DEALING WITH THE COLD

Finally, it is cold in South Carolina.  It has not been for long, and the length of the good weather at the end of last year was remarkable and unsettling.  Now over, we have to face the normal chill for a little while.

Our big chill is all my fault, not Glenn’s.  When living here alone, building this house, I chose not to include central heating.  The system I could have bought, it was the monthly bills that scared me.  And it is so moderate here,  I wondered about getting by with a gas log in one of the two huge fireplaces we have.   So that is what I did.

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It really has not affected us much.  There have been really only about four cold days where we did not care to go outside.  But outside is where all the appealing stuff exists, including our art work.  Creating my work is a pathway to feeling OK, and I need to do it.  Running will do that too, but running is tough in the cold weather as well.

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What work I have accomplished is changing.  Getting simpler.  Keep thinking about poetry and editing writing.  An image should contain only what it needs.  Nothing else.

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This piece is called  “Impulse”.  It is pretty spare, but the relationships between the lines are interesting.  I am using three legs in this series, lifting the window off the ground, and importing colors only through objects used.

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Chair legs, spindles and a child’s wooden block are the only recognizable images in the piece.  Other shapes are just odd pieces of wood we have around here. Yes, the piece leans in.  It seems to move.

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Other side.  This window has been several colors in its life time, and that is where the patterning is coming from on the right and bottom of the window.  It is so easy for me to reveal color; to apply it, the worst.

The piece above is entitled “Gravity 2.11.16” for the obvious reasons.  It is woozy in its stanze as well.  Space and time.  Unpredictable?  Maybe not, thanks to Einstein.

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Not a very flattering angle, but this image shows the depth of the piece.  You can see it is a visual cousin to “Impulse” as spindles and legs from the same chairs are used. Work tends to flow in this way.  If work is truly expressive of a temperament at a given time, examples will have common denominators.  Unless you are doing commission work.

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Above is a detail from a current commission.  Only thing in common with my work is the “waste” part.

THE STORY OF A MANTEL

A friend cleans out old buildings and sells the metal for a living.  As you might guess, he is also a collector.  You never know what he will be up to.  A real one of a kind person, he is gruff on the outside and an artist on the inside.  He has commissioned Glenn and me for several works of art.

He called us the other day saying that he had some old windows for me.  We jumped in the truck.  Came home with windows and the following: an old mantel with gorgeous texture.

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We recently had a kitchen fireplace mantel accident and hoped this would work as a replacement.  It did not.  We worked on it anyway.  I took off all paint that was flaking off, intending to preserve the rest.

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A long slit on the backside of one of the columns needed repair.

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A simple box made the base for the column.  All that was needed was to nail them in place.

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As a piece was sufficiently sanded, layers of varnish were applied.

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This board, which supports the top shelf of the mantel had its original moulding.  Glenn had to recreate the rest.

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Good that he didn’t have to recreate details the way this old mantel was made in the first place.

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Here the mantel is reconstructed, with new moulding at the right and left of the opening, and a new (old) board chosen to connect the columns.  We brought the mantel into the kitchen to compare the two openings.  Not a match in any way, we had to hesitate for a second.  We already have one fake mantel in a bedroom, used with a big mirror over it to expand the room, and two fireplaces, each with two faces, in the round, so to speak.  All but the one in the kitchen have a hearth, so this kind of mantel cannot be used.  What to do?

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Our bed angles to the middle of our big bedroom.  It faces two windows so we can watch our birds.  The large head of the bed partially blocks off vision into the room, provided by a set of French doors.  This would be a perfect place for this mantel, but there wasn’t enough of it.  The mattress and wire are flat out ugly.  The mantle needed something more.

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Glenn glued together two boards he rescued years ago from an old wooden boxcar.

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He found two more old boards, one for a shelf, and another board for the top of the mantle to make it weightier visually.

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He cut the second shelf board to account for moulding.  It adds a nice bit of interest.

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The edge of this board had some writing on it.  We preserved it with varnish.

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Voila!  Would love to put more stuff on the very top of the mantel, but the cats are finding this place very inviting.  Pretend you don’t see that wire.  It’s gone now!

