January 6, 2023

What's New in the New Year

         New month, new year, and still as busy as ever.  Plenty of the things keeping me so busy are of no interest or relevance to this blog, of course, and unfortunately plenty of those things are keeping me too busy to do any writing in the last couple of months, which I’m not so happy about.  But there has been plenty of activity on the art front, so I thought I’d share some of what I’ve been up to in that department.
        First of all, I finished two new pieces just under the wire in 2022.  First of these is another steampunk creature.  Steampunk’s popularity has been waning and it’s no longer the hot trend it was, but I still like it!  (It’s always been a bit of a puzzle to me how people can be so fickle in their likes.  Do you actually like something, or don’t you?  But that’s beside the point.)  However, steampunk is still around enough that I finally got the opportunity to apply for a booth at a local steampunk festival.  I’ll find out later this month whether I was accepted, but in the meantime I got inspired enough to make this steam-powered insectivore.  I started with a base of the 1804 steam engine by Richard Trevithick, which had come to my attention last spring, and is featured in this previous post.  Then I had to decide what creature could best be combined with this steam engine.  I thought the large flywheel should match up with a large 
round haunch.  A bear would be the right shape, with its hindquarters higher than its 
shoulder, but I thought it would be funnier to imagine a whole steam engine miniaturized in a small beastie.  And really when you start to think about it, you can see at once how well-suited Trevithick’s engine is to power an elephant shrew.  I’ve been delighted by the black and rufous elephant shrew ever since encountering them at a zoo nearly fifteen years ago, and this was the perfect opportunity to feature one!  As with my other steampunk creations, I like to imagine a bit of back story about the invention of this little mechanical companion, and in this case it was created, of course, for pest control.  Let this little critter keep your home free of cockroaches and other unwanted insects!  (Admittedly, it’s a bit of a fire hazard, and it may spew a bit of coal smoke…  But hey, those Victorian-era inventors never allowed themselves to be held back by minor details like that.)
        Then there’s a very different piece, also completed just before the new year, but actually the end point of a very long history.  It is made of two separate blocks, and the black block - just the outlines of the place setting - was carved twenty years ago in 2002 or 2003.  (Oh my goodness, “twenty years ago”… I almost gave myself a heart attack just thinking about it!)  But it was, frankly, boring, and I never printed it.  Then about a year or so ago I rediscovered the block and started thinking about how I might do something fun with it.  I considered watercoloring a background, and I considered printing it on patterned paper…  But eventually, after long, intermittent mulling, I decided to carve a second block to go with it.  I’m kind of obsessed with blue and white china, and blue and white tablecloths for my dining room, so obviously that’s what sort of place setting this was going to be.  As usual, registration (lining up the two blocks) was the hardest part, so I ended up having to print and discard a ton of extras that didn’t come out.  But in the end I am pretty pleased with it.  But then, I may be biased, what with my blue-and-white obsession.  We’ll see whether the rest of the world likes it!
        I began the new year with a bang, hanging a solo show at the Newton Public Library on the third.  I managed to fit 38 pieces into the exhibit space, for a show entitled Wonders Everywhere.  The theme is really just the theme of all the art I ever do!  The show will be up through the month of January.
        Meanwhile I was already starting preparations for the Arisia art show, which will be up at the Boston Westin Waterfront Hotel January 13-16 during the convention.  I plan to hang no fewer than 60 pieces on my allotted panels.  Yes, I know, I know, you shouldn’t overcrowd your display… People can focus on and admire each individual piece better if there’s space around… It will all look more clean and slick and professional if it’s not a big jumble… Viewers can get a better sense of how a piece might look hanