. I blame it all on the cumulative effects of paint fumes and rouge clouds of swamp gas.

Art-o-mats have been springing up world wide for a little over a decade. They are the brain child of one, Clark Whittington, and really an interesting idea. The whole premise behind the Art-o-mat is to extend art into the community with accessibility and a low price point that allows everyone to buy art. The art vending machines themselves are recommissioned cigarette machines that have been retrofitted to dispense small, original art pieces from hundreds of artists worldwide. There are many machines so there is an excellent chance that one is located near you. And yes, if you are interested in having your art become part of this project, you can submit images for consideration.

I just think that this is a great idea. It is a fun venue for artists (with great exposure) and it really promotes the idea that everyone can be a connoisseur and get involved in the arts. Not to mention the cool, smooth, energizing scent left on the art that keeps you coming back for more.

Buy Me:
More on Whittington:

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Watch Out for Falling Artists

I think she should get an incomplete because she didn't die. Better yet, can she turn it into a series?

Seriously though, this is the type of bullshit that gives performance art and art in general a bad name. This same rational would make an episode of Punked the equivalent of watching Art21. But maybe I have been in the presence of genius for many years now and never knew it.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Q + A with Professor John Sarra!

You have painting questions? We have painting answers. Today's answers are courtesy of John Sarra, painter and professor extraordinaire. 

FB: How does one put a layer of water-based paint on top of oil? 

JS: The rule to follow is "oil over water, but not water over oil". When we talk about oil paints "drying", we are actually talking about a process called polymerization in which the molecules continually cross-link, making the surface more and more brittle over time. Water based paints, on the other hand, are usually fully cured in less than two weeks. The surface has a tendency to continue to breathe, allowing water vapor to move through the paint film. This works fine when the flexible, breathing layer joins the substrate of fabric or wood, which are also mobile as moisture levels go up and down. Problems happen when the flexible and mobile layer is adhering directly to an oil film. The result, whether it takes a long or short time, will be a degradation of the painting's surface.

FB:  How does one put a layer of oil-based paint on top of paper?

JS:  The problem with oil on paper is that the linoleic acid, which is found in many of the oils used in oil paints, destroys natural fibers over time. The principle to observe, then, is that a coat of sizing must be applied to the paper to isolate the fibers from the oil. There are a number of options for sizing including shellac, natural or synthetic glues (especially PVA glue), or acrylic polymer (in the form of a medium, acrylic paint, or acrylic gesso). I have also used left-over latex house paint (better brands are fortified with acrylic-- they don't actually have natural latex rubber in them), which behaves differently depending on the specified sheen. Matte colors remain more absorbent. Your choice of sizing depends on whether you wish to preserve the original look of the paper or if you wish to have a white or colored ground.

FB: "I don't have access to an industrial sink. How do I wash my brushes?"

JS:  I know many artists who wash their brushes with soap and water either regularly or occasionally, but I never do it. Instead I give them a good cleaning with rags and solvent, and this is just fine for natural bristle brushes. If you are using soft-hair brushes, this probably won't work for long-- the hairs will gum up and ruin the brush. The thing to do is to clean the brush thoroughly with solvent until it wipes "clean" on a rag. Then wash using soap and water. Most people don't have sinks with filtration devices for the waste water. The concern here is that heavy metals can be washed down the drain and into the environment. By the time you reach the sink, you should not be washing out any significant amount of pigment-- it should only be a trace amount. But you should recognize that these are cumulative poisons, and even trace amounts are bad amounts. Another strategy would be to eliminate heavy metals from your palette (lead, cadmium, and cobalt are three of the big nasties), replacing them with other pigments. I suppose that you could keep containers of rinse water in your studio, allowing solids to settle and collect as the water evaporates. Disposal of the residue will be covered by the final question, below.

FB: "What's the safest way to dispose of my chemicals and paint rags?"

JS:  The best way to manage waste is to minimize it. Solvent disposal is the biggest issue for most painters. In my view the best practice is to use as little solvent as possible, and to use it responsibly. I don't let my brushes soak in solvent. Instead, I clean them during or at the end of each painting session. This is my procedure for brush cleaning: (1) wipe excess paint off of the brush onto the palette, (2) wipe excess paint off of the brush onto a rag, (3) dip the brush into solvent, then "paint" the slurry onto a rag until the brush starts to wipe clean (4) submerge the bristles in the solvent and twist them against the SIDE of the jar, releasing any final particles (5) wipe the brush dry on a clean cloth. By cleaning the brush against the side of the jar in step 4, you allow the sediment on the bottom of the jar to remain undisturbed. Occasionally you can allow a jar of used solvent to settle out and then pour off the good solvent, collecting the sludge for later disposal. Rags should be allowed to dry thoroughly. If you are using strong solvents or fast-drying oils with your paint, be sure to spread the rags flat in a well ventilated area. Some materials may spontaneously combust if left crumpled. This is not a concern with artist-grade linseed oil. Once rags are dry, they can usually be disposed of with your regular garbage. Many communities have annual collections of hazardous liquid and solid wastes - check with your local government. I don't recommend that you stockpile the used rags because they present a fire hazard.