CH-CH-CH-CHANGES

Changes are happening in our part of the county; a little lesson in local government working for the people.  And it was pretty easy to accomplish, this relatively inexpensive project.  The dirt road which intersects our long drive is being paved.  Our neighbor has wanted this for years as the sand on the road finds its way to his pond with rain.  Asphalt will stop this, and probably keep the pond water higher all year.

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Glenn wants the improvement too, and gathered signatures.  Heavy rains cut waterways around the mouth of our drive and around the mailbox.  To me, the paving represents unwanted growth, but I relented.

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We will lose our elaeagnus bushes at the left of this picture.  It is OK.  Planted at the very beginning of my gardening career, they really make no sense where they are.  They do not match on either side of the drive as a car drove over and pruned one set one late night.  Happily, the construction guys will dig them up, root ball included, and lift them on a waiting trailer for us.  We are going to plant them at the very back of our acreage and let them do their fast growing best.

Another local resident has a crop of Loblolly pines growing in harvestable rows at the back of our acreage.  Since I have been here the trees have been thinned twice.  It won’t be long until they are sold and the whole process will start again.  It will mean big changes to the back of our property and we want those ten elaeagnus to be as large as possible to muffle sound and block vision.  It is a noble job for those bushes and we are sure glad we have them for this use.

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What else was positive about this road construction?  Well the way the bigger trees were cut down was interesting, and we got an example that will be the new mantle for the fireplace in the kitchen.  The old one was the victim of an accident.  It is difficult to imagine what kind of huge machine fairly took bites out of the trunk of this tree!

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We are going to try and save the bark, while planing about a three inch flat plane across the top of this.

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DESTROY ART

Destroying your art can be as important and productive as creating it.  And at any time in your career, for sure.  It is especially important as a student to pack away for later your old work, or failed work.  I have participated in many a critique where an artist feels that more talking and talking, and then more talking and talking will make her work a whole.  The work must speak for itself.  Always.  The work must ask a question in some way; it must never be simply an answer.  Simple answers are not art.

The truths in your life you will always remember.  Pay attention.  Ask any therapist about this.

(The following quote is from Teresita Fernandez, recipient of the 2005 MacArthur Genius Award, in a commencement address to her alma mater, Virginia Commonwealth University’s School for the Arts.   http://www.brainpickings.org/2014/12/29/teresita-fernandez-commencement-address/

“This kind of amnesia is life’s built-in way of making sure you filter out what’s not very important. You graduate today after years of hard work, immersive years of learning, absorbing, processing, accumulating, cramming, finishing, focusing. There are no more reasons, really, to even make art unless you really truly want to. Of all you learned you probably don’t need to remember most of the technical or theoretical information, as that’s all easily accessible with a quick search. And what you will remember will have less to do with the past and more to do with how it triggers reactions for you in the present. Oddly enough, what we involuntarily do retain is meant to help us move forward. This forthcoming amnesia that awaits you is just another kind of graduation, another step in a lifetime of many graduations.”

When in undergraduate school, in a very early drawing class, my TA told us to get rid of our past work.  He said not to just turn it to the wall, not to pile it in a closet behind a door that you can still see:  GET TOTALLY RID OF IT.

(Again, from Fernandez)

“Not every project will survive. Purge regularly, destroying is intimately connected to creating. This will save you time.”

My teacher was right.  This impedes growth.  It can remind the artist what a bad one they are indeed.  The artist does not need that kind of reminder constantly.  I have said many times in the past that having your old art around, work not up to par, work that is an answer and not a question, is like living with your high school graduation picture hanging on the living room wall.  It stunts you.

That school experience is not my first memory about problems with work.  As an elementary school student, I read a story about a little boy doing homework.  This fact stuck with me:  that when he put his finished arithmetic homework into his desk drawer, the incorrect answers struggled with being on the page.  They pulled and pushed.  They were not united with the page.  It would be so simple if we had these clues.  Considering this story involved math problems, it was ever pertinent to my school experience!

The following are two pieces recently destroyed.  It felt great to do this.  It was healing.  My spirit died when I walked past them, struggling with being on the gallery wall.

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This piece looked like a bad mullet hair cut from the 1980s.

