January 15, 2019

Two By Marcks

        What a fun block print this is, by Gerhard Marcks (Germany, 1889-1981).  I just love the simplicity of it: the necks are just lines, the heads are almost hieroglyphic, and the background is such an interesting contrast of very simple geometric pattern.  Four of the ostriches are male, which is a natural for a black and white block print, with one speckled female for variety.  (I’m also appreciating ostriches right now because the block I just designed to be carved next weekend includes an ostrich-inspired alien creature - or struthioform, to coin(?) a fancier word to describe it.)
        Here’s another piece by Marcks with a very different vibe, although you can certainly see a commonality in the extensive use of simple striping.  Instead of being humorous, this is dramatic and quite serious.  One interesting detail is that you can see a bit of wood grain on the under edges of the cloud, which contributes to the shading.  I wonder whether this was a happy accident, or whether Marcks deliberately created the effect, perhaps by sanding the grain slightly in those places, or by inking more lightly there.
        I really like both these pieces, and their different moods.

[Pictures: Laufende Strau├če (Running Ostriches), woodcut by Gerhard Marcks, 1956 (Image from Galerie Nierendorf);
Einsame Pappel (Lone Poplar), woodcut by Marcks, 1960 (Image from Luther College).

January 12, 2019

They Run Again

Beyond the black and naked wood
In frosty gold has set the sun,
And dusk glides forth in cobweb hood...
Sister, tonight the werewolves run!

With white teeth gleaming and eyes aflame
The werewolves gather upon the howe!
Country churl and village dame,
They have forgotten the wheel and plow.

They have forgotten the speech of men;
Their throats are dry with a dreadful thirst;
And woe to the traveler in the glen
Who meets tonight with that band accurst!

Now from the hollows creeps the dark;
The moon like a yellow owl takes flight;
Good people on their house-doors mark
A cross, and hug their hearths in fright.

Sister, listen! . . . The King-Wolf howls!
The pack is running! . . . Drink down the brew,
Don the unearthly, shaggy cowls, —
We must be running too!

        This poem, from 1939, is by Leah Bodine Drake (USA, 1904-1964), who made a name for herself specializing in macabre poetry, winning awards and lots of publication in the mid twentieth century.  I don’t normally get very excited about werewolves, but Drake does some interesting things here.  For one thing, the last verse implies that turning to a wolf is a choice, not an involuntary transformation.  For another, I like the way she simultaneously depicts the werewolves as the horrible, terrifying monsters they are, yet also gives a view of what they feel like from the inside.  As for the specifics of her language, she’s a little freer with exclamation marks than I would be, but I very much like some of her phrases, especially “their throats are dry with a dreadful thirst” and “the moon like a yellow owl takes flight.”

[Picture: Detail from W is for Wolf, wood block print with multiple blocks by C.B. Falls, from ABC Book, 1923.]

January 9, 2019

Boskone Mini-Interview

        This is the first year that I’ll be a program participant at the Boskone science fiction and fantasy convention after being in the art show for the past three years.  I’m not yet allowed to publicize what panels and workshops I’ll be doing because the program is still in draft state, but I will say that I’ve been assigned to stuff that touches on lots of my favorite subjects, and I’m really excited!  I’m also excited to be featured in a mini-interview on the Boskone Blog, along with some amazing authors.  You can read the piece here, and then be sure to go back to see all the other mini-interviews in the series.
        Boskone is held in mid-February, so I actually have the Arisia convention (Jan. 18-21) to worry about first.  I’ve been matting and framing madly for the art show, and for the panels I’ll be on I’m trying something new: I’ve added the panel titles as Labels on the sidebar to the right, and then tagged a variety of my former posts that include relevant content.  I’m hoping this will make it easy for audience members at the panels to access details I might mention, or just to see a little more about how I approach these topics.  (I’ll be doing the same for Boskone, but not until the program is officially released.)  Check out the Labels and see!
        And finally, since I don’t have any pictures of myself on panels or anything else relevant to illustrate this post, I’ve illustrated it with something irrelevant: my recent Jubjub bird.    I hope that I will remain cool, calm, and collected as I prepare for these two big events while simultaneously entering the busiest season of work organizing Needham Open Studios, and will not instead find myself in a perpetual passion like the Jubjub bird.

[Beware the Jubjub Bird!, rubber block print by AEGN, 2018.]

January 4, 2019

Two Worlds

        On Wednesday I hung a show at the Newton Free Library, which will be up for the month of January.  Whenever I do solo shows I think of a theme to guide me in selecting which work to hang.  I enjoy working with a theme because it gets me to display a different cross-section of my work from what I usually show at sales.  In this case, I was slightly constrained by the library’s requirement that all work be made within the past three years.  Therefore, a few of the possible ideas I had for themes were out, because they would have included older work.  So I decided to stick with something relatively simple: my dual focus on the real world and the world of imagination.  Here’s the blurb…
        This show highlights the magic of two worlds: our own real world, and the infinite realms of the imagination.  The everyday world is full of wonderful things that are often unnoticed or unappreciated, while the world of the imagination allows us to let go of preconceptions and open our minds to all kinds of wonderful possibilities.  From the magic of a milkweed seed lifting with the wind to the magic of the mythical hercinia with its glowing feathers to light the way, there is cause for celebration everywhere.  We all need to remember to take the time to notice the beauty in our world and to let it inspire us to imagine worlds more beautiful still.
        I have 35 pieces on display, which is great, and they fill the Main Hall that enters the library, so it’s nice to think that lots of people of all ages will have the opportunity to see them.  (For info on the Newton Library show, here’s their web site.)  However, because I will also be showing a lot of work at the Arisia Art Show in January, and because there’s a fair amount of overlap of pieces due to the “imaginary world” part of the Newton Library theme, I have to do a boatload of extra framing.  I expect to have over 50 pieces at Arisia, which means that in the month of January I’ll have almost 90 pieces framed at once.  Yowza!

[Picture: Two Worlds, Newton Free Library Main Hall, stitched photo by AEGN, 2019.]

January 1, 2019

Happy New Year!

         Here’s a wood engraving by Thomas Bewick showing Father Time with all his traditional attributes: long white beard to show his age, scanty drapes the better to look Classical, wings because Time flies, a scythe because he’s conflated with the Grim Reaper, and an hourglass for the passage of time.  As an allegorical figure, Father Time has been around for centuries, but as a symbol for the year he’s now replaced by Baby New Year.  So, may your new year be full of joy, kindness, surprises, sufficiency, wonder, and love.

[Picture: There’s No Tomorrow, wood engraving by Thomas Bewick from Select Fables, before 1784 (Image from Internet Archive).]