9.26.2008

Inner Cartography

Hi Everybody,

Well, it seems that my recuperative period has gone on quite awhile this time around. I slept about 12 hours a day for a week after the opening. But the new work was completed on time and the show was hung... The reception was well attended, folks were VERY generous with their compliments and I sold one so far. Very pleased, I am.

I'm very grateful to all the folks who helped make this happen... My pal Kevin, for all his encouragement and counseling -always ready to hold my hand through the panics or kick my ass in the doldrums. :) Elizabeth deMare, for opening a gallery in LV in the first place and for all her hard work and dedication to making the show a success. I have to thank Victoria as well... ringing the phone early in the morning so I'd go to work sooner, lots of phone counseling, getting me out of my head and back to the studio -it all made a big difference. Thank you.

I spent several days this week going through ALL my digital slides, labeling them, and uploading them to organized galleries. 150 so far. You all are invited to peruse those at your convenience here:

http://picasaweb.google.com/almadethis

And without further ado....


Inner Cartography


The title and theme for the show comes out my experience of finding a way to bridge from the representational, illustrative realm that I've haunted for most of my working life over to a purely abstract, intuitive place. In essence, the information is from the same source, the same subject; the mode of transmitting it is all that has shifted. But what a difference it makes.

*A note here... Several of the pieces in the show are ones that I introduced in earlier posts. Most of them went back to the bench before the opening for a little fine tuning, some accentuating, but they are in essence unchanged. Despite my misgivings about duplicating the images in the blog, I felt that the show as a presentation was important, so you'll have to forgive me if you're annoyed by seeing some paintings twice. :)





Mystery Map #1
36" x 50.5" encaustic on 4 panels

Mystery Map I is the cornerstone of the show. It was finished first, and was made using all sorts of never-before-seen techniques and ingredients. It informed all the work that followed. It's complicated and rich and hums with some sort of music of the spheres energy.

The experience of creating it -the inventing of new techniques and moving much more into a subtractive process was really unsettling, but ultimately more satisfying. It's my hope that it offers much more to the viewer as well.

The slide itself was made by a genuine professional photographer, John Vokoun at Dragon Fire Color in Santa Fe, and is the most perfect slide of my work I've ever seen. We liked it so much, we had posters made. Available at deMare Fine Art
(505.426.1011) for $35 .




'Mystery Map II'
21.5"x9.25" encaustic on board
SOLD

This is the smallest piece in the show, but also one of the heaviest. First, it's a generous plank of wood -maybe and inch thick and DENSE. Then the image was built up in layers of marble dust, fused into encaustic, and then carved and inlaid to create the line work.It has a stony finish, a bit like marble actually, and has a presence like a treasure map, or a star chart from a lost civilization.




'Mystery Map III'
36" x 25" encaustic on two panels

This is the piece we used for the postcards. It's bold and delicate, luminous and moody, peaceful and tweaky... I really enjoy this one. It has a rather traditional encaustic finish -nice and glossy- but in the depths you encounter patterns of coral and watercolor and wire. It's one of those that seems to be a different painting when you look at it from different perspectives.




'Mystery Map III'
36" x 25" encaustic on two panels

Mystery Map III was supposedly going to be a simpler expression of Mystery Map I... But I couldn't resist developing the forms that reminded me of the images made from smashing atoms.
When I was a kid, I used to go to my father's lab at Indiana University
Physics Department. I'd go all over the building, exploring and probably driving his colleagues crazy with all my questions. One of my favorite places to go was a small, dark room where students would spend hours at workstations like microfiche readers. They would go through slides from the cyclotron of exploding atoms, tapping points of interest with electric pens. Then the data from all that tapping was input for my father's room-sized computer, which would look for patterns that might indicate new, undiscovered subatomic particles.
So as I worked on this one, I kept coming across forms that stimulated those memories, until I finally accepted that this is where the piece wanted to go.
It's a deceptive image -at first one notices the general layout of the grid. It's organic, with some sense of fractal geometries. But as you spend more time with it, you start seeing that there are completely different patterns underneath that suggest that first impression- they aren't really there. The whole thing is built up of many very thin layers of fine crosshatching.




