Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Woodcut Ancestors

A few months back I learned about a coming show at BelmarArts, one called Ancestors.  The inspiration (I was told) was a member having some quilts made by an elderly relative and he was looking for a way to show them.  What we ended up with was an exhibition that would feature artwork related in some way to our ancestors, and we had the option of showing alongside it something created by or involving some related ancestors.  Not one of my big topics, but my parents reminded me I had some work that fit the bill, and we could probably find something for the ancestor part.  I gathered more details as the dates drew closer.

One thing was kind of in front of me the whole time.  A while back I had produced a landscape piece featuring a view of Castelnuovo Di Val Di Cecina, a small mountain town in Tuscany.  I don't remember if there was a specific reason I decided to do it.   It's certainly a nice scene, an aesthetically pleasing composition.  Had plenty of images to work from, between photos taken by myself, immediate family, and distant cousins, since this is a town that has a significant place in my ancestral line.  This was the hometown of one of my great grandfathers, and I still have relatives living there.  I don't know if any of them live in the part of town depicted here, the 13th century hillside of stone that crawls over the hill.  The ones I met were all from within a short walk of this scene, a more modern section, though I was shown the original one room space as well.   This image combines bits of multiple photos, and is a bit simplified, but captures the general appearance.  It was carved as a woodcut, printed with black ink, and then hand colored with watercolor.  This particular proof was made, mounted and framed, and was given to my grandfather, who I was traveling with the first time I saw the place, and whose father had once lived there.  When my grandparents decided to move back to New Jersey, it came back with them, and eventually ended up hanging in my parents' living room.  As far as something really old, my mother remembered that she had some very old hand made cloth items that she had gotten from her mother, which had originated with people of this town.  So this could be done.

The next step was the application process.  Years ago, Belmar switched to a digital process, where we  submit information and a digital image over the internet, which can save a lot of time and space compared to the old fashioned drop off days that galleries required in the old days.  The problem was that I had no digital images of this print.  The only photo I had was a 35mm slide, which was the ideal form of recording things back in the last century when I made it, and I have no idea where the block is.  The only copy is that framed one, so yesterday while I was waiting for the lawnmower battery to recharge, I took apart the frame and shot digital images of the woodcut.  (shooting through glass is almost impossible- the dark areas of the print act as mirrors and you get weird glares all over the place)  The other issue is that the new people running things in Belmar have changed some of the rules we always had, adding specifics to the submitted digital images.  Maximum file size was easy, and maximum pixel length was handled with a camera function and editing the photo on my computer.  The request for a specific DPI (dots per inch) made no sense, as it is a term relating to printing on paper and this image will be submitted digitally and viewed on a monitor screen.  Anyway, it's not something I can adjust on either my camera or my computer.  Downloaded and edited a photo yesterday (the one you see above) that seemed to suit my needs.

Got an e-mail last night saying that they had decided to push the deadline back from tonight to tomorrow night, and that the gallery would be closed this week for "cleaning", but the office would be open, except when it's not, and no word as to when that would be.  So earlier this morning I remounted the piece in the frame (new linen tape hinges and framer's points needed, an in the afternoon I completed the digital application, including uploading my edited photo of the Castelnuovo woodcut, and submitted it.  But I still have questions about presentation of the artifact, plus I usually hand in the exhibition fee in person, but when I stopped by today during office hours, the place was dark and locked- no one in the office, and no one cleaning.  Luckily we got that extension, so perhaps tomorrow I can stop by and this will all be done.


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