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In this case, and also in the next shown, the initial mistake was not clearly identifying the perimeter of the sculpture.  The shape breaking the lower edge is confusing and draws the viewer away from the activity of the piece.  I also should have known that the piece should die due to the difficulty of placing the lines within the  “square” of the piece.  One good idea gleaned from the work is the sanding on the zig zag lines on the right.  The one at the top has been sanded on its edges the most making it visually lighter.  The middle line has some sanding, the lower one, almost no sanding.  You can always discover a good thing even within a piece that does not work.

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Again, wonky perimeter.  Weak lines.  The hangers perhaps do not lose their identity enough.  I have had portions of a window as seen here work, as in the piece below, but they do not work in this case.

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In terms of destroying work, because of my philosophy of re-using and re-purposing almost everything, the elements of destroyed works become raw material for new works.  Sometimes there is a shape that I cannot get off the glass or the wooden frame.  I leave it, respond to it, and have an interesting detail that needs to be considered, but something in a place I wouldn’t have thought of.  The element is “found”.

So.  Two destroyed pieces plus additional windows and additional work equals:

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And:

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INCESTUOUS WINDOWS

Where should we start?  The very big ideas?  OK.

Artists do not only make art, they live it and in it.  Serious art reflects the ideas, attitudes, experiences and style of the artist.  These things are interwoven and inseparable.  And changeable, but usually the change is slow.  At least that is how it works for me.

Premise 1 in the creating of a style:  Being an artist(s) we don’t have the money that more traditionally employed people do.  We habit the thrift shops and flea markets, looking for shapes and textures and things to repurpose to live in our home.  We sniff out free things in the wind.  We develop friendships with like people and fund each other’s eccentricities.  Old things look good to us.

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To me, the base of this enamel table in our kitchen is awesome.  The lines and shapes scream the 1930s.  This table base helped me solve a financial problem in buying the tile for the kitchen, if you will notice the floor.  I bought the majority of the tile at a sidewalk sale at Lowe’s, but there was not enough for the big space of kitchen and great room.  So I laid tile “rugs” in each room, one under this table.  The tile under the table is lighter than the surrounding, and at each corner of the rug is a corresponding black tile (you can only see two black tiles in this image).  The rug tile was free, and the problem was solved.  The four black squares used in the corners integrate the tile rug with the table base.  The rug under the table is much more interesting than had the floor simply been one broad ecru plane.  So my finances dictate another way to create, and push a style forward with lifestyle needs.

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We needed a shed to house our pool equipment, pool pump, and machinery related to our sprinkler system.  My love of cheap metal (notice the lamp on the stucco column) led us to buying a used grain bin to satisfy these needs, and it was very inexpensive.  We love the little silo that has an apex that looks like the top of a Coke bottle.

Premise 2:  We live in a world that is using up all its natural resources.  This disposable society cannot thrive.  Many, many artists choose to make their work out of waste materials because they are available, are beautiful and otherwise would be in the landfill.  These artists additionally are making visual statements that describe our recent decades.

We built a barn.  Before this time, some restlessness inside of me accepted a whole group of wooden windows from a contractor friend who was doing odd jobs here.  I put them under a roof.  His work often was replacing old wooden windows with vinyl ones, and he kept bringing me the rejects.  He would have been charged to put them in the dump, so the solution was good for everybody.


1-IMG_0011We used 33 old windows for this barn, and saved a lot of money.  Their glass is wavy and beautiful, and since this is studio and storage space and not living space, they do the job here just fine.  And of course, this is South Carolina and we live in a moderate part of the world.  Glenn later added the cool awning above the entry door.

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I hope the case is made for the using of old stuff.  Here is where the incest starts.

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My daughter Brady, (who blogs for Lexington County, South Carolina at Everywomanblog.com and has a cooking blog at brannyboilsover.com) influenced by my love of old things, found this door of windows at the dump and brought it home.  Neither one of us are beyond “diving”.  She often donates at the Goodwill at the same time she goes in to buy.  She installed this on the wall,  and of course there it was for me to see.  A window on a wall as art.  Hmmm.

Some years later, here is my sculptural work.  Before now, the windows had many other incarnations as I tried to use them.  I was getting too fancy.  For me, for now, it is mostly about the interplay of the windows, and bringing these sculptures way out from the wall.  It takes some time to feel one’s way.

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Isn’t experience and influence wonderful?

