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Staten Island, New York, United States

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Creative Process: Making Miniature Tango Collages for Holiday Fairs

I've been spending all my energy the last two weeks, with time out for Thanksgiving, on creating collages for local holiday art fairs. I've been focusing on making tiny collages, 4"x4", using the same methods and images of tango dancing that I use in my slightly larger collages. As is always the case in any creative process, I've noticed some interesting developments.

getting small collages ready for holiday fairs in my studio
I find I really like working on this scale. When I shrink the paper lithographs (a fine art process using etching inks and xeroxes as the printing plates) down, the line details show up and I can frame them and focus the eye in a more simple way. Also, I have a tendency towards "more is more" and often get bogged down in applying multiple layers when the image isn't developing well. With the small pieces, I don't feel bad about tossing the piece aside if it's not successful. And, anyway, I can always turn it over and use the back side. I use very high quality heavy paper so that it can stand up to collaging different weights and textures of material and I prepare both sides of the paper so that it will stay as flat as possible. I learned all these collaging techniques from Miriam Shapiro when I was her studio assistant in the '80's. I'll write more about that in another blog entry.

Collages #110 and #111,  tango shoes from patterned paper
The materials I'm using for the small work has changed slightly, too. I have been collecting images and decorative papers for years.  I've had some scraps of handmade decorative papers from my friends at Four Hands Design Studios here on Staten Island http://www.sagereynolds.com/paste. The scraps are from papers often used in hand bookbinding. Sage and Colman at Four Hands have impeccable craftsmanship and color sense, so the papers are very precious. I find that the patterns in the paper, scaled to the intimacy of a book, work well in these collages. I especially had fun using my cuticle scissors to cut out tiny shoes from them, in combination with some origami paper. Okay - full disclosure - I was also influenced here by my first adventure in scrapbooking at a recent baby shower for a friend. THAT was fun - sitting in a room surrounded by beautiful patterned papers and new artmaking tools, all available for us to play with. I mean, all available for us to create a meaningful gift for our friend.
Collage #120, using envelope

I have another friend, Phyllis Forman, who makes the most exuberant and original collages and assemblages, all from discarded materials. She has been using her junk mail as raw material for years. Lately, inspired by Phyllis, I have incorporated some envelope linings from my own junk mail that have beautiful colors and patterns. I am also recycling my old prints and collages that haven't worked in whole, but that have some small parts that I can use.

All of this flurry of activity is in preparation for a couple of holiday fairs on Staten Island that I am doing in December. The first is this Saturday, Dec. 3 at the Noble Maritime Collection  at Snug Harbor (see flier below) and the second will be at the JCC on Dec. 11.  I wanted to have a new product that was even more affordable than my $60 collages. These mini pieces will sell for $23 unframed. And, as with all my collages, each one is handmade and unique. NO computer-generated images here! If I'm successful, I may add this size to my Etsy shop as well. http://www.etsy.com/people/DeniseMummArt

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Visiting Editions/Artists' Book Fair in NYC

I visited the Editions/Artists' Book Fair on Friday evening, Nov. 4 at the invitation of my friend, Susan Happersett. She makes books with Purgatory Pie Press and was at their booth. 
The fair's website http://www.eabfair.com gives a complete listing of all the participants and a little background information about the fair. The little catalogues given away at the door are beautiful objects themselves, even moreso than those for the big splashy art fairs. In addition to having an image for each exhibitor, they contain a helpful description of their mission and focus.
 Green Topia Chairs by Barbara Gallucci
The moment I stood in the doorway I remembered how impressed I had been with the quality of the art the last time I had visited. There is a wide variety of styles, scale, and approaches to books and multiples,  but the craftsmanship and originality was inspiring and reassuring to me. I could very much feel the hand of the artist throughout. Despite the technology available to us to create masses of multiples, I'm very happy to see that the traditional methods of production are thriving, that artists find them relevant and also find ways to be innovative with them.

I stopped at the booth for the Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop. The first thing I did was poke (with permission) at the odd cast-paper catfish "nests" that Willie Birch had made from real catfish nests in his backyard. 

The second thing that caught my eye were some prints made by Chakaia Booker. I'm a great admirer of her sculpture made from castoff tires. My printmaking teacher, Herman Zaage, had said that sculptors make some of the best printmakers and I think these prints proved that. The Workshop representative shared with me the approach that Chakaia and the printshop worked through so that she could be comfortable in the printmaking process. The resulting prints look "built", with fluid embossed lines and chine colle elements in addition to the printed lines. A picture of them would not catch the subtleties.

I remember meeting Bob Blackburn when I was working at the Bernice Steinbaum Gallery in the eighties. He came to an opening for Faith Ringgold. He had done a series of prints about war with Faith in the sixties and I believe that was Faith's first printmaking experience. He was a printmaking evangelist, approaching me as I worked behind the gallery desk with a "you should come over and make some prints". The Workshop carries on his mission of helping artists discover something new about artmaking through making prints.

Kristen Martincic's work is in the middle booth,
with her old fashioned swimsuit print/sculpture.
Another booth that grabbed my attention was The Print Center. They were featuring simple, quiet iconographic prints that were really sculptures by the artist Kristen Martincic. In addition to her delicate paper swimsuit in this picture, she was showing some small printed "pillows", 3" in diameter, that were intricate and masterfully executed monotypes printed on rice paper and then stuffed. They were priced at an incredible $110 each. See more about this artist at http://printcenterstore.myshopify.com/collections/martincic.   But, you have to see these pillows in person.

My next stop was to see my friend Susan Happersett at Purgatory Pie Press. Susan makes math-based art. See her work here http://www.happersett.com/home. She shared some books she had made, completely by hand, which included complex original drawings based on chaos theory. She also pointed out some lovely new handprinted postcards by Dikko Faust, one of which had a dizzyingly intricate pattern of circles on it. Purgatory Pie uses a letterset press to produce their material. Check them out here  http://www.purgatorypiepress.com/.

My parting glance of the fair was a wall-sized print created out of variable modules by Daniel Heyman. It's a commentary on war and a very ambitious project. I was drawn to it because of the rough quality of the print, with a woodgrain background. It was well positioned on a back wall and a fitting parting tribute to a fair that features artists pushing the envelope through editions and books.

Where Photographers are Blinded, Eagles' Wings are Clipped, at left, by Daniel Heyman