October 19, 2018

Art Show Checklist

        This weekend I’ll be at Roslindale Open Studios, so today is all about finishing preparations and packing up.  For most of my weekend shows I prefer to set up on Friday when possible, but Roslindale is not somewhere I want to drive at rush hour on a Friday, so for this one I don’t set up until early Saturday morning.  Moreover, it’s a far enough drive that having to rush back home for some forgotten item is at best a terrible, frantic, stressful inconvenience, and at worst simply impossible.  This makes it all the more important that I actually remember to pack everything I’ll need.  To that end, I have put together a checklist.  This one is personal to me, my work, and my display, and obviously each artist’s list will be a little different.  Nevertheless, I offer it in the hope that it may be of some help to anyone thinking about showing or showing for the first time or so.

Display Stuff                                                Other Stuff
- hanging racks                                            - block(s) to carve
- hardware                                                   - carving tools
- hooks                                                          - sample rubber
- binder clips                                               - stamp pad
- multitool                                                    - test paper
- long table                                                   - business cards
- medium table                                           - networking cards
- small table                                                 - cash box
- tablecloths                                                 - square reader
- print racks                                                 - change
- card rack                                                    - record-keeping notebook
- card display baskets                                - price list folder
- book rack                                                   - pens, pencil
- labels                                                          - tape
- signage                                                      - camera
- easels, stands                                            - cart
                                                                      - bags for purchases

Goods                                                            Last Minute Stuff
- framed work                                             - phone
- matted work                                             - lunch/snacks
- card/necklace/etc. box                            - water bottle
- holiday cards                                            - glasses
- books                                                         - sweater
- framed posters                                        - phone charge cord/battery  
- box of posters                                           - purse (which includes essentials such as
                                                                               chapstick, tylenol, pads, scissors,
                                                                               tape measure, etc.)

        The binder clips, by the way, are for hanging unframed signs, unframed prints, and similar stuff from my wire racks.  The stamp pad and test paper are for checking the progress of the block I’m carving, at the end of the day when I think I may be about done with it.  I never bother bringing lights, but many artists do, in which case they’d also need to remember extension cords and gaffer tape.  Some artists bring an entire toolbox.  I think I’ve only once been in a location that didn’t provide a chair, but some artists bring their own special stool or higher chair.  I’ve always found the other artists extremely generous with tools, tape, making change for a customer, and other necessities that apply to all of us, but of course it’s more convenient to remember your own - and nice to be the person who can be generous to someone else when needed.
        You’ll be substituting your own artwork for mine on this list, your own display system for mine, and so on.  But perhaps there might be something on my list you wouldn’t have thought of.  Certainly my list has been developed and refined over my 14 years of doing art shows, and I’ve learned the hard way how handy it is to have some of the less obvious items, and how easy it is to forget some of the smaller ones - or even large ones, if they happen to get shoved out of sight out of mind.  So I hope this checklist is helpful to some of you, and I hope it’s helpful to me this evening as I load the car!
        If you’re in this Bostonian neck of the woods this weekend, be sure to come by and introduce yourself at Roslindale House.  It’s always a wonderful show.

[Picture: ROS 2017, photo by a helpful neighboring artist, 2017.]

October 16, 2018

That's No Moon!

        A long time ago (about five hundred years) in a continent far far away (Europe) an Italian engineer produced a sketchbook of fantastic gadgets he claimed to have invented and was making available to rich and powerful patrons.  Among his distinctly medieval-style sketches are a wonderful variety of automatons, fountains, musical instruments, weapons, locks, special effects for stage plays and pageants, and… the Death Star.  I mean, just look at this!  What else could it possibly be?
        The engineer, Giovanni or Johannes de Fontana (Italy, c 1395- c1455), included among his vaunted inventions a mishmash of items that were physically impossible, as well as some that he could have actually built, and still others that might have been onto something plausible, but were probably ahead of the technology of the time.  It seems likely, therefore, that Fontana never actually built a
Death Star.  After all, we’d probably have heard about it if Venice had obliterated Milan instead of agreeing to the Peace of Lodi.  Plus, it looks like he’s got the firing pattern of its superlaser a little wrong.  Still, he clearly had the basic concept, and even included lots of star destroyers in the scene, too.  (I confess I don’t know what the thing at the bottom is, though.)

[Pictures: Death Star(?) illustration from Bellicorum instrumentorum liber by Johannes de Fontana, 1420 (Image from Public Domain Review);
Death Star, still from Star Wars, 1977.]

ANNOUNCEMENT for everyone in the Greater Boston Area... or maybe even all of New England!  This weekend is ROSLINDALE OPEN STUDIOS, a wonderful event and one of my biggest shows of the year.  There's always a great buzz and great art, so come on by!