'Mystery Map V'
24" x 24" encaustic on panel





'Mystery Map VI'
33.25" x 39.75" encaustic on panel





'Abstract Botanical II'
41.5" x 25.5" encaustic on panel




'Quantum'
12" x 36" encaustic on panel





'Recipe for Al'
39.5" x 33.5" encaustic on panel





'Threshold'
22.5" x 50.25" encaustic on board

9.04.2008

New news from New Mexico

Just wanted to stick my head in the door and say... "I'm working... I'm working. I'm working!" (Facebook time not withstanding.) Elizabeth deMare and I talked the other day, and decided I ought not put up all the work on the web until after the opening, at which point it will be posted on on the gallery's page:

http://www.chickenriverartists.com/user/4

It is our aim to present a virtual version of the show there, so all you poor souls who are unable to join us at the reception will have a chance to participate vicariously! The opening will be September 13, from 7-9pm, and will run through October 9.

For those of you lucky enough to be able to come to the gallery in person, Daniel Jencka will be performing at the gallery on the afternoon of September 13 before the official reception begins. This guy is unbelievably good. You MUST SEE it to believe it- but there are mp3s on his website to wet your whistle:

http://musicbydaniel.jencka.com/index.htm

Also on September 13, at Tome on the Range, (*up the street a ways,) Birdie Jaworski will be reading from her books, performing original songs, and being radiant from 6-8. I adore Birdie, and you will fall in love with her too.

http://www.birdiejaworski.com/

So. It's going to be a busy day! Come join us!

That's the news.

...back to the bench I go.




http://www.birdiejaworski.com/

8.13.2008

New Work

Aaahhhh! I finally got a few things finished. What a long haul this group has been.

I like to think they're worth the trouble. Feedback is requested. Getting some very nice effects and textures; getting a better sense of how to work under 500 watt lights so that they don't wither on the wall under average light. You may notice that they're either smallish single panels or large multi-panel affairs. I'm still working on how to approach huge single panels ...

TIME FOR SHOW AND TELL!

Here we have the keystone of this body of work, "Mystery Map #1". My pal was SO excited when I brought this one in, I was a little overwhelmed. It took over three full weeks to finish this piece. First off, it's HUGE! I've never thought of working this big, much less actually tried it. It's a quad of 12" x 36" panels... that's 12 square feet. I used 7lbs of beeswax, 1lb each of damar resin and marble dust, and lots of cocoa, coffee, salt, chili powder, and ash.
The big breakthrough for me with this one is the use of denatured alcohol. I've been trying to find ways to capture watercolor-y effects in encaustic, but of course, water just beads up on a wax surface. On a whim, I tried using rubbing alcohol to make a "paint" of cocoa, and Eureka! This has opened a whole new horizon. All of the new work in this post make use of alcohol washes.
As usual, when I start using a new technique, things start off a bit uneven... A chunk of the time it took me to finish this piece was just getting a feel for using alcohol washes; sometimes having to scrape off an hour's work and trying again.
Presently, I'm very happy with it. It's fun to encounter, and after a few weeks with it, I find it's very dynamic in the way it shifts depending on the light and mood of the hour. It's only major weakness is that at this scale lighting becomes a real issue. (It's very difficult to supply 12 square feet of dedicated light without installing warehouse lighting in one's living room.)



Mystery Map #2 is a much smaller work on a chunk of old wood. I went right into this piece to hone some of my ideas from #1. I used a ton of marble dust and alcohol to build up a concrete-like base, then carved through that layer to establish the design. Generally, I love this one. It gives one the sense that it's a chunk of cave painting removed from the bedrock somewhere. It's really heavy and substantial despite it's small size. The surface is very flat and even, yet one sees a rich texture. It also has the benefit of high contrast, so it glows in any lighting.

