Saturday, October 31, 2020

Busy Day

 One of those days when I had a lot of things to do and it started early in the morning, or early for me anyway.  One nice thing- the sun was out today, for the first time in about two weeks.  On the other hand, the temperatures dropped about 20 degrees.  On the whole, probably a net gain for any kids going  trick or treating, if such a thing is even happening in this covid era.

Month is ending this weekend, which means bills are coming due.  One of my tasks today was to go to the bank with a check, and to write a bunch of checks and get those in the mail.   At least there was no rain.  One of the bills due this weekend was for my Studio rent, so I had to leave that today.  


Things were busy around the building today, with some of the first activities scheduled for a while. Early in the day there was a trick or trunk event, which generally means candy distribution out of cars, so kids don't need to go to all the houses, so I assume that's what this was. Later tonight there will be a outdoor seasonal movie (indoor activities are still a problem these days), and I knew from the newsletter that at the time I planned to be there the parking would exist.  As I drove up Main, I could see things were set up in the back parking lot, but I could park in the front, and there were only a few cars there. Through the window in my space (see above) I could see things were happening in the back, but I didn't need to get candy, so I stayed out of their way.  

When I was finished with my business, I locked up and went to leave. Two elderly women were banging on the front door window, demanding to be let in.  I told them that the afternoon event was out back and they should just walk around the building.   They insisted that they had a scheduled meeting in the theater.  I pointed out that all the people involved in running the building were out back (I had seen them from my window), but they weren't having any of that. One thing I have learned is that people that age can't be reasoned with (see the last posting I did) One went charging past me, and the other just gripped the door and wouldn't let go.  I didn't want to interfere if there was a reason for them to be there, and if there wasn't, they would find out soon enough.  One asked if I would let them back into the building. I told them I was leaving, and that if they needed more information, the people in the back parking lot knew everything.  

But I wasn't quite done with my day yet.  On my way home last night the maintenance light had finally come on.   All the cars I have owned in the past, you kept track of mileage and at a certain point you changed the oil or whatever else was required. This car tells me what it wants when it feels it is time.  Every year, on the first cool day of the fall, it insists that the tires are flat.   I used to check tire pressure, but now I just look at them and see the tires are fine, a system that had worked for decades.  This car wants the oil changed when it reaches what it decided is 15% oil life left.  The last oil change was probably back in the spring (when things were still open everywhere), because we have had very little driving to do the past 8 or 9 months.  But last night the car said it was time, and it's probably overdue.  So I stopped off and made an appointment for early next week. 

I could have stopped for some takeout for lunch, but I wanted to get home in case any trick or treaters came around.   Cleaned one of my metal beer trays, dumped a bag of candy on it, grabbed a pair of tongs and a mask (my solution to the social distancing and safety concerns) and brought it downstairs to near my door, and then had lunch in my kitchen. But no one rang my bell, and I heard no hordes of kids roaming around seeking candy.  At 8 pm I put it all away. My one bag of candy will be enough this year.

This is unrelated, but I discovered something recently. I started this blog back in 2007, and I have posted to it about 2100 times since then.  I knew that, but what I just found is that the blog has been viewed over 80, 000 times.  That is a lot of people stopping by to see what I have written.  When someone leaves a comment or question I always respond to it, but that is less than 100 in all that time, so I have no idea who all these people were.  It would be great if I could make some money from this.



Thursday, October 29, 2020

Supermarket Fun part 2

 What got me out of bed this morning was my cell phone ringing. Thought it might be something from the medical office where I am seeking help with something, but I didn't recognize the number so I let it go to voice mail.  Later listened and it turned out to be the county clerk's office- my ballot for the next election had been received from the drop box where I had left it several days ago.  Not processed yet, but that will be soon. Well, that's good news, my vote will be counted, not a given in this country this year.

So where did I leave off?  As we moved through the 20th century, A&P got larger and larger, and other chains were created and joined the party.  More departments, more products. Frozen foods for example. The tv dinner was created when a supplier found himself with a excess of turkey after thanksgiving, and was tired of paying to keep it refrigerated.  Got the idea to cook it, package it on a divided tray with meat, side dish(es) and dessert, and sell it as a frozen convenience food perfect to eat in front of those new television devices that were getting popular.  Priced at about a buck, sold out quickly and became a new ongoing item.  (this kind of thing happens- comic books were created when a publisher ended up with a large supply of newsprint, reprinted old newspaper strips on it, and created an industry) In my youth tv dinners were packed on aluminum trays, and cooked in standard ovens. Those don't exist any more (looked in vain when I was doing a tv dinner piece decades ago), now replaced with plastic plates and microwavable products, ready in minutes.   Half of the tv commercials I see are for ready made meals, delivered to your door- you heat and eat. Could be for dietary reasons or just convenience ("we never need to cook again!" exclaims a woman in one commercial I saw today) Most supermarkets have two of three aisles of frozen foods now.  Deli counters also became standard. Freshly sliced meat and cheese, prepared items, all very convenient.  Thanks to cars and roads, instead of small buildings in downtowns, they could be larger buildings on the outskirts. My father's father started working for A&P, a variety of jobs, and moved the family down to the shore around 1950 to help open a new location, which eventually resulted in my existence. He died when I was young from a fatal illness, living just long enough to qualify for his pension, which his widow continued to collect for decades.  Not a huge amount, but every little bit helps.

