29 April 2012

The Smallest Artists?

Biologist Eshel Ben-Jacob was trying to find cures for diseases when he realized that even pathogenic bacteria makes creative, beautiful patterns in the petrie dish.

This Science Daily article goes into more detail about Eshel's work. I would like to take some of these images and transfer them to a giant wall mural. Wouldn't that be amazing?







And this is even more amazing!

Other people have started to use bacteria as a medium for painting. I find this fascinating. I have never been in a laboratory in my life and the idea that art and science are so closely linked makes me really happy! Turns out we are not all so different, after all ;-)


This artist made an image of Ophelia Floating in a Petri Dish and asked people to call in and read poems to the art while it bubbled away there in the lab. What a bizarre and haunting piece of living artwork!


Small-Scale Ecorevelatory Architecture: Treehouses, Tiny Houses and Tipis


The first time I heard the term, "ecorevelatory," I was at an architecture conference at the University of Oregon in 2000. It made me think of Gaudi, whose work I had seen in Barcelona when I went there in 1996. Around this time I also became aware of the ecobuilding movement. Since then I have seen a wide array of buildings that I consider highly ecorevelatory. They reveal nature through their form and materials, and they also reveal the nature of the person who designed them.

These types of structures fit well into a classic problem: solution ratio. Thus, the need for shelter, for creative outlets, for a greater connection to nature and each other; these needs and others are met by the actual building we live in. As we know, the medium is the message, and a beautiful space yields beautiful ideas.

It is an ideal situation, to me.

The difference between Art and Architecture? To me, Art is primarily spectative, meant to provoke thought and incite whimsy. Architecture, on the other hand, produces something you could actually dwell in. This makes it extra special in my book, and why I didn't become an architect a decade ago, I couldn't tell you. Perhaps it was the music, knocking at the doors of my perception. Or maybe it was the seed crops, asking for water and weeding. At any rate, here is a list of my favorite examples of ecorevelatory architecture.





Treehouses

Who wouldn't want to live in such an integegrated and inspiring structure? If you don't have vertigo, a treehouse brings out the kid in all of us. Check out:

A treehouse resort in Southern Oregon

Treehouse Workshops

The Treehouse Guys



Tiny Houses
The tiny house movement has taken off, and people all over are starting to agree that less is more. You can find detailed blueprints all over the web, but here are some links to get you started.

The Tiny House Blog

Tiny House Designs

Tiny Houses for Sale





24 April 2012

Land Art


Andy Goldsworthy

“The medium (and the message) is Mother Earth herself.”
--Grace Glueck

I am learning to differentiate between art that is made in nature, art that is made out of natural materials, art that is made to represent nature, and art that directly protects or influences a natural system. A preliminary google search on Land Art yields too much information to explore in a short overview such as this, but I have done my best to conduct a thorough survey of the most prominent artists in this arena, and have highlighted several of them below.

For detailed, debatable definitions, read these wikipedia entries:
And here is an interesting article on definitions:

In his book, Land Art, author Michael Lailach presents the Land Art movement as a radical departure from the last 2000 years of art history, in that the art is made without intention toward indoor display. Of course outdoor public sculpture has always been popular, but Land Art, as labeled by Gerry Schum in his 1969 television special on the topic, is something new.

Christo and Jeanne Claude
Land Art is art that changes (and often disappears) the way life does. This is fascinating to me because I have always thought of my art as my legacy, and of the works I leave behind as the replacement for the children I have chosen not to have. The idea of making art that is designed to disappear is simultaneously terrifying and inspiring.

The primary curiosity of this kind of art (and also, perhaps, its power) is the fact that it is so difficult to show it in a gallery. Some artists seem to prefer it that way, eschewing gallery politics and making bold statements about the way humans interact with art, nature, and each other, such as Walter De Maria’s famous quote “God has given us the earth, and we have ignored it. ”  (page 15)

When De Maria was commissioned to create a show for an upscale gallery in Munich in 1978, he filled the entire gallery with dirt and barricades visitors from entering. This was a statement about the way the natural world is barricaded from our upscale gallery culture.

17 April 2012

Springtime in Portland: An Ephemeral Art Collaboration

In these early stages of my inquiry into land and ephemeral arts, I felt it necessary to get outside and make some stuff. My friend and colleague, Seattle-based photographer Audineh Asaf came to Portland for the weekend and we spent a day paying tribute to the resilient, multifunctional, and misunderstood dandelion. These are just the very beginning of a body of work that Audi and I intend to co-create.


We started with three simple pieces: The first piece was a spiral around the fire pit in my back yard. I live next door to a houseful of young, vibrant people, and we share a large urban backyard that is in much need of proactive garden energy. I was hoping the little gesture of affinity for the plants would stir up some interest and intention between us.

How to Make a Sock Cthulhu (and other fun ways to reconcile with your mortality)

I stumbled across this silly and delightful project. I mean, who doesn't need a cute little effigy to the Sleepless Dreamer?