October 12, 2018

Saito's Signals

        Saito Kiyoshi (Japan, 1907-1997) worked as a designer for a railway corporation before taking up printmaking.  Clearly it left him with an interest in the aesthetics of railways, and I really like these two woodblock prints depicting railway depots.  There are no trains here, just the skeleton of infrastructure without any movement or life.  There are tracks, girders, and signals: all manmade geometry.  The dark colors could be interpreted as baleful or ominous, but  for some reason they seem almost peaceful to me.  I guess it’s that everything is so strictly ordered, mathematical and under control .  I suppose they’re set at dusk, or just before dawn when no trains are running.
        I don’t know how many blocks went into each piece; I’m guessing three or maybe four if the red lights got their own separate block.  (The red and the skyline could have been done in a single block inked in two colors.)  The grey ink of the ground is rolled on lightly enough to show a lot of white speckles, which evokes gravel.  Against this gravelly grey, the solid black and red look particularly dramatic, and the shadowy skylines offer a fitting backdrop.

[Pictures: Signal (B), color woodblock print by Saito Kiyoshi, 1962 (Image from Our Sense of Place);
Signal (A), color woodblock print by Saito, 1962 (Image from invaluable).]

October 8, 2018

Here's Something Cool: Mechanical Nef

        This amazing renaissance creation definitely gets some sort of fantasy cred, despite being 100% historically for real.  On the hour the model galleon bursts into life, with three heralds and seven or eight prince electors parading past the emperor on the deck, while ten trumpets, a drum, and a timpani play music, and various sailors move among the ropes and ring bells in the crows nest.  It even trundles across the table and fires a cannon with a puff of smoke.  You can see a video showing the elaborate golden decor, the clockwork, and the  various movements, here.  (The narration is in French, but there’s not much narration anyway.  Mostly it’s just the ship doing its thing.)
         It’s credited to one Hans Schlottheim (Germany, 1544/1547-1625 or-6), who was originally a travelling watchmaker who went on to work in the courts of Bavaria, Prague, and Saxony.  He may have devised the clockwork, with additional goldsmiths and artisans helping with the decor.  This nef may have been in the collection of Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II, or perhaps the Elector of Saxony.  This particular nef is one of three similar ones, of which historian Lisa Jardine observes “The rich,… the aristocracy, everybody wanted to own a bit of technology - something with cogs and wheels and winding bits… It immediately fascinates everyone that you can wind something up and it goes without your touching it.  Clockwork is magic in the sixteenth century.”  And really, even knowing that it’s all mechanical, it’s hard not to think some wizardry must have been involved just to figure out how to put it all
together and make it work.  The clockwork was cutting edge, and so was the subject: this sort of ship was on the verge of conquering the Earth, the renaissance equivalent of the space shuttle.  Note, too, the wonderful pegasus and sea monsters wreathing the ship at the water line.  Marvelous stuff!
        Here’s another of Schlottheim’s automata, a belltower from about 1580.  And here is another video, showing the working of another of his galleons.  These magical clockwork toys were made as dinner table decorations that would most definitely have impressed the guests at banquets.  It certainly makes a centerpiece of flowers seem ordinary!  (Although flowers, too, have their magic, not to be underestimated.)

[Pictures: Nef of Charles Quint, by Hand Sclottheim, c 1580 (Image from Artsy);
Glockenturmautomat (Bell tower automata) by Schlottheim, c 1580 (Image from Kunst Historisches Museum Wien).]
Quotation from Jardine in A History of the World in 100 Objects, by Neil MacGregor, 2010.

October 2, 2018

Woodcuts by Ibañez

        Here is a sampling of wood block prints by Josemaria Ibañez (Chile, b. 1975).  He has a range of styles, from relatively naturalistic to quite stylized and symbolic, but all his work has a bold, graphic quality.  I’m featuring a few of my favorites, of course.
        First up, an aerial view with lots of little details reminiscent of “Where’s Waldo” or something by Mitsumasa Anno.  There are people sunning in the plaza, and people visible in a couple of windows.  A woman appears to be dancing across a crosswalk.  Alas, these pictures are very small while the original is fairly large (50x80cm), so I can’t really enjoy the details as much as I would like, but it’s clearly a fun piece.
        Next, another one that frustrates me with my inability to see it larger.  This one is a pretty realistic view of Heidelberg, Germany, with proper perspective and all.  Nevertheless, the tree-covered
hills are patterned in an interesting, stylized way, and the use of both black and white outlines around some of the roofs and buildings is characteristic.  I find the black, untextured trees in the foreground especially effective.
        And then, for variety, a very simple, almost cartoonish piece, entitled “I Don’t Want to Be Late.”  I can certainly relate to the character vaulting along the treetops, bypassing all the cars and trucks.  Who hasn’t imagined that they could go faster than the traffic, flying along in leaps and bounds?

[Pictures: Mapocho Arereo (Aerial Mapocho), wood block print by Josemaria Ibañez;
Heidelberg, wood block print by Ibañez;
No Quiero Llegar Tarde (I Do Not Want to be Late), wood block print by Ibañez (All images from Josemaria Ibañez).]