Monday, October 25, 2010

Visionary Artwork 5

Going back through some older archives, looking at some early visionary Photoshop work, I pulled out a few pieces to make fresh prints of. It's good to look back on the work you did some years ago, to reflect on the process and how it's changed. And how you have changed.

It's interesting to look back over some of this old work, at the moment, as I proceed forward into a new phase of productivity, in art-making and music composition.


Prince of Air (c. 2000)

A piece made for a proposed Tarot deck, actually more of a Jungian archetype deck. A friend modeled for me at the lake, and I assembled this from several sequential poses and images. The feeling I had, as I played with the images, was of that of a man leaping into the air and flying. It was definitely a leap, not just floating up. So I represented the upward take-off as sequential and layered images, with wings on the sides. The side panels are Art Nouveau angels from a decorative clip art book.

This version of the piece, printed and framed at 8 inches square, has been shown in a number of group exhibitions in the Midwest. It was this square version that I stumbled across when browsing through my old archives that made me think to think make a new print edition.



This version was the one that I actually made for the proposed deck of cards. I still work on this deck from time to time, although I still haven't found a publisher for it. There are some 48 or so finished images, with several more still in progress, and a dozen or so images I made that I've decided not to include.




Gambuh

A self-portrait taken in Surakarta, Central Java, c. 1985. This was taken in the living room of the house I rented. I was dressed in traditional Javanese court garb, and playing a Balinese bamboo flute called a suling gambuh, suling meaning flute, gambuh being an ensemble composed of pairs of these long low-pitched suling played using circular breathing technique.

I don't do a lot of self-portraits, but occasionally as an artist, you need to. Just to see where you're at, to locate yourself in your work. A form of artistic self-assessment, if you will. At this moment, I was studying traditional Javanese court gamelan in Surakarta, on a Fulbright grant. I was studying as a composer rather than as an ethnomusicologist at the time, although of course those interests converged at times.


Gambuh Sunset

In the early 90s, I combined this self-portrait with an image of a winter sunset taken overlooking Lake Mendota in Madison, WI. The pink, orange and red sunlight reflected on the ice of the frozen lake, haloed the trees, and spread across the sky. When I combined the layers I did some dodging and burning, and some masking of parts of each image, so that the elements I wanted to have appear were clarified. For example, I created an oval vignette around myself playing the suling, so that face and hands and flute would not be lost in the trees of the sunset image.

One thing I like about this image is that it combines two climate zones and locations that have been important in my life. It combines the tropical heat of equatorial Indonesia with the frozen sub-arctic tundra of the northern Midwest, my birth home. Some 45 degrees of latitude and nearly 180 degrees of longitude separate the two locales in which the separate images were made. To combine these images like this represents my life's history in microcosm. So this piece is symbolic, for me, of how big parts of my life have merged.


Chamber Music CD cover (1995)

In 1995 I produced and released a CD of some of my composed chamber music. The album had five pieces on it, which I had digitized from the original performance recordings, all originally recorded on stereo reel-to-reel tape.

To make the cover art I re-versioned the Gambuh Sunset piece. A lot of graphic design is re-versioning, when it is based on pieces that were originally stand-alone art pieces. I used two different typefaces for the Chamber Music titling, heavily modifying each word in Photoshop.

Using this self-portrait piece for the CD cover was actually to fulfill a request from a friend, who believed that people would want to knew who the artist was. I'm not big on author's photos on book covers, or composer's portraits on album covers, as I like to think the work can speak for itself. In this case I acceded to the request because I knew I could do something a little different with it, play with the image and type, make it new.

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