Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A New Press and A Hunter Finds Her Target

I finally had a chance to go to Philadelphia (December 18th) and to see some artwork and socialize. I visited Rebekah Templeton Gallery and then went to the grand opening of the Second State Press. Jackie Hoving’s exhibit Crypsis was on view at Rebekah Templeton. The exhibit featured two large collaged wall pieces, several smaller collage works (in both the gallery and the back room), and a video on a pint-sized screen. With regard to the large work, one collage referred to gaps in the content of the other. Below is one wall of the gallery and the following image shows the adjacent wall.

Jackie Hoving, Hunter in Forest, paper, spray paint, acrylic, ink, 2010, 108 x 224.25 inches

Jackie Hoving, Forest in Hunter, paper, spray paint, acrylic, ink, 2010, 108 x 175 inches

Hunting themes dominate Hoving’s work whereby she uses camouflage and references finding one's target. I feel most art making involves hunting for images, content, meaning, or a look. However, the artist’s inspiration very rarely purposefully hides. Although art usually does not involve hunting for the kill, I still find art more illusive and for the most part more valuable than the hunters pelt. What is most compelling about this work is the effort to find a view amidst difficult circumstances whether that is about finding a target in a dense forest or about the ethical or cultural issues relating to a hunting culture. In a day and age when hunting is rarely a necessity for food and clothing, this exhibit shows how close hunting is related to ritual as well as to a fashion that is political, visual, and social. For more images and information visit the Rebekah Templeton website.

After leaving the gallery, I headed over to the Crane Arts Building to the opening of the Second State Press. This is a new nonprofit print center that allows artists to rent time in order to use the presses. The rates are rather modest if one has specific printing needs.

Above is an image of one of the lithographic presses. The picture was taken after the opening festivities. To me the press looks lonely, as if it is waiting for an artist to come along. I bought sixteen hours of press time. So, Mr. Lithopress I will see you this spring.

(This is the last post of 2010 and in many ways the hunting theme foreshadows my next post about viewfinders. I hope you will come back in January. Until then, happy new year.)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Lost and Found Part 2

This fall I received an email from Liz Ainslie. Liz is a friend and an artist living in New York City. Liz informed me that she was out with another friend of mine Maanik Singh Chauhan and they spotted one of my paintings in an antique store. Maanik saw the painting first and noted my signature on the back. I guess the painting was a bargain because Maanik bought it right away.

I could not fathom how Maanik and Liz could stumble upon my painting because I have made so few. Also, when Liz described the artwork to me I could not recollect it. I considered that Liz might be mistaken. I figured that what she had could be a print because I had made many like the image she described. Yet, Liz assured me that it was a painting. Still confused, I asked Liz to email me an image so I could verify it. Once I received the image, I recognized the painting (see below). It was made at the Millay Colony in 2003 and I donated it for an auction. Somehow the painting made it back into circulation.

Kip Deeds, Entering the Carousel, oil on canvas, 12" x 12", 2003

My friends finding this painting has been a fortuitous for several reasons: first, now I know the artwork is in good hands; second, this event has allowed me to converse with Liz and Maanik; third, now I have a great reason to highlight these wonderful artists' work.

Liz Ainslie, The Pieces XI, oil on wood, 24" x 18", 2010

When I am absorbed by Liz’s paintings I think of a kind of abstract depiction of home through shape, form, and color. I am reminded of the playfulness of Milton Avery and the sensitivity of color that Morandi brought to his paintings. One of Maanik's paintings, seen below, is humorous in part because of its title and also because Maanik is a Sikh. This is one of my favorite paintings; it mixes humor and seriousness in a way that causes rumination.

Maanik Singh Chauhan, Sikh and Tired, oil on panel

The chances of finding one of my paintings in a resell store and recognizing it seems slim. I feel that winning the lottery might be greater. Although the payout in this case may not be nearly as great, the power of art has once again brought people together.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Edgar Allan Poe

Nathan Oliveira, title page and print from the series
To Edgar Allan Poe, 1971

Halloween is approaching, and it seems like a good time to investigate visual artists who were inspired by Edgar Allan Poe. Since I have been teaching in Baltimore this fall, Poe has been on my mind. Poe lived in Baltimore (he moved often) and is also buried there. Currently, there is an Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore that now keeps the memory of the writer alive.

Édouard Manet, Lithograph, published with the poem "The Raven",1875

After some online research, I found that the Baltimore Art Museum recently had an exhibit that featured artists inspired by Edgar Allan Poe (The University of Virginia also had a similar themed exhibit). Poe’s writing is now in the public domain and much of his writing can be found online. The website The Literature Network has a thorough collection of Poe’s writing (If you do not see the links to Poe’s stories and poems on this site, look for the column on the left as you scroll down).