The A&P did well, but the original owners were a bit greedy, which what did it in.  They organized the corporate structure to give most of the profits to them and their estates, with little going to the chain itself.  Other chains started to catch up and surpass them.   Went through a bankruptcy and reorganizing around the turn of the century. but still were popular.  Some store brands remained popular.   There was one across the street from where I live, and I ended up taking a part time job there while still teaching at the college. I was told that the deli was my grandfather' favorite department, so I decided to try that. 

Had its good and bad points- probably not the same as 50 years ago when my grandfather did it.  Slicing meats and cheeses is not particularly challenging, though if you got an order for prosciutto, you were granted access to the best slicer we had (the store was not expected to repair or replace them any time soon. )  The cleaning was a lot like what we did at McDonald's, so I could do that.  More complex tasks like loading the rotisserie with chickens and using the deep fryer was handled by the full time staff, jobs not available to me. Once I was asked to pluck chickens, which surprised me.  Did they come to us with feathers still on them?  Turned out this was their term for removing meat from the bones, which we did after there freshly roasted chickens had reached their maximum time under the heat lamps.  Not wasted though, that meat (now devoid of skin and bones) was refrigerated and used to make chicken salad, a very popular item in our department- sold out very quickly.   All our store made salads did (red skin potatoes, macaroni salad, freshly made cole slaw) especially in summer when they were commonly used as part of cookouts.  We just raided the other aisles for ingredients. 

Some customers wanted a lot of help, seeking to know what might go with something or make a special request.  Once had a customer ask for half inch thick slabs of ham for a recipe.   I adjusted the slicer, did a sample,weighed it for him so he would know what such a thing would cost, and at his request. sliced a few more.  He was very grateful.  Occasionally customers would thank us for being so helpful. Most did not, and some were downright mean.  We had one regular with what is commonly called a "resting bitch face" (not our slang- it's out there in the world) and some deli staff just didn't want to wait on her. On an evening shift, with only two people on line, had an elderly man throw a tantrum because he was tired of waiting while the other customer ahead him was being served.  (quarter pound of this, quarter pound of that, and a long list)  He eventually dragged some manager over who took the side of the complainer, and didn't notice the the customer with the long list of items left, tired of the discord, and not purchasing. The manager took out his anger on my coworker who was doing exactly as our immediate supervisor had requested- clean the slicers while I took care of the first customer so we could close down for the night. (it was clear I was working) Once had a customer just walk up and ask for ham.  "Which one?" I asked, since we had maybe 8 varieties. "The best one", he said. Which one was the best? "Obviously the most expensive one" he told me.  In my head I thought the managers must love this guy, and hoped that people would be really impressed with he extra $3 per pound he was spending, but I kept my mouth shut and filled the order. Once had a customer ask me which was the best ham for dogs.  None, really, with all the preservatives- he'd be better off getting something from the pet aisle, but while I worked there I cut a lot of cold cuts that were intended for dogs- mostly ham, roast beef, and liverwurst.  Probably the tipping point came with bologna.  Word had come down from above that we were to sell more of the store brand, but most of the customers had been cultivated to like fancy name brands advertised on tv, and that is what they wanted, no matter how much you tried to suggest the other ones.  I decided that helping the owners (most supermarkets these days are owned by international conglomerates) sell more baloney no longer held my interest.  In the end though, I needed more time to grade at the end of the semester and requested a lighter schedule, but instead I was given more hours. When I started we were told it was part time and we'd be limited to 20-25 hours per week. Instead, we got no full time pay, no vacation pay, no pensions, and asked to work a full time schedule.  I just had to go.