"Mystery Map #3" is actually at the end of the list chronologically, but we're progressing alphabetically, so here it is. It is a diptych of 12" x 36" panels, made of encaustic, carbon, cocoa and marble dust.
Chronologically, this one benefits from another two weeks of research and development. The color values and contrast have gotten stronger to compensate for lighting issues, the alcohol washes have more subtlety ... It's gorgeous , if I do say so myself. This is the piece we chose today to grace the gallery announcements. Please feel free to email me your address and I'll send you one as soon as I get'em.

"Frogskin" is an 18" x 30" triptych on those same thick, weathered boards. (It might as well be stone for how heavy it seems.)
This one was a vacation from all the alcohol washes- It's pure encaustic and a lot of it. The wax itself is like, a 1/2" thick. I enjoyed making it a lot, a very playful process.
"Hidden Fish" is another venture into the oversize realm. It measures 50" x 22" and basically covered my entire bench, leaving me using every other surface within reach to put all the tools and jars and whatnot. It was really awkward working like that, and doubly frustrating because I had just built that bench last month to supposedly accommodate bigger work.
Chronologically, this is the oldest piece. I used really thick applications of marble dust and water attempting to create washes, and never really had any success toward that end. I DID however, discover the concrete-like textures and carving techniques that came in very handy later in the month.
As a work of art... this one is a lot like the last. It's luminous, full of texture and depth. It doesn't play hide and seek the way Mystery Map(s) #1 and #3 do, but it's sheer size and presence is lovely, I think.


I hope you've enjoyed my little presentation. I have a couple more that still need to be photographed... I'll get to those next week, and by then I should have another couple fresh from the bench to add as well.
Thanks for visiting.

al



As a side note-
This week I discovered Facebook.com. It's been a romp through long forgotten past lives and oddly inspiring to reconnect with the folks who inhabit that landscape. The flip side is that I received 10x the volume of email I'm used to, all of which I wanted to respond to. As one facebook friend put it. "I'm losing too many billable hours to this site, but I just have to say..."
It's voyeuristicly compelling and totally satisfies my narcissism. It's like TV about ME! I got into a rhythm of putting a new layer down on the piece I'm working on, fusing it with the torch, then while it's cooling go see what so-and-so had to say about whats-her-head's story from 1978. Sometimes an hour would go by, before I remembered I'm working in here.

8.08.2008

So, like, Wow!

My first and last post was THAT long ago?! I seem to have dropped the ball here...

Amid restoring and repairing the little house we call St. Francis, and trying to simultaneously entertain house guests for 2 weeks, and working in my studio a LOT on BIG pieces, and whatever else I actually spend my time doing, the blog has languished. Now that I'm not the only one who reads it, I promise to shoot and post some new slides this weekend. I have to because the promotional cycle for my September show at DeMare Fine Art begins Monday.

I have the main pieces for the show done. I've been telling myself that I'd shoot slides, "when this one I'm working on today is finished," but since I usually work on several at once, it's easy for me to lose track -get distracted -drop the ball...

I'm soliciting mailing addresses for the gallery mailing. Anyone?

Thanks for visiting. I'll have treats for you in a couple of days.

al

3.13.2008

After 4 Years of Trying to Start a Website...

So here it is. My work online. I can't believe it's been so difficult. I like to think of myself as fairly at ease with computery stuff. I can write firewall scripts. I can design and implement a home network with sneaky security features. I'm at home using OS X, Windows and Ubuntu. But for some reason, writing html just freaks me out.
Better late than never, I stake this claim here.


For my first post, I'd like to share with you my first New New Mexico paintings. I have three shows lined up for 2008, and I always feel better showing my newest pieces, so I've been painting a lot the past few weeks.
I've also been experimenting wildly with my techniques and materials. I dreamt a few weeks ago that I went to the grocery store because I needed art supplies. When I woke up, I went into the kitchen with new eyes. On my bench now are containers of powdered table salt, baking soda, cocoa and ground coffee. You may, as I do, wonder about the archival impact of such art supplies. Well, consider that one of the amazing qualities of encaustic painting is that the pigments are hermetically sealed in a moisture-proof, stable environment. My guess is that pH might be an issue, but I don't really know.
Anyway, I don't think of all these kitchen art supplies as an end to the experiment, but a passage on the way to more ways of thinking about encaustic and how to work with it. The main benefit to me is that it shakes things up and keeps them lively.