Odilon Redon, The Eye Like a Strange Balloon Mounts Toward Infinity, Plate 1 in the Series For Edgar Allan Poe, Lithograph, 1882

Artists for generations have been attracted to Edgar Allan Poe’s imagination, depth, and vividness. It is these qualities that pierce through the macabre for which his best literary works are known. Some artist’s like Edouard Manet have made more literal illustrations of Poe’s writing. Manet made lithographs to illustrate Stephane Mallarme's French translation of "The Raven". Artists Odilon Redon and Nathan Oliveira have made suites of prints inspired by Poe. For artists like Edvard Munch much of their art work is ladened with a mood akin to Poe's writing.

Odilon Redon, After Reading Edgar Allan Poe, or: The Eye, Charcoal drawing, 1883

Life is ripe with paradox. For example, one cannot truly know the lighter side of life without feeling its darkness and despair. For all of Poe's focus on the darker side of life, he also understood its opposite. For example,“The Pit and the Pendulum” is relentlessly dark. However, it would not be memorable without the light at the end.

Edvard Munch, Angst, Oil on Canvas, 1894

(For further reading about Redon's connection with Poe see: Norbert Miller's essay, pages 58-67, in the book Odilon Redon: As in a Dream. Also see: Nathan Oliveira, by Peter Selz, pages 3, 78-80, and 154)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Lost and Found Part 1

Currently, I am taking digital design classes at Bucks County Community College. Numerous prints are hung in one of my classrooms below the library. After observing the various styles and techniques represented, I noticed a print that looked familiar and seemed to be part of a series. I had seen another print that looked very similar on another part of the campus. Upon closer inspection I realized that the print found in my classroom and the other print I had seen were made by Pamela DeLaura.

I met Pamela on a trip to Detroit. She is a Professor of Printmaking at Wayne State University in Detroit. I sent her an email to confirm it was her work. She was surprised because it turns out the work came from her time as a graduate student at Temple University. She was not sure how the work became a part of the college collection but was pleased to know it fell into good hands.

The print I witnessed (seen above with some glare on the glass) is an interior with writing visible as part of the printed image. The writing describes what she saw out of her window when she was a child.

Pamela's prints at Bucks County Community College seem to foreshadow her later work that depicts the form of a house filled with reminders and symbolic information. Below is an image of a more recent print by DeLuara that was included in a national print exhibit at Artlink in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Having lived for three years in the Midwest, I know that Artlink has been very active in support of contemporary art and printmaking. After doing a web search, I found that Artlink has a new website. This was a little confusing because I found Pamela’s work on what must have been their older site. Anyway, it is all good. What was lost has now been found.

Pamela Delaura, Intersections III, 2005

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Science and Art

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) is perhaps the artist most identified with science. The drawing above by Leonardo demonstrates his interest in proportion. Proportional study was critical to science during Leonardo's lifetime because a standard system of measurement did not exist. Systems of measurements often varied from city to city (See Fritjof Capra's excellent book The Science of Leonardo page 169).

Since the renaissance, technology has more often than not allowed artists and scientists to drift apart. There is still the need to illustrate, graph, and describe science with traditional artists tools. However, In the nineteenth and twentieth century a dramatic increase in scientific invention and information has ushered in an age of specialization where scientific understanding is no longer dependent on the artist's power to observe and record. Electron microscopes, x-rays, and cameras small enough to be inserted in the body are now allowing scientists, engineers, and doctors to see in enhanced ways.

Although most artists are not deeply engaged in science and most scientists don't have time to become full time artists, the two fields of study share many common aspects. For instance, both disciplines are likely to begin with studies or tests, comparison is key to both scientific and artistic analysis, perspective and observation remain critical, and finally imagination and creative thinking is essential to scientific and artistic development.

Art involves a study of life as it relates to the senses and intellect. So, we should see some connections between art and the techniques used for investigating our universe (scientific method). Art remains capable of presenting scientific findings in unique ways. Art can also provide a humanistic context for science that is capable of critiquing mankind's use of science.

Below are examples of art that describe, critique, and presents science in a variety of ways. What is art and what is science can often be hard to separate. Notably, my initial inspiration for this post was a contest and exhibit titled The Art of Science that students at Princeton University take part in annually. The contest challenges students, who study a range of subjects, to consider science as art and art as science.

National public Radio had a series called "Where Science Meets Art" and one example from this series involves science told through comics. The artwork above is by Leland Purvis and Jay Hosler.

GFP Bunny is a genetically engineered rabbit by Eduardo Kac (born 1962).