Even while I was there, I wondered if something bad had happened there. There was the kind of vibe that you found in 80's movies like Poltergeist, and The Shining, evil caused by the presence of spirits of those who had died there. I asked people who had lived in the area for a long time, and one told me the property had once been a horse farm.  Plausible, with Monmouth County being well known place to raise horses.  I was also told that the property was known to host lynchings.  I have no facts to back that up, but unfortunately, also plausible.   Back in the 1930's, the KKK attempted to acquire the old Marconi property here in town and turn it into a resort for themselves.  The IRS put an end to that, and eventually the military got it and used it as a base for decades, a place to test high-tech items, such as a radar bounce off the moon. It's been a few years since I worked at a supermarket, but it looks like things have gotten worse.  Any supermarket I go to I feel a lot of anger.  My current thoughts are less evil spirits, and more likely they are just unpleasant places to be. People don't go to supermarkets because they want to, they go because they have to.  And they resent it.   You can take your life into your hands walking through a parking lot, second only to convenience stores for danger.  Inside, around any corner you may be hit with a shopping cart, people in a hurry to get what they want and get out of there.  Compare it to a casino.  Go to a casino and you will likely lose money, and if you think otherwise you are probably delusional, but people still like to go. They are bright, colorful, with flashing lights, lots of music and action.  I do not think much of Donald Trump as president, but I have to admit that in his Atlantic City casinos the restrooms were impeccably clean, and the buffets had tasty food.  The cocktail waitresses were always good to look at.  If supermarkets were decorated like casinos, people might be happier there.   



How would this work for art? Hasn't been settled yet, much less drawn. What I am thinking right now is a print larger than my current supermarket series prints, more room for details. Still black and white.  Maybe show the evil happening in supermarkets, maybe ideas of what could have caused these to happen.  Or maybe something else.  Have to give this one a bit of thought.


Supermarket Fun

 One of the few things that remained open through the whole pandemic was supermarkets.  Arts related businesses, schools, restaurants and bars, many local stores- all had hours cut back or went out of business. A lot of the products that people buy at supermarkets were in short supply for reasons that have yet to be explained, but the stores remained open.  People to need to eat, which is one of the theories behind my supermarket series of prints- people need to buy food and so everyone shows up eventually, which means you will eventually see some odd behaviors there.  Started the series back in the late 90's, have shown them in dozens of places, but still haven't run out of ideas.  The last block was about odd things related to the current crisis, but supermarkets continue.

Should they? More convenient than what came before. In the old days, food shopping was done at small stores, a lot of them. Shopping for a family might include a grocery store for dry goods (canned or boxed items), a butcher shop for meat, a produce stand for fruits and vegetables, a bakery for bread, etc.  The idea came that if all these things were in a single location,  simpler for shoppers.  The first major chain was A&P, which had started as tea and coffee supplier, but it caught on.  Soon they were everywhere in the country, and the chain had become one of the most successful corporations in America. The chain grew bigger and the individual stores got bigger.  A downfall was inevitable, but I'll save that story, and the artwork that I plan to make from all this, until tomorrow.


Return of the Puzzles

 A couple of days ago I finally heard back from my friend down south, the one who got the idea to try turning my artwork into jigsaw puzzles. Such puzzles became popular this past year- people were trapped indoors for long periods of time, and these things can be a nice low tech way to keep occupied. As a result, some stores couldn't keep up with the demand.  My friend, who has collected some of my art of the years, thought my prints would work as puzzle images, and it seemed a plausible idea. My work tends to have bold graphics, solid shapes and colors, images of recognizable objects. So she started looking into the process, and even had a bunch of prototypes made up, mostly around my boardwalk prints, which have all of the above characteristics. She sent them to me to try out.  I tried two of them, both about 20"x30".  Went with color images on all these, figuring they would be easier to put together and have more appeal. The biggest problem seemed to be finding space to work on them. A table is needed, and since these take a while to put together, it needs to be a table that can be used to hold a puzzle for days or weeks.  The ones I tried came from two different manufacturers, so slight difference in how the pieces were cut, but the images reproduced well in both cases.  We learned that my art does translate well into jigsaw puzzles, and that one needs space to work on them.  But then I didn't hear from my friend since July.  I hoped she was okay, but covid being what it is, one never knows.  Sent an email a few weeks ago, and got a reply late last night. 

Good news- she is alive and well, and still interested in this project.  She got called back into work and was putting in some long hours, which accounted for her absence in communication.  

What we know is that the product is good.  We are both doing research into how they work as puzzles (having friends and family try them out, seeing feedback)  What remains is the question of whether they can be made at an affordable price and how and where to sell them.  The prototypes are all beautiful, but cost more than most people would pay for amusement.  And while both of us have residences in shore communities where puzzles featuring boardwalks could be popular,  the pandemic closed a lot of local shops and places that sell souvenirs, cutting off what would have been a good option.  Months ago she had suggested displaying one in the building that has my Studio, a sea coast town, but since the spring the building has been closed to the public, one of those state laws. 

