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.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

O my. O you! You fabulous wonderful awe-ful you. Love these. They are beautiful, as are you.
--Karen

Tara said...

hello friend - what beautiful botanicals you have made. my phone allergy continues. recovering from flu. love this blog spot. hello. hello. hello. xoxo/tara
p.s. somehow i just knew if you moved away you'd screw a length of furring.

Sky said...

Hi Al! Love this. Miss you!