Based on study by Niccolo Fontana Tartaglia (1499/1500 - 1557) this illustration exhibits the relationship between geometric analysis, physics, and canon fire.

Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) said "Mathematics is the language with which God has written the universe." This image is from Galileo's Dialogues.

Dorothea Rockburne's (born 1932) work has also been inspired by a study of geometry. Above is her work: Pascal’s Provincial Letters, Oil on gessoed linen , Size 67" x 67" x 8", Date 1987.

Here are links to other serious artists inspired by science: Beauvais Lyons, Beverly Fishman, Vija Clemins also on Art 21, Walter De Maria, and Damien Hirst. (I hope to add more soon)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Relief Prints

Lyonel Feininger (German/American 1871-1956), Volcano, 1918

This fall I am teaching
relief printing as part of an introductory printmaking course. During the first class, I introduced examples of relief prints from art history. Many of these images are included in this post. After this presentation/lecture, students began to work on preparatory drawings that would lead them toward their own print. Although this stage of design can't be seen in the prints shown here, during this sketch stage the aesthetic treatment of one's subject and its compositional layout can be considered and revised. Once a plan is made, the design is render on the surface of the carving block (usually linoleum or wood). When the drawing is in place then the remainder of the work revolves around carving and printing. Surprises can arise while carving, and adjustments can be made after a proof is printed. However, it is the initial planning which I believe to be the most critical to the success of this kind of print (one that relies on describing form).

The prints included in this post are related to German Expressionist prints and prints made in Mexico during the first half of the 20th century. When discussing these prints with the students, I asked them to notice how the negative space (the space around the main subject or subjects) can contribute to the organization of a picture. If the shapes that the negative spaces make are complex then this can lead to a more active image. Although a larger amount of white or black around a figure or subject can lead to a dramatic presentation, rarely is the background (or negative space) all white or all black in these examples. Here marks are often used to activate spaces that can be undervalued to the passive viewer. In other words, the type of mark made according to its width, length, and direction is integral and an important subject unto itself.

Francisco Dosamantes (Mexican 1911-1986), Scandal, 1945

Carving does not allow for shading but value differences can be created optically by the proximity of marks. The smaller and farther apart marks are the lighter a picture will appear. In other words, the more one carves the lighter the image will be when printed because there will be less raised surface area for the ink roller to make contact with. However, exceptions will occur when the printing method involves explicitly over inking the matrix or that the carved marks remain too shallow and collect ink.

Below are examples with notes and links. Some of the artists are less known and I am pleased to include them here because they made important contributions to the larger milieu of their time and culture.

Karl Jakob Hirsch (German 1892-1952), Self Portrait, 1915

Franz M. Jansen (German 1885-1958), 8 O'clock, 1920

Käthe Kollwitz (German 1867-1945), The Widow II, 1923

Isabel Villaseñor (Mexican 1909-1953) Self Portrait, 1929

I could not find a lot of information about Villaseñor. She was a poet and artist who also appears as a model in many well regarded photographs.

Tamiji Kitagawa (Japanese, 1894-1989) Extracting Sap from a Maguey Plant, 1930

Tamiji Kitagawa was born in Japan but came to live in Mexico.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Scroll Drawing

Currently, I am exhibiting artwork at the Kalamazoo Book Arts Center in Michigan (August 6 - 27th). Included in the exhibit is a thirty-two foot long drawing of a scroll.

In 2003 or 2004 I had bought a roll of paper. Having not used it by 2005, I thought about the possibility of making the entire roll into one long drawing. At that point, I didn't know how long the roll was or how long it would take to use all of the paper. This summer I was able to measure the drawing and for the first time I was able to see the finished piece at one time.

When trying to comprehend a work that is very large and or sculptural, it requires multiple views to piece together a sense of the whole work. For this reason, I took multiple photographs to document this work.

The drawing was completed in three different stages. At each stage I would work on a section for a particular exhibit. During the first stage, I completed a part that was included in an exhibit at the Pennsylvania College of Art.

I continued work on the scroll for the exhibit "Naked Paper" at Tower Gallery in Philadelphia (Tower Gallery is now closed). For this part of the drawing, I depicted many large towers.

I completed the last part for the exhibit "Dig" in the Washington D.C. area. The gallery had only enough space to exhibit the last section. The last part is comprised of a collage related to the "Dig" exhibit as well as depictions of well-known people spewing forth quotations or aphorisms they are known for.

By the time I had the chance to show the entire scroll in Kalamazoo I had only a few corrections to make. For me one of the biggest surprises of this project was the shape at the beginning and end of the roll of paper. I don't think the manufacturer considered that artists would use these parts.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Gwen Frostic and the Cherry Hut

(The front entrance of Gwen Frostic's print shop and store)

This summer I visited two popular destinations in Northern Michigan. One of these sites is
Gwen Frostic's print shop and store in Benzonia, Michigan. The other destination is the Cherry Hut in near by Beulah, Michigan.