*bolding by F***art

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I'll have a PETA platter to start...

Oh, PETA, PETA, PETA... where would I be without your shenanigans?

There has been an upswing in PETA (this would be the pro-animal rights group, not the 'people eating tasty animals' one) controversy in the past week. Some real classic moments. Who could forget Nia Long and her airbrushed poll? Or the beached, bikini clad whales of Jacksonville? I am going to gloss over my personal feelings on their objectified and twisted use of women and their nefarious art department and jump to the newest controversy.
PETA's panties are now in a twist over Kansas City's refusal to put their sculpture of a crying, chained, baby elephant up in a public, city park for a month long installation, which would be a protest to the circus whilst it is in town. Charming, really. While I do not regularly attend the circus, my gut feeling is that those baby elephants are living higher on the hog than a large segment of the world population (but why would we protest the starvation and trafficking of children?). What's more, PETA is challenging this refusal as an attack on 1st Amendment rights. Seriously??? A city can elect to put whatever they want up in a public space, hence the whole opting for something that won't be political or offend/disturb. Not to mention, the moment something is put up as 'art,' which this sculpture would clearly count as, it can be judged and rejected by anyone, anytime. I would also like to point out that this fiberglass elephant is not particularly well executed or visually pleasing AND it actually looks happy and festive. Kansas City will allow PETA to protest/rally and bring their elephant for a transient event, though. But not good enough... PETA wants a full month installation for their art. It is amazing how much self-righteousness has infiltrated their message so that they can't even understand that art, regardless of the author, does not have to be accepted. Or at least pick a blue state to debut that delightful little pachyderm (and hope that there is not a Feminist contingency in town lying in wait).

Whatever. It will be interesting to see the fallout over the 'save the whales,' too. There are so many groups that do billboard defacement/improvement art and I think it is safe to safe that this one is ripe for an embittered parody.
And now I am off to floss my teeth with a strip of bacon.
Check out the KC story:

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

"This Is Not a Pipe... or Painting"

Miz Briccetti's post on glare, gave me pause to reflect (anyone? anyone? I will be here all evening). It is so frustrating to see paintings under glass. A good painting will utilize the physical qualities of paint as a material and you end up with all this depth from different layers of glazing and whatnot. The glass on top always flattens out these layers as it doesn't let the light in properly and then there is the glare and reflections---although I would like to think that my face floating in the middle of the still life really makes the grapes pop.

Of course, photographing these glass covered pieces is near impossible. I think this is my biggest complaint. There are so many photographs of paintings covered by glass or other reflective surfaces, and I have no idea what I am looking at. Glaze or varnish on paintings are just as bad as glass and with the mandatory digitization of paintings for web viewing, I have doubts regarding the accuracy of what I am seeing. I am guilty of putting a thick, unctuous layer of varnish on everything I do (like a bird or 5 year old, I enjoy shiny things) and I gotta tell you, the photographs of these pieces are not entirely true. Between the flattened glazing and the presence of glare, photoshop makes a new image in an attempt to salvage the digitized painting. I hate that. I suppose the only consolation is that it is true of all paintings; if you can't see them in person, you aren't really seeing them. Take Marevich's White on White (pictured above). It is the proverbial polar bear eating marshmallows in a vat of shredded coconut. The photograph just reduces it to an image and as an image it is pretty boring. It is only interesting when you can get close to it and see all the nuances in the paint. The picture of the piece is only good for documentation (sorta) and if you put the protective glass over it, you may as well put it into storage.

Outsider Art for the Great Outdoors

Did we mention that it is also a planter?? Clearly a MacArthur contender.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

RIP ODB, and also this woman's fingers.

There is a whole genre of art within the New York City subway system which I like to call "Subway Ad-Defacement."  From a little black mustache drawn onto a model, to a more thought provoking political statement, these defaced ad's run the gamut from serious to funny to really really stupid.

So today, we celebrate "Subway Ad Defacement" with a photograph of my all-time favorite. RIP ODB. 

Saturday, August 1, 2009

A Glaring Problem at the Met

 After weeks of procrastination, i finally got a chance to see the the Francis Bacon retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum today. And man, am I glad I went. They had his major masterpieces, studies, memorabilia from his epically messy studio, and so much more.  The show really shows the breadth of his work, explains some of his influences, and makes clear who was influenced by Bacon.  Basically, I loved it except for one tragically major problem: glare.

All the paintings were behind glass, which is in general not my favorite way to look at work, but can be important for conservation and safety.  Unfortunately, Bacon's work, with is subtle darks, really suffered from this.  In general, I'd much rather have to stand back a foot or two and actually be able to see the work I'm looking at than be able to get really close, but be blinded by glare, but this issue was particularly problematic at the Bacon show.

I'm certainly not trying to suggest we throw all caution to the wind at major museums, and put great works of art in danger of being damaged.  I'm not sure exactly why these paintings were all behind glass, and do realize there could be a very good reason for it.  Unfortunately, it made an otherwise amazing show difficult to view.  Also, it was really hot and smelled like sweaty New Yorkers in the first few galleries, but that's another issue all together.