"Abstract Botanical" 20" x 16" triptych, encaustic on panel

This piece, with the creative title "Abstract Botanical," is a triptych I did at the beginning of the year. I was feeling stuck in a rut, and so I was trying to crash my routine. I dug through old lumber that the previous owner had left me with, and found three roughly equal sized pieces of shelving boards. I initiated the work thinking I would "not do what I always do... Go Crazy!" Yet sometime later, I found myself looking at 3 entirely predictable results. Going crazy was harder than I had thought. So, to prove to myself that I was serious about moving past my old habits, I 'murdered' these 3 paintings with a crowbar and a fletching knife. That's when things got interesting.
Eventually, after getting tired of gouging and slashing, I noticed that all three were siblings that looked good together. So I screwed a length of furring behind them and let them be triplets.
"Canyon" 24"x24" encaustic, salt, coffee on panel

Canyon is an interesting piece. It has a lovely moodiness and texture. (I'm not sure the photograph does it justice, but it gives an idea.) For Years, folks have been encouraging me to loosen up with encaustic. When recently we were installing a new wood stove, the guy who delivered it said offhandedly, "Let the tool do all the work." This piece is one of the few where I was able to follow the encaustic, rather than try to lead it.




"Firecloud" 12"x12" encaustic on panel

This was another case of following the material instead of leading. I wish I could remember the name of the artist I came across online recently who was showing a whole collection of encaustic images of clouds. (I just spent an hour trying to find it again, but I couldn't. Sorry.) They were really beautiful and deceptively simple. My first reaction to them was, "Oh, that must have taken her all of an hour." I decided I should try one myself.




"The Angel's Shadow" 9.5"x27.5" encaustic, coffee and cocoa on found board

I think of this one as more traditionally "Al Style." As when you lay in the summer grass and loll around staring at the sky... and you notice that the clouds look like a herd of bunnies, or your sweetheart's hair in the wind or whatever. the first step in working with encaustic is to fuse a layer of medium to and into your support. From there, all future layers have a compatible surface to bond to. But that first layer will inevitably pool in places and bleed away in others and leave a random arrangement. From there, I spend awhile looking at it, this way and that, until I find a herd of bunnies or my sweetheart's hair in the wind. Then the work is simply trying to make that image in the clouds visible to anyone who looks at it.
This piece was created using that approach, but experimenting with materials. The cocoa adds this amazing chocolaty red-black that smells wonderful with the honey and pine fragrance of the medium. i just eat it up. The coffee was initially meant as a texturing ingredient- something dark and gritty. I discovered, though, that rubbed on the surface of a cooled painting, it imparts a similar earthy brown-black shading that I have never been able to achieve before. It's like smoke from a forest fire upwind in another state. And it also imparts a delicious aroma.




"The Baby and the Bluebird" 30"x22" encaustic, soil, salt, coffee and digital print on found panel

I just love this one. Some might not admire it's showcase of visual textures and techniques, but it makes me very happy. It began with my friend Victoria Carlson's request for baby pictures. Go to her blog and you'll see why she wanted them. Really, you should go because this woman is brilliant. http://victoriacarlson.blogspot.com/
Anyway, I have this box of old pictures that I packed up after my mother died. So I paw through it for awhile and come across one that made me laugh out loud, but with sort of a lump in my throat.


I will refrain from boring you with all the personal details. It's importance here is that I hadn't seen this picture for decades. And after I had sent it off to Victoria, it lingered in my mind for days. It triggered a sort of memory avalanche in my dreamworld, and I kept thinking about it while I was working in the studio. So I printed a copy and hung it up by my bench, and invited the little guy to jump in . The Baby and the Bluebird is the result.