One thing that may be in our favor is we are moving toward the cold months of the year- more indoor activities, which can include puzzles. According to the news, the virus may be making a comeback into this area, as it overtakes the entire country.   That's bad for a lot of reasons, but a stay at home order could create a demand.  This seems like a time to act, get product made and into the public. There may be a lot of emails in the near future.


Thursday, October 22, 2020

What Is Old is New

 On Sunday I wrote about the pumpkin, one of the things I did at my parents' house that day. But then the story continued.

On the way home I experienced something I had happen to me a few decades ago, but I recognized it instantly.  I had just turned onto Warren Avenue, maybe a mile from home, when suddenly my car became very noisy.  Both a roar and a rumble.  The last time I experienced that was in Pennsylvania, summer of '94 I think.  I was making my twice yearly trip from Carbondale to New Jersey, and pulled off the interstate into a rest stop.   Took care of business, got back in my car and started it up, and it sounded like the world was coming to an end.  My best guess was that I had lost my muffler.  Shut down the car and went back, and saw the tailpipe still there.  That's good. Started it up, and the noise returned.  Shut things down again and went back out of the car.  I crawled down by the back of my car, felt the muffler, and realized it was hanging loosely.  Thought about trying to secure it in place, but found it was hanging by just an unsecured bracket, and decided (since it wasn't serving any particular function), just to take the item, stick it in my trunk, and continue east.  With windows up, surrounded by trucks, I hadn't even noticed it wasn't working, so I figured no one else would notice or care.  And no one did.  Got home, and had my warranty with me, so a few days later I got the muffler replaced at the shop where I had gotten it. 

From that experience I knew that a car could function without a muffler, but very noisily.  I continued my trip home from Manasquan and parked in my assigned spot.  The next day it rained, so I didn't want to go deal with it.  The day after that I checked it out.  

My muffler was still there, but the exhaust pipe was barely there.  Everything was hanging low, barely off the ground.  I might not need the muffler to operate the engine, but I didn't want to try driving the car too far in this condition.  And I needed to get the exhaust system repaired.  Sought recommendations for nearby repairs, and got a place my brother recommended, and made an appointment.

That was for early this morning, so I was up with the sun, the car started, and went to the repair place without any new incidents.  Left the car and the keys.  Checked back an hour later, and they had figured the problem and the repair would be quick and inexpensive.  Picked up my much quieter car in the afternoon, and even took it on a short errand to make sure it was fine. Eventually I will need to replace the whole exhaust system, but this repair will cover me for a while.  

So what does this have to do with art?  First, that initial trip was on the way back from Carbondale, where I earned my MFA. It seems like many of my stories include Carbondale- it was that kind of town.  Second, having no car makes it difficult to do anything, such as get to my Studio.  I have a bunch of other problems to deal with right now, but if I had a new piece I had to work on, I'd be able to get there to do it. 

Sunday, October 18, 2020

A Not Quite Great Pumpkin part 6

 

Was at my father's house today to view the Giants game, but I felt like this was something else I could take care of.  When I was there yesterday (lawn mowing), I checked on the pumpkin piece and found it was still a little tacky.  The forecast called for no rain on the weekend, so I left the piece out on the patio table last night, hoping the sun or the constant breeze would finally complete the drying of the surface.  As predicted, no rain, but the pumpkin was still not completely dry when I checked it today.  No color came off on my hands- just a  little bit of stickiness to the surface.  Perhaps that is as good as I can expect any time soon. 

So at halftime, I went out to take care of the next step.  I knew there was a can of clear acrylic spray in their kitchen (why I wasn't sure, but I had seen it sitting on the counter for a while), so I grabbed that.  Instructions showed that it would work like spray paints, so I gave it a proper shake and applied a coat to the front side of the pumpkin.  A few minutes later, that front side was completely dry, so I gave it a second pass.  When that proved dry a few minutes later, I put it down on its face and sprayed the back, since this is plywood and if it rained, that would probably get wet as well, then put it upright and sprayed the edge.  Left it that way for the rest of the game.  At that point I checked it again and found everything dry.  I showed it to my father, who liked the paint job,  so I installed it as it was intended to be seen, on one of the front steps, holding one of the potted chrysanthemums on top.  It seems this project is done.  

Unfortunately, I had no camera today.

A week later (Oct 24th) I was back down at the house to mow the lawn again, and this time I had the camera. 


So you get to see how it looks with the flowers, and I got to see that it survived the rains from early in the week.   That's good to know for the future.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

A Not Quite Great Pumpkin part 5

 


Back to Manasquan today to mow the lawn and check on this pumpkin project. The coloring is definitely done, and I took another blotter proof. Mostly dry, but tacky enough that I decided not to spray the finish on it yet.  Anyone who knows painting knows that putting a varnish coat over still wet paint is inviting trouble.  Rain may come tomorrow before I am back there again, so I moved it into the shed.  Halloween is still weeks away, so another day won't hurt anybody. 

