For faculty, summer often means refocusing –
once again, they have a chance to immerse themselves
in the deep waters of uninterrupted studio time.
There are certain discoveries that can only be made during these months, without the demands of teaching life tugging for attention. As Jim Cogswell puts it, “During the school year, I look neither left nor right; just work. I save chasing jackrabbits for summer.”
We asked a few faculty to tell us what their ‘jackrabbits’ were this summer. Here’s a quick peek into their summer studios:
“My goal for this summer was to get back into painting. I didn’t know where to begin though. So I decided to start mixing gouache, using the same technique I teach my students. [Janie teaches a class at A&D called “Color”.] I spent three days immersed in color – mixing, creating color sheets and keeping track of the recipes. Then I created swatches and began to work with color combinations. I ended up with a small painting that I’m very happy with, and I know those color combinations could never have occurred to me without those deep experimentations. It’s the kind of thing I can only do in the summer.”
“The only way I can really tackle the hard work of being an artist is to sequester myself in an artist residency where there is literally nothing else to do. This summer, I’m in a residency in Virginia.
Right now, I’m processing my recent medical experiences and spinal injury. I’m working directly from the emotional and experiential memories- for example, the feeling of the morphine running through my body, as if the whole world was being covered in a dark blanket. Or being endlessly wheeled around the hospital on my back, having no idea where I was going… just an endless stream of rectangular lights before my eyes.
I’m encapsulating these small moments and memories, playing with various techniques and materials – shooting things through a light table, playing with plastic wrap, time-lapse photography, ice cubes, and other cellular material… All I have so far are some failures. This is what I mean about the hard work. On the other hand, I’m really excited to be working on something totally new.”
Check out the hilarious photo series Heidi made while in the back brace (thankfully, she no longer needs to wear it): http://heidikumao.net/projects/back-brace-photographs/
Elona Van Gent
"So, what’s new for me this summer is that I’m exploring the form language of invertebrates - it’s a whole new thing to create creatures that have no skeletons and don't walk or crawl on land. I’m enjoying the challenge of puzzling out how parts fit together to make a body.
In the past, I haven’t focused much on the surface color of my monsters, instead choosing to reference the raw material of the rapid prototyping process. But now I have my eye on using a machine that builds with multiple materials at the same time, allowing me to output sculptures made of new combinations of materials and colors. This means I need to learn how to incorporate color into the process. In order to prepare, right now I’m making tests and prototypes using somewhat less sophisticated color capabilities.”
“During the school year, I look neither left nor right; just work. I save chasing jackrabbits for summer, the time for asking tougher questions about what might be possible, what is worth doing, and what needs to be abandoned because it won’t fit into my particular lifetime.
My steady work this summer is a batch of paintings taking off in an unreasonable number of different directions. I am loath to decide in advance which of those trails is worth following. So, I will begin by blocking in a range of possibilities and see which ones survive. Summer is the time for multiple attempts and major failures. It’s the season when I can afford to get discouraged, when I learn the most about myself as an artist.”
“This summer I’m living in Belgium at the Frans Masereel Centrum voor Grafiek (Flemish Centrum for Graphic Arts). I have a fellowship to continue production on a series of achromatic stone lithographs for a new animated film I'm working on.
Working in stone lithography and animation are both radical departures for me. Compared to the relief ukiyo-e method, stone lithography is a very different technical and philosophical/conceptual approach to image-making, despite the fact that they both are printing methods.
The drawing that I’m doing with the stones is an intense, perceptual, and physical activity, allowing me to incorporate more photographic/cinematographic and more personal visual narratives into this new work. I'm also working in black and white, another departure for me. With the imagery I'm creating now, it was important to me to avoid the symbolic reading commonly associated with color, especially in the context of my ukiyo-e prints.
Another equally important reason has been my desire to bring lithography back to A&D students who have been very responsive to this sustainable, low-cost, low-maintenance methodology. Eventually, I’d also like to create printmaking courses in which students can combine film-making and print-media techniques, both through analog and digital output. So this is my time to begin to master these new technologies.”
“Once school ends, I always start the summer by trying to figure out who I am beyond being an A&D professor.
In the studio, we* are making a 21st Century weathervane – a headless chicken that is driven by the climate of fear on the Internet. We’re also making cutlery from Zirconium Dioxide, an industrial grade ceramic. We have a soft spot for the look and feel of disposable, plastic cutlery but hate using it once and throwing it away. We wondered if there was a way to make permanent, contemporary, heirloom items that look and feel like disposables.”
* John’s studio, rootoftwo, consists of himself and his wife Cezanne Charles - hence, the ‘we’.
“In the summer, I’m like a farmer. I eat breakfast and head to the studio everyday. During the school year I’m working on other people’s creative and technical problems which is oftentimes less stressful than solving one's own. My pieces often involve lots of tech- servo motors, strobe lights, micro controllers and other machinery, so much of my day involves reading incomprehensible manuals, learning new programming languages and sometimes feeling like a mad engineer.
This summer I’m working on a sculpture inspired by recent events in the global financial crisis. It involves seven money counting machines which endlessly pass around and count a single dollar bill. I’ve had to spend hours and hours, calibrating the machine inch by inch, adjusting the tolerances and the angles and the airflow just to make this happen. It seems to be working now. I'll be showing this and another new piece in November at the Katzen Arts Center in Washington D.C."
For the last four years, I’ve been working on an experimental audio documentary about an unusual circle of friends and caregivers, and an equally unusual elderly gnome-ish gentleman. I've collected over 60 hours of tape and this summer my job is to bring the story into form.
It’s like working on a gigantic puzzle. Much of my work setting out was to really get to know my recordings - my puzzle pieces. I did this by sifting through the many hours of recordings, and then distilling and transcribing the best of it. I realized I also needed a bird’s eye view of the story so I cleared a wall for a gigantic timeline. I color-coded the types of tape and began to visually map out the three acts of the story. I continually rearrange and fiddle with the elements of the map to help me when I'm lost in the editing. The spaciousness of summer allows a process of discovering the true essence of what this story is about and what this material wants to be, separate from my ideas about it.”
“Summer is a time for finishing unfinished business. I have a kinetic sculpture that needs to be reassembled and fixed. I’m also planning on doing something with the electro luminescent wire from the recent Moonbeams for Motown project that showed at the DIA.
I have a bike with an electric motor. I’m going to see if I can use this electric bike motor to power the battery that will charge the wire. It needs some kind of electric driver to ‘tickle the material,’ so to speak. It’s the charge that makes it glow and emit photons. I'm going to put it up around my house- it will be a sensation in the neighborhood, no doubt.”
“This summer I'm developing a new body of work, to be exhibited in the fall. It consists of a series of "reading devices," structures that contain stories like physically extruded hypertexts. They're physical objects that can be literally read.
Since this is my first time making these kinds of physical structures, I'm spending the summer working out a number of different things at once; I've experimented with how to write stories for these odd structures; I've tested materials, and tried out different designs for the objects; I've been playing with how to bring all these things together –narratively, visually, and physically – into a single experience.
These images are from Unnecessary Angels, a tile game in which parts of the underlying text are revealed by moving the surface tiles around into different patterns.
It's quite an adventure working out processes that are new to me.”