UPDATE ON THE TREE-PEE DESIGN

All design work must be refined with repetition.  Less is most always more.  Better materials can be found and used, those more compatible with their function.  These are good choices for the planet, and help keep that money in your vacation fund.

I must say that it is amazing how little boundary one must construct to keep a deer from eating your bushes.  They seem not to need a whole lot of suggestion.  Tree-pees have solved the deer problem for me for years, even with bushes fairly enveloping the support.

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This tree-pee is three or four years old.  The snowball bush and the tree-pee have a sympathetic relationship.  They are one!  There is nandina, lilies: ginger and not, and a couple of other things planted in the space of the circle that the bush does not use.  Interestingly, every fall a couple of the snowballs bloom.  But in the fall, they are flat like little discs, rather than exhibiting their Seuss-like splendor in the spring.  You can see two blooms above.

At the farm down my running route, they simply put a small plastic ribbon on a wire about four feet off the ground and maybe every six to eight feet down the line.  That does it for a whole field planted with something deer love.  Amazing.

I use cedar from our woods as much as possible as that wood will last longer than any other around here.  The jagged protrusions I cannot help but think serve my purpose as well.

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This tree-pee rests on the side of the woods and protects an oak leaf hydrangea.  This was propagated by me, one of about 12 starts.  Only this one survived, and with the way the deer love this plant, I am interested in defending only one.

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This pyracantha is well protected by this heavy tree-pee.  The bush is doing all it can to attract bad visitors, but all that showiness is unsuccessful.  A Japanese climbing fern asserts itself on the rightmost piece of cedar.  There are also day lilies in this bed, and all to the left are tiny iris, purple; I call them Japanese, but that name is wrong.  They are however the iris one sees on Japanese byobu.

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So here is the new reduced-in-design tree-pee.  Again it houses a pyracantha, one propagated by me.  It was tiny when it was planted;  I fairly crocheted a little string net around it.  And as it grew,  bigger uprights were piled around it, and when my cat knocked the whole thing down last week, it had needed to go for months.

So what is different here?  Had my best idea in a year when looking  for three uprights.  Seeing one of the awful woods vines we have here that grow to a hundred feet and compete with almost any kind of tree, I realized that the cut vine would be flexible and would simply wind around the uprights, and wherever it crossed, it could be tied.  Simple.  And that is just what I did.  The tension created by the winding of that almost-live thing is quite extraordinary.  And the spiral extends beyond the uprights according to its own will.

Then the vine ended.  It was too short for the whole job.  Could not find another because a rampage was conducted (by me) last spring cutting all those vines in the front woods, and a fire ensued which provided much satisfaction.  So a very young tree, growing too close to another was clipped and it worked in the very same way!

LAYERS

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It would be so easy to start with a blank canvas and create a work of art.  Many do.  I have to sneak in the back door and react to some product or pattern made by another and then make it my own.

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What interests me is the spaces between things, how they relate or how they merge.

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This sculpture is very new for me.  I have always respected artists who make statements in a thinly orchestrated way.  These are the beginning of my effort to do that.

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The work above is more what one would expect from me, but looser and including no female figures.  There are those damn eggs though.  Here I am trying to use a very anal method to create an atmosphere.  I use color and value to position shapes in their correct space.  Some wool is used to contrast in texture.  Two elements,  printed fabric and stitches are layered together to arrive at a visual statement.

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The same is true in the above.  These works contain only machine stitches on the surface, and they are simply decorative.  The piece was made by merging very different fabrics physically together with a special machine, strangely called an “embellisher”.

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I am going to talk about all this stuff on Tuesday, March 18, and bring some works in progress.  Hope to see you there.

AT LAST

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Today is the day.  After a year of looking at the unfinished mess of a shower in our new bathroom, grouting in earnest starts.  Why so delinquent with this effort?  A year ago, I knew what the result would look like.  And it was what was projected.  So I lost interest.

An argument can be made that an artist makes her work simply to see the end result.  And to kind of lift one’s leg to the nearest tree.  Prove that she has been in the area.

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It is impossible to photograph this shower, as you cannot get far enough away from it.  The prone position doesn’t help much.  Most of the lady on the left was grouted a long time ago.