Friday, October 09, 2020

A Not Quite Great Pumpkin part 4

 Using relief ink to color a wooden object relates to some of my recent experiences making wooden sculptures for my nieces, but long before that it was part of woodcut printing.  That's how I knew it would work, and besides, I had the color inks. I had left it in the shed to dry, knowing when the ink is applies thickly (as in a brush) it takes longer to dry than the residual on a printed block. However I also know from printmaking that pulling a ghost proof on scrap will remove a little more ink from the wood and help it dry faster, which is why I sometimes call these things blotter proofs.  Yesterday I stopped by the shed just long enough to check the progress on my painted pumpkin, and used a sheet of old newspaper to pull one of these blotter prints.

Today I got there a little earlier with a goal to finish the coloring job on the pumpkin.  I had the tube of brown relief ink in my car, along with the glass palette and brush that were also in my Studio.  I also brought a tube of black ink I had in the car already, plus my print shop apron. 

The pumpkin, all the color inks, and the ink knife and brayers were also in the shed. One extra thing I brought from home was an empty can left from lunch, a place to put some water.  Inside the tubes the ink sometimes separates over time, the thick pigment separating from the liquid medium.  Squeezing it out on a palette, no problem- squeeze out enough to get some of each and use a brush or ink knife to remix it, good as new.  Squeezing out just a little directly onto the wood I was coloring, more of challenge, which is why I picked up a palette the other day.  I also grabbed a folding chair from the patio to use while I painted- the last few times I just stood, bending over the table, and my legs didn't like that.  For this longer task today I decided to use a chair and spare my hamstrings the ordeal.

Used the backyard hose to put a little water in my can, into which I could dip my brush to make the water soluble ink flow better, or what in printmaking is called viscosity.  (with oil ink I would use oil, such as a burnt plate oil or something like that) Squeezed out a little brown ink on my palette and added that over the top of what I had painted on the stem. Quick and easy.  Then some lamp black, and touched up the cut holes in the jack-o-lantern design, such as the eyes, nose, and jagged smile.  Also used it to repaint the tendrils over the surface- they had been covered by my early layer of orange, but showed through so I could see where they needed to be.  Then outlined the leaves as the original design had.  Then more orange, a better one than I had put down the other day.  Put out a squeeze of fresh yellow and red on my palette, a little white, and the leftover black in the brush I used to mix it gave me a suitable color, more vibrant than what I had there.  Adding a little water helped me put it exactly where I needed it. 

My father came outside, was surprised by how warm it was there in the sun, and asked if this would survive the weather, since while today was dry,  there would likely be rain a few times before the end of the month.  Good question, one I had thought about myself, and I don't have an authoritative answer.  Never left a finished block out in the rain. In my experience, once this ink dries it is pretty stable, but I told him after it was dry I would spray it with a clear acrylic finish, knowing there was a can of it in the kitchen.  Hope that will do. 

I decided the coloring was done, but left it on the table to continue drying in the open air and sun.  No rain in the forecast for tomorrow, so I decided to take a chance that it would be safe until then.  The only problem is that with everything else I remember to bring today, I forgot my camera, so for now you will have to take my word for it. I'll get a photo and post it tomorrow.



Wednesday, October 07, 2020

A Not Quite Great Pumpkin part 3

 


I stopped by Manasquan just long enough to check on the planter piece, and as expected, the ink was still a bit wet.  So nothing painted today, but preparations were started.  Earlier in the afternoon I stopped by the Studio to pick up a few items.  Got the glass rotating plate from an old small microwave oven, a small tube of brown water soluble relief ink, and a small square brush.  Any one of these things would have made yesterday's work easier.  I use the glass plate (and also a square one from a different microwave oven) as small portable palettes for mixing and rolling ink- the thick tempered glass doesn't seem likely to shatter as I carry it from place to place, and the smooth surface is easy to mix on, to roll ink on, and to clean off with water.  The brown ink will improve the depiction of the woody stem on the pumpkin, and the brush will allow me to paint the details a lot better.  For now these items stay in my car, but when this thing is dry enough for the next layer, I'll be ready.


Tuesday, October 06, 2020

A Not Quite Great Pumpkin part 2

 Had some time this afternoon, so I went back down to Manasquan to check on the progress of my pumpkin project.   I had everything from yesterday out in the shed, so I went directly there, brought it to the patio table outside, and got to work.  Yesterday's orange ink wasn't quite dry yet, but I wasn't planning to paint directly on that, so I figured I would be fine.  