Here's the directions for making a sock Cthulhu. But I warn you, this is a gateway doll-making project! After I finished this one I spent the weekend obsessed with turning lonely old socks into goofy little creatures.


When I make monster art, I always think about how small we are in the universe, and how inexplicable reality is.












Last night I watched the Secret Life of Plants and was reminded that every living thing has a consciousness, and responds to the consciousness of those around it.







Another relevant film is the deliciously ridiculous mockumentary, Trollhunter. I found it quite provocative in its revelation of the contrast between humanity and the unknown.

And who is to say that there aren't great beings--not gods--just creatures that are too large for us to see? I understand that millions of people believe in gods. But I am talking about mortal, breathing beings that exist in places we have yet to have explored. I enjoy the humility that comes from this type of contemplation.



16 April 2012

Life Drawing Class: Pyxie in a Halfshell

The other night I hosted a Life Drawing session at my tiny studio in Portland. My friend Pyxie was the model and four of us circled her, drawing and painting in a variety of media. We had her do four 3-minute poses, three 10-minute poses, and two half-hour poses. It was really fun! And really challenging.

The drawings here were all made by the other women at the session. Only the painting at the bottom is mine.
It has been about ten years since I tried to draw from a live nude model. I felt like I was in third grade, drawing lumpy, ugly sketches that didn't look at all like Pyxie. It was humbling but also very interesting. In the final pose I decided to go abstract, focusing on how her lines and angles made me feel, rather than trying to get it all shadowed and proportioned correctly.


I know that, for art to have the resilient qualities that bring about culture change, it usually needs to have a human figure represented in some fashion. Sure, there are plenty of examples of artwork that doesn't have any eyes, but for the most part, the art that moves me most often contains some aspect of the human form.


I enjoy trying to think of ways to use figures and silhouettes in eco-revelatory work, whether visual or performance-based, as a means of connecting more deeply with the audience.


13 April 2012

Confessions of a Sugar Addict

It has been three days since I ate sugar.

I mean, I guess there was probably sugar in the Tom Ka soup at the Thai restaurant last night, but WHATEVER! I have been seriously strung out on the stuff for decades--forever I mean, since birth. I was never breast fed. The therapist the other day said perhaps I am still trying to get that sweet mother's milk but I ain't gonna find it in a  Snickers bar or a vegan organic cookie.

So fuck it. That's right, I said F#$% YOU SUGAR! I quit. Sugar can kiss my dimply 40-year old ass. And speaking of that booty, I am getting in shape too. I feel a bit cliché being another middle-aged woman who is finally declaring that she is tired of hating her body. But don't worry, I have declared it many times before! And THIS TIME I am really working a program. I am acknowledging that being addicted to sugar is just like being addicted to tobacco, alcohol or heroin. It is a tool of the death-machine. It is nasty from every angle. There is no good excuse. And of course, it will eventually kill you. It's not that I mind dying but slow, painful suicide? Seems like a waste.

I am rereading Sugar Blues by William Duffy. You should too. I can't begin to explain how important this book is to humanity, to the sustainability movement, and at this moment, to me as an individual. I can't believe I ever put a drop of that crap in my mouth since the last time I read this amazing book about 12 years ago. It reads like a novel, but gives you the real truth about every aspect of why sugar is wicked. Politics, health, environmental issues; you name it, sugar is the Darth Vader of dietary concerns.

Sugar is everyman (and woman) 's heroin. The great catharsis. Suitable for children and adults of all ages. I was taught as a young child to be an emotional eater, that ice cream could make everything better. It doesn't. It makes everything worse.

07 April 2012

Art, Madness, Depression and Recovery


For as long as I can remember, I have seen art as a remedy for disease. Not so much for disease in the obvious sense, but more so for the feelings of dis-ease that I experienced. When I was five, my grandmother noticed my strangeness, my sensitivity to things. She took me down to her painting studio in the basement of her cluttered old house in outer SE Portland and set me up with my own easel, brushes, pallette. She arranged the jars of turpentine and admonished me with the words, “Dark to light.”

Thirty-five years later, I sat in a session at my first residency of Goddard College’s MFA Interdisciplinary Arts program and heard Michael Sakamoto talk about his work with butoh. He said that butoh starts in the darkness and brings forth the light.

Dark to light. As is all too common, my grandmother is an amazing artist but she is terrible with people. She is smart, intuitive, and talented. Yet she has turned those things into spite, condescension, and arrogance. And in her way, she has also taught me about the distance between these things, and the results that one gets from each.

Depression has been a word in my vocabulary for what seems like centuries. It is all around me. It sleeps in my bed, often, and in the beds of most of my friends and colleagues. We struggle, we recover, we struggle again. Some resort to pharmaceutical medications, others to herbs and elixirs, of varying degrees. Dark to light, and back again.

And we make art. And the art makes us feel better. We write songs and sing them at each other. We splash paint onto the walls, smash clay into vessels and likenesses and tiny imperfect treasures. It is a cycle this, a cycle that humans seem to have perpetuated forever. Art and madness, dark and light, art and madness…