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After the shower floor, just grouted  today, I will take a charcoal grout and apply it around the dark lines defining the bodies.  It is already done in the lady to the left in the previous picture.

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And the horizon lines on each panel will be charcoal.  Simple, elementary, rudimentary.

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Of course, all my materials are free, save for the tile mortar and grout.  The white tiles above are remnants of an old project of Glenn’s.  The little glass tiles in the two inch space were bravely saved for me by a designer, from a construction worker who was pitching them.  I cringe to think of all the waste in the world!

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Above is today’s work, and no more can be done until this dries.  This shower base is made of portland cement, is carefully sculpted down to the drain from each wall.  This tile is porcelain and not having a wet saw to cut it, I simply broke the tile near the drain and filled in.  These floors require a lot of finesse.  I hate that big line in the center left.

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Gorgeous today, and considering my drying shower base, I am going to work on the piazza.

THE ST LOUIS ART MUSEUM

has installed two works of art from the 1990s in the main gallery, seen to the left upon entering, in separate niches.  Completed in 1991 and 1993, on the leading edge of the movement to make art from the discharge of society (where this initial idea packs the so-called raw material with meaning before its application to composition), we see very different hands at play.  For me, one stands the test of time in content and execution, and one does not.  Damn time.  We need this ephemeral distance to see if we have done good work or not.

It was in the 1960s that the idea of modern recycling began to take hold.  Of course, we all did that before this semantic shift.  We reused Coke bottles and took them back to the store.  We inherited clothes from siblings.  We saved bacon grease.

Develop a new technology, as in breaking down milk jugs,  and artists see a new medium with which to explore a contemporary art statement.  So a while after the idea of reuse, up or down, became installed in our brains, a new art medium was born.  Of course, recycled art employs many kinds of materials.

Playing with textiles most of my life, beginning in the 70s when they were knotted up with the women’s movement, the materials of the textile world were seductive.  It was a great challenge to make art out of materials so beautiful in their “raw” state.  Many were seduced however, and early on, much work relied on the character of the materials and not much else.  The same thing was happening then with handmade paper, and it took years for some to extract themselves from the love of the process and begin to SAY something.  Understand the process yes, even love it, but then take it to another place.

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The piece above is screaming for understanding.  Too much explanation is necessary to understand its meaning.  And there is not a dual meaning.  The best art is in punning.  The artist has been seduced by materials and cannot stop the attraction.  Is more more?   How about now?  Am I good enough now?

Care to guess about what this piece is about?

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The piece above is appealing in its geometry of composition and the simplicity of the statement.  As easy as “in” and “out”.  The three classes of shapes and masses are very different and have their own compositional jobs: containing, reflecting, and simply being spheres.  The artist being a woman, the work is about family and the good and bad aspects of same.  A nurturing space, and a suffocating space.  The family performs both jobs.

Look at the reflection of this piece on the floor.  How much better is this than the glass strewn all over it in the first piece?

WASTE PICKERS

These “invisible” people are defined as those who “reclaim reusable and recyclable materials from what others have cast aside as waste”(wiego.com).  They provide informal non-paid services to communities all over the globe.  They often work on speculation.  If they are lucky, they might solely rule an area to pick and even have a buyer lined up for the end product of their work.

They are like artists.  They make a commodity out of nothing.  They sort.  They find “like” things.  They create alliances with objects or shapes which state something new.  And waste never ends.

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Anything looks significant when presented in great numbers.

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A “style” can refer to what waste one chooses to elevate.  Elevating all waste would be wandering into the category of hoarding, and hoarding is not stylish.  A site of hoarding is like a visit to the inside of a mind.  Like a Susan Sontag work of literature.

Death Kit“.

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Went to an exhibit of Picasso print work yesterday.  If you know his painting, ” Three Musicians” (MOMA),  I can tell you that there are numbers of smaller prints made in that vein by him, for a gallery who hired a professional printer to print these largely three and four color works.  Picasso did what he did best, create and design, and the print makers did what they did best, register the different layers and deal with printed surfaces.

The following are four from yesterday.

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Looked that these, thought about the process of layering, and realized this is exactly what I need to be addressing in my newest sculpture.  Looking at art often solves problems:  a good lesson for wherever you are stuck.

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Above is my informal non-paid service to communities all over the globe, created in speculation of a market!