The original design includes four sections of cool green, which I figured could be the Phthalo green and some titanium white.   All the leaves have veins in them, but those can be added later as lines of black ink, and I can fix the jack-o-lantern cuts the same way.  The other thing today that had no orange ink on it was the woody stem on top. In theory brown can be easily mixed from red, yellow, and green, plus white, but today I still have no palette, so had to do the mixing directly on the wood surface.  It didn't help that all I had with me were a set of very cheap brushes (probably a gift because I would never buy such things for myself), falling apart as I tried to use them (bristles falling out, ferrules coming off the handles).  Comparing this photo to the previous one, the stem color isn't too far off from what was there, but I think I can do better.  Probably have a little actual brown color ink in my Studio. Meanwhile, it all went back out the the shed to dry, and I'll wait a day or two before I try again.


Monday, October 05, 2020

A Not Quite Great Pumpkin

 Yesterday when I was watching football with my father he pulled out something he wanted my help with.  An old wooden holiday item, flat boards, one basically a shelf, and rising vertically behind it  a background piece, in the shape of a pumpkin. It was painted to look like a jack-o-lantern, the idea being a potted plant can be placed on the flat shelf and the pumpkin would sit behind it.  It was pretty old, much of the paint worn off, whether it be from age or weather, but enough paint remained that it was clear what the image was supposed to be.  He wanted it repainted so he could use it for this coming Halloween. I told him I had no paint there in the basement, but I could probably figure something out.  Before I left, I had.   

For an image on paper, I'd have a bunch of options. Being that this is a wooden object, I thought of some of my recent wooden sculpture pieces, which I colored by painting them with water based relief ink, which I have in many colors.  And thanks to my color theory training,  I can use those colors to create all the others. Apply the ink thinly to the wood and it will dry on it, in whatever color I chose.  Figured it would be best to put on a background color, then paint objects on top of it- the holes in the jack-o-lantern (black). the leaves and vines (phthalo green) etc.  All those inks are in my Studio, so a visit to there was added to my list of errands for Monday.

My third stop this afternoon was at the Studio, picked up some inks. Down in Manasquan, did the lawn first, then my pumpkin project.


 


 Mixed an orange color using red, yellow, and white inks, and used a small soft brayer to put a thin layer over the whole pumpkin shaped piece of wood, then left it in the shed to dry overnight.  Everything else can wait until tomorrow. Halloween itself if still a few weeks away, so I'm not worried.  Applying ink with a brayer is not as precise as using a brush, so it's not as neat as the final version will be.  


Thursday, October 01, 2020

A New Challenge

 Right now I have a problem I have not had to deal with for a while, finding a job while not having one.  That would seem challenging enough in this age of high unemployment, but I was unprepared for one task that is part of the process- finding job references.  Most job applications ask you to provide references, maybe letters, or at least a list of names they can contact to check up on you.  In the past I had a list of such people, generally linked to past or current jobs I had.  The problem is that it's been a while since I had to look for a job, and the list of people I had is a problem- they have all moved on from the jobs they had.  Retired, moved away, died, etc.  And generally there is a preference for people who are currently working in jobs, which is not as common as it once was. 

Generally most jobs ask for three, so that was my goal. Thought of a few likely candidates and got their agreement to do so early in the week.  Still wanted at least one more.  Yesterday when I was talking to Nichole (from that initial list, and she agreed), she suggested a few more, some of whom I had put on a short list of potential third persons.  Sent an email to one last night (recent former student in Ocean Grove) but as of now I still haven't heard back from her yet.  The email was not bounced back, so I guess the address is still valid, but I have no idea is she has read it or not.  Meanwhile I tried another possibility today- Bobby Duncan.  He's one of the artists down in the basement and has known me for years, plus he even has an actual job title- building monitor, which sounds more impressive than it is.   So I went to see him today, taking a meal break in the Room of Many Feasts, between a shift on the mural he's been employed to create and his job in the building. He agreed, and gave me one of his homemade business cards to use for his reference contact, so at least I have this task done.


Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Dream World

 

What is a dream?  We don't really know.  There are many theories, and they have been studied as long as people have been walking the earth. And maybe before that, as we know animals can have them, too. The images come from our experiences, except when they are so fantastic that we don't know where they came from.  Maybe they are a way for the brain to clear itself of a day's worth of ideas. The bible is full of stories of dreams being used to carry messages from beyond, warnings even.  Psychoanalysts have spent much time trying to interpret people's dreams, with mixed results. One common thought is that the subconscious uses them to reorganize our thoughts, and as such may use that part of our brain to figure out what our conscious mind can't figure out, or doesn't want to deal with.  Or it may just bring together a bunch of weird things we did or saw during the day. I have often had some very odd dreams, but that goes with being an artist.  Years ago one of the DSM's listed something called "dream anxiety disorder", but never defined what it was or how many or how frequently to qualify for the disorder, but did say that it was more common in artists.  Makes sense.  I have read that artists seem to have an excess of a certain natural neurotransmitter in their brains, which acts a bit like LSD.  Generally not enough to cause hallucinations, but it does make it easier to connect weird things, or to jump from one thing to another.  

