Friday, September 14, 2018

Union Business

Friday is my day up in Union, NJ, home of the university that employs me.  I'm up well before the sun (alarm clock- it's not my natural waking time), and on the road very early because there is always traffic on the Parkway, then quickly getting ready for my morning class.  All that happened as usual, but I was still in time for my first class, most of the students showed up, so a typical day.  But other stuff happens, too.

For the past week or so I have been spending time talking to Tino, one of my former students, first from my 3D class, then from an independent study/mentor class with a focus on woodcut.  (if they are in New Jersey and want to learn woodcut, they eventually find me) Showed him better tools, better ink, better paper, and soon he was hooked.  Decided to make relief printing part of his BFA show and came to me for help.  I knew him to be a hard worker so I agreed and he started cranking out the work.  Disappeared briefly last spring, but now his is back and his final show is hanging in the small student gallery downstairs.  He often works large, especially his paintings, so his traditional woodcuts on paper are not in the show, but he tried a few pieces where he combined the two mediums.  I advised him to go for it- it's not my style, and some traditional printmakers would freak out at the suggestion, but I know from experience that artists are going to make the art they want to make, so it's best to help them make it the best they can.

Two of the mixed media pieces are seen above.  Both feature large heads done with woodcuts (Maya Angelou, whose poetry is the theme of this series) surrounded by painted images.  These pieces have gotten a good response (like the two young students who visited the gallery last week while we were in there talking) and visitors of any age have been mystified as to how the heads were made with such  detail.  General knowledge of woodcut is shockingly low.  On the other hand, Tino is very much into it, even had a new one going right now which he showed me last week.  Woodcut can be done anywhere and does things that painting can't, so he's not going to stop.  The big problem has been keeping the gallery open.  He's been willing to show up each day and open it up, which is good as the school has not opened any of the galleries in our building this week, and it would have been a shame if no one saw this show.

Across the hall is the main gallery and that better be open in a few weeks.  The next faculty show is going in there by the end of the month and I want people to be able to see it.  Yesterday I packed two pieces to bring in, and the weather was passable enough today for me to retrieve them from my car between classes.  The faculty member who was supposed to take them was not in her classroom as promised, but I found her in her office on the top floor and she followed me down to the 3rd, where I removed them from the tote bag system I used to bring them in.  They were still wrapped in plastic so she didn't see them, but she thought that the size and number of pieces was perfect. (of course, there are two other faculty members accepting work, and there seems to be no coordination, so who knows?) No paperwork yet- she says she'll e-mail that to us soon.  Anyway, here's what I am lending he show, two things I had in frames ready to go.

What Did Your Face Look Like Before Your Parents Were Born? is one of my typical black and white portraits, done at the request of the subject.  Dawn had been a co-worker before I had went off to grad school, and was willing to pose for some of my odd ideas, and came to a show at the Newark Museum to see an exhibition that one of those pieces was in.  Clearly pregnant, she had seen some tv show about a woman who had posed for a formal photograph in a pregnant state and wanted to do the same, a woodcut print in my case. Discussed it in a phone conversation and she mentioned that she had been adopted (if I knew I had forgotten) and this baby would be the first opportunity to see the face of someone she was actually related to.  The title was taken directly from a zen koan, a riddle that teaches zen philosophy.  I don't know what the zen answer to it is, but what occurred to me was that it might be your grandparents, and with this baby she was thinking she might see the face of her unknown parents and older relatives.  So I had her pose, hand on her large belly, thinking about her daughter to come, while looking into a mirror at her own face.  It's good that we got it done when we did, as the baby came a few weeks early.  The subject was very pleased with the results.

The other piece I am lending them is a little more recent, one of my boardwalk prints, the one featuring food.  Good print, never shown there before, so I believe it will work.  The complex scene, the bold colors, the humor- all should appeal to any students who get to see it.  And everyone loves going to the boardwalk, though I imagine down in the Carolina's right now it would be no fun.  Details on the show will follow when I know what they are.


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