Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Papier-Mache Art 5: Reflections

I was thinking recently, in a moment of reflective clarity, that the only thing that ever dissatisfied me about photography was that the typical end-result was a two-dimensional print. While that can be a window onto worlds, it also feels, sometimes, like a limitation. One reason that making art-objects out of laser-prints on paper of my photographs is that it brings the photo as an object, not just as an image, into the three-dimensional realm.

I have moving in this artistic direction for awhile: away from the static and two-dimensional (framed and mounted) art piece, to the multi-dimensional. I've made multimedia art that combines moving images (video), still images (photo), text (my own poems, usually), and music (again, my own music), sometimes with spoken (readings of the texts on the screen, in series or in parallel), in various combinations. I have now been making woodcarving sculptures, both from worked wood, and from driftwood already shaped by nature and needing only recontextualization by the artist. And recently I have been working extensively with papier-maché, both in pure forms, and in these "illuminated" objects made from paper on which my own art is already printed, or on which I might draw or paint on later. And I've been experimenting with multi-format pieces which would combine photos, drawings, carvings, and possibly sculptural objects in new ways, like multiple takes on the same subject, presented as groupings rather than individual pieces. I've also done a few purely photographic pieces that consisted of up to 24 individual images organized and display as a group.

I find all of these multi-dimensional arts interesting. I feel this is where my art is eventually all going to go. I sometimes feel as if an individual piece of art, even a poem, is nothing more than an element of a larger piece; sometimes I feel this way more about pieces that get made that I have no idea what to do with, or where they might fit. Sometimes the exploration process can take some time, till every element falls into place.

I am also interested in making dance/movement or performance art part of the mix. I've done performance art projects and pieces in the past, to some acclaim. I find myself moving back in that direction. I also am interested again in revealing the process, having it happen live before the audience rather than all off-stage. In a way, I view gallery openings, those obligatory meet-and-greets for the opening of a show at a gallery or museum, as opportunities for theatre, for music, for performance, for combining live music with the displayed art, and other similar possibilities. I've performed several shows where I played live music to accompany dance and/or dance plus other media such as film and lighting effects. I'd like to do more of that again. (I also really enjoy playing live music to accompany silent film, and I'd like to do more of that again soon.)

I also find it interesting to project photos onto three-dimensional forms—a kind of painting with light—including the human form. I can think of at least three photographers who have used projected slides to "paint" the nude human form with another image, then photograph the result. This is an avenue of presentation and image that I would like to experiment with in future. I've had some ideas, but haven't yet had any occasion to try them out.

A lot of this is ultimately about "breaking out of the box." Or rather, ignoring that some people think there is a box. There's a box? I don't think so.

Some of this is also about combining together the many disparate creative arts I have pursued before, and still pursue, the list of which of has been added to in recent years. To music and photography, add drawing, calligraphy, video. To poetry add hand-made books as art objects. To performance, add ceremonial gardening.

In resistance to the idea that this all must somehow be managed, organized, stated definitively, I prefer to leave it open-ended, improvisatory, indeterminate, even chaotic. It's not that there is no order or plan to my pursuits, nor is that there is no order or form to the art(s) I pursue; rather, it's that I'm leaving the door open to mysteries and unknowns that feed my art, that fertilize and grow my process as an artist.

Meanwhile, here are two black bowls made this past week.

I love the dark color and solid shape of these. I am becoming very fond of the results given by some of the bowls I am using as molds. The mold can make a huge difference on the impact of the finished piece. I used black cardstock-weight poster paper acquired at, believe it or not, the stationary department of an ordinary department store. They had some interesting cardstock papers for sale, of several colors, including black. I thought it might make an interesting bowl, or other form, as I think these two bowls successfully demonstrate.

I tried to align the paper strips in the mold in dynamic ways, here, to create some energy in the shape. The torn uneven edges hopefully contribute to that. Such bowls are meant to be sculptural, not just sit there. I want them to have some dynamism and energy; the way you lay down the torn paper strips can add or subtract to this effect.

One thing you need to be aware when working with colored cardstock or construction paper, or other similar dyed papers. Specifically, the colors can bleed. By the time I was done with making these two bowls, the glue-water papier-maché medium was quite dark-colored. If you are working with other kinds of paper during the same session, therefore, it's best to those projects first, and do the dyed-paper projects last. Otherwise, you might get some unintended coloration of your other project. That might be interesting, along the lines of marbled paper, but only if you intended those results.

Grand Marais Gift Bowl

This art bowl continues my ongoing project of using laser-prints on plain paper (sometimes heavier coated stock) of my own photographs as material. This bowl uses several photos of Grand Marais, MN, and one of a rack of violins on the wall of a violin repair emporium in Minneapolis.

This bowl is specifically made as a gift for two friends who are getting married in Minnesota. All of these photographs used here were made in the presence of these two friends, on various visits together to the Lake Superior North Shore, making the gift of a hand-made art bowl for their wedding as personal an art object as I can present. The only photo not from Grand Marais, the violins, also has personal meaning to my friends, and is included for that reason.

This bowl also continues my interest in making my photography more dimensional, less bound by the two-dimensional frame; as discussed above. I took a series of related photographs, cut them into strips and recombined them as a collage as the matrix of this bowl.

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Anonymous susanna said...

These paper mache bowls are terrific! I like the architectural forms of the black ones, especially. And the bowls with your images are really interesting. Especially the one with the white house. It has me thinking how this bowl could be sitting on a table in the white house. Who owns it? What would it contain? There seems to be a story behind it.

I get what you mean about wanting to explore other mediums. I studied photography and worked in the photography field for years and while I still interested in it, I've been increasingly drawn to other art mediums, including encaustic painting and paper mache.

I'm curious about your experiments with the black paper. How did you avoid getting the white paper mache residue on the black paper? Was that even a problem?

10:53 AM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

Thanks, Susanna, for the great comments.

Since the medium is white glue and water, there's no residue. The white-flour formula that some people use can indeed leave a residue, but since I use the white glue formula, it's never been a problem so far.

9:38 PM  

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