One common type of dream is what is ofter called wish fulfillment, where we have dreams about things we don't have but wish we did.   A meeting with a person we'd like to see, of an object we'd like to have.  Into this category I'd put a common thing that has appeared in a lot of my dreams recently, small hole in the wall restaurants, the kind of place where you can pop in and get a slice of pizza or something simple.  Nothing fancy or expensive.  In my dreams, just a place on the street selling quick snacks, visits are short.  Nothing is particularly memorable, but they serve a purpose in real life.  Except in real life they don't exist much any more- Covid-19 made much indoor dining illegal around here, and some places won't let you come in even to get take-out.  You don't know how much you'll miss this kind of thing until suddenly it is forbidden and unavailable.  

What brought this all to the fore was an email from my college friend Doug. If he was to have a wish fulfillment dream, it would probably involve going to see a favorite band, perhaps one that broke up 30 years ago and he never got to see. In his mail he mentioned a particular band where a member may have had a connection to SIU, a place where Doug had visited me and saw some live music.  In his letter, who wrote of how he missed the old days when colleges regularly booked cool bands and people could go see them.  Maybe that's what made me think of the joy of walking into a small place a getting a slice of pizza. And maybe my next piece should be about one of these fantasy places.

None of these dream locations are particularly memorable- not the buildings, not the food.  Plain outsides, dimly lit inside.  So it's more about the idea.  Had some business with Nichole today, but otherwise I was in my space working on this idea.  Wrote a lot of words, did some very rough sketches- all on paper, as this isn't ready to be put on wood yet. Here's what I did today-


The Don's logo came from a boardwalk print, a thing I made up years ago, but it's original.    I see brick walls, which fits with some of the dreams.  Neon signs in the windows, and through those windows we see lots of people, since a restaurant full of people is pretty much a fantasy these days. The visuals aren't much yet, but this piece is more about the idea than anything else.  I expect it will get better as I go forward.


Thursday, September 24, 2020

Louisville

 


The city of Louisville was in the news a lot yesterday, and I'll get to why a little later in this post.  Meanwhile, some related stories.

There has been much racial strife in the world the past few decades, sometimes near the places I was, but little I have had to deal with directly.   For example, there was a major race riot in Newark, just miles from where I was born and grew up, but that occurred in the summer of 1967.  Much of the city burned, but I wasn't due to be born for a few months, so I didn't have to experience that.  There was a lot of violence and unrest in the late 60's- societal changes, riots, wars.  I know of these things through reading and documentaries.

I chose to go to a high school in an urban location, the student body was fairly evenly divided between races and ethnicities. And there were no problems. Maybe it was because we were too young to care, or maybe it was because the Christian Brothers who ran the school kept things from getting out of control, but there was no racial tension while I was there.  All conflicts that I can remember were with fellow white students, nothing I couldn't handle.

The first major race riot I was aware of was Los Angeles in the early 90's.  This was a big one, mostly sparked by the Rodney King incident.  He was a black man who was severely beaten by a mostly white police force, probably a regular thing, but this time was captured on video.   And the world got to see it.  Before it was all over, a lot of death, destruction, violence, blocks burning.  The closest I came to it was in Hackensack, NJ, a whole continent away.  How?  The place I worked was across the street from the county police station, with their large fenced parking lot next door.  Another King related trial had just happened, and word was that some people would be unhappy with the results, so there were preparing. Buses of armed officers in full riot gear were in formation, armored emergency vehicle were being brought out.  Luckily that is where it ended.  Maybe we just have more sense in this area these days.  There is nothing to be gained by destroying or burning your own city.   When professional sports teams in Chicago, Detroit, or other large midwestern cities win national championships, there often wide occurrences of riots, arson, and other antisocial behavior, but in New York, I've seen celebrations for Yankees, Mets, and Giants championships, which were just big parades, then clean up and go home.  