(A portrait of Gwen Frostic)

Gwen Frostic (1906 -2001)was an artist who made linoleum cut prints using motifs from nature to make cards and books. A few of the cards feature unlikely themes for greeting cards (e.g. cards that feature rainfall or one animal devouring another). I feel Frostic tried to reveal nature's beauty without simplifying its complexity.

(Printing presses at Gwen Frostic)

Recently, Gwen Frostic's Printshop seems to have fallen on some hard times and was shut down for a while. However, with new owners the printing center and store have re-opened. Although the website for this popular destination could use some updating, the actual location is a fascinating excursion. Frostic created a facility where people could watch the printing of her uniquely designed cards. Many cards and products are featured in the store and are favorably priced. Year after year I have come back to visit the press and shop to buy more cards. Seeing the unique building and grounds, the press operation, and the many cards and books is well worth a few hours of time.

(Gwen Frostic's cards)

(Books by Gwen Frostic)

Finally, after I left Gwen Frostic's shop this year, I stopped at the Cherry Hut. The Cherry Hut is opened seasonally in the spring and summer months and is minutes from Gwen Frostic. The graphic sign out front is well known in the area (see the image below). This local diner (established in 1922) offers a fine cherry pie.

(The Cherry Hut sign and entrance)

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Pajama Factory

This summer I have traveled from Pennsylvania (near Philadelphia) to Michigan. I am teaching in the summer program at Interlochen Center for the arts. Interlochen is in Northwest Michigan, near Traverse City. On the way there, I stopped in Williamsport, Pennsylvania to visit the artist Chad Andrews. Chad has been an early tenant in the Pajama Factory. The Pajama Factory is a building that holds artist studios and performance space. It is owned by Mark Winkelman who is an architect from New York City.

This floor of the Pajama Factory has yet to be developed.

I have seen other cities convert old factory buildings into studios (e.g., the Crane Building in Philadelphia or the Goggle Works in Reading, PA) but I have never seen a building this large with so much potential. This makes me wonder if projects like the Pajama Factory will have a greater impact on the art we see in the future? As the internet has made images of artists' work more accessible and art fairs have made it easier for galleries to make sales in multiple markets, will artists seek out these new centers where the rent is relatively inexpensive compared to big cities? One of the smart choices that the Pajama factory has made was to start an artist residency program. This allows young artists to consider being an artist in a less than obvious place.

A renovated floor with new studios.

After touring the building with Chad Andrews, I began to feel that another advantage to a facility of this kind is that resources can be consolidated. For example, Andrews has refurbished several printing presses and just opened a printmaking workshop akin to Second State Press (located in the Crane Building, Phila. PA). So far Andrews has signed up several talented local artists (e.g., Jeremiah Johnson and Lori Crossley) for membership and access to his print shop. Only time will tell how large projects like the Pajama Factory will work. However, I feel a wider range of studio options will only benefit to the artists of the the future.

Chad Andrews's new printmaking studio.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Two years ago I started a painting (acrylic on canvas) that was to be dominated by the chroma white. Initially, I was inspired by the abstract paintings of Robert Ryman. Ryman is known to use an abundance of white. Rather than making an abstract painting, I wanted to paint a boat I called the "Arkadelphia" making its way to Anchorage, Alaska. My painting was to depicted extreme cold through extreme white.

As I started to paint, I quickly realized that what appeared to be white on the palette no longer looked white on the canvas. Any little bit of color mixed with white had a profoundly colorful effect when placed on my canvas and compared with other more pure whites. I found that my image began to suffer from two flaws: either I made it too white and the imagery became difficult to see or I added too much color and then it was no longer dominated by white paint.

Not knowing how to proceed, I left the painting alone for two years and this June, after what I consider a long detour, I began to work on it again. Forgetting about my original objective, I began painting portraits inside the boat. Later, as I worked I tried to make these portraits whiter and concentrate on cool colors (blues and greens).

After working on the painting for a couple of days, I arrived at a point of decision again. Rather than continue and obliterate the image with more white, instead I stopped. This is the point at which I dropped anchor and the painting remained still. This metaphor of "dropping anchor" became an apt description and I wondered if the city of Anchorage was founded in a similarly specific and arbitrary way. After finishing this not so white painting (see the image below), I wondered if I would ever successfully make a painting truly dominated by the color white. Perhaps this future painting will have to depict a scene in route to Antarctica.

Anchorage, by Kip Deeds, 25" x 26 1/2", Acrylic on Canvas, 2010