The next thing I had to deal with was Carbondale, Illinois, where I went to grad school for 3 years in the early to mid 90's.  A tradition had developed of a big riot on the weekend closest to Halloween, and it had gotten so bad, the school thought it best just to declare a fall break and close the dorms.  (I had an apartment and was unaffected by that policy) State troopers were stationed on the main roads leading into town, north, south, east and west, to keep non residents away.  Nothing racial, just people who enjoy a chance for violence.  This kind of thing happens.  Had a student years ago who was ejected from a local amusement park because she had a habit of attacking the workers at the Halloween spook house.   Happened twice. When I asked her why, she said they scared her.  I pointed out that was their job, but there was no getting through to her.  Each week I reminded her to be careful with her hot glue gun, but she would eventually burn herself.  Later I learned that girls were forbidden to work that scary attraction because so many people showed up just for the chance to hit women. My first year in Carbondale, I decided to use the break to visit my college friend Doug a few states away, but the next year I stuck it out.  In the days leading up to the weekend, city workers were busy coating street light and traffic light poles with vaseline, I assumed to make them difficult to climb, and that weekend a few store windows were smashed and I think one car burned. But that could happen any weekend. There was a fairly common occurrence called "taking the strip", where large numbers of students would be forced out of bars by the standard 2:00 am closing and just occupy and block the main road through town (aka "the strip"), until the police showed up an started spraying everyone with mace.  Typical weekend in Carbondale, a town with more bar fights than any other place I have been.

About a decade ago I moved into studio in Ocean Grove. just a block from Asbury Park. That city once had one of the premiere boardwalks in the state, but a major race riot in 1970 helped put an end to that, along with the opening of the Parkway, which made it a lot easier to get to the rest of the beaches along the coast.  As always happens, when the rest of society runs away, artists move in, making Asbury more an art town than it had been.  Despite a lot of local corruption and poorly planned construction, the town is gradually getting more popular.  Hard to ignore all that beachfront accessible by train and car.  Earlier this year Asbury was host to a few Black Lives Matter marches, and our building decided in advance to close for the occasion.  As it turned out, the marches were blocks away from our location, and like most such matches were peaceful demonstrations, so no harm occurred.

And that brings us to today.  Our current president has a long history of racist behavior, and tends to encourage it, as long as it isn't against white people. A while back a group of police busted into the apartment of a woman named Breonna Taylor at 2:00 am and shot the place up. And that's really all we know.  Different witnesses have different accounts.  Maybe the police knocked, maybe not.  Maybe they fired first, maybe not.  The woman was innocent- they were after her boyfriend.  He fired back at the police.  The police fired over 20 bullets between them, but none hit the guy with the gun.  A few went into the neighboring apartment, and 6 ended up in the woman, who was killed.  The city of Louisville, where this happened, realized something very bad had happened, and gave the family a huge cash settlement and started changing procedures.  No body cameras were on. Yesterday was the conclusion of the trial for the police.  And it was concluded that no one should be blamed for what happened.  What followed reminded me of Hackensack 30 years ago.  Someone in the city feared the worst, and the heavy trucks were brought out, and dozens of police armed and in riot gear, and as is often the case these days, joined by large armed militias (white people with guns- Kentucky is an open carry state).  A curfew was announced. and the protestors obeyed it- no riots last night.  What will happen the next few days remains to be seen.

One thing that makes Louisville stand out for me is that used to pass through it a few times a year as part of my cross country journeys from Carbondale to New Jersey and back.  Don't think I ever set foot on the ground there, just passing through on the interstate.  It seemed yesterday's event was in the downtown area, so not where I had been, but I was glad I wasn't making  the trip yesterday.  

Which leads to the question- is there art to be made here?  This is not the kind of thing I usually do.  Mostly because I really don't know much of what actually happened.  I don't like to speculate or make things up.  The trial seemed to say that they didn't know what happened either, so everyone should just forget it and go home.  Without some additional information, or a good idea to add to the discussion, I have nothing to say right now. 



Wednesday, September 16, 2020

A Newer Phase part 2

Last week I found a listing for 3 art classes at a local county college, then the listing disappeared.  It had given the option of sending things directly to the email of someone working there, and I wrote the address down.  Then it all disappeared.  Then on Friday part of it came back, a job in printmaking.  I acted quickly to send some information to the contact address. 

Today I heard back.   This assistant dean wrote that she would forward my letter to the person in charge of music classes.  Seemed weird, but colleges sometimes have strange ways.  I thanked her for the assistance, strange as it seemed.  

A few minutes later she wrote back, saying it was a typo and she meant to write that she was sending it to the person in charge of art classes.  Made a little more sense, and I thanked her again.  No classes being done right now, but it's a foot in the door, and if enough people see my work, anything is possible.  


Saturday, September 12, 2020

And So It Begins

 

Got an email today telling us that my former university has reported its first case of Covid-19 in a campus resident.  A freshman who had lived in a dorm. He is now quarantining at home, and his roommate is being quarantined on campus. With their contact tracing system they think that is all, and for the sake of the other students I hope they are right, but the disease is getting out of control on so many other campuses across the country, so who knows?  I'm sure there will be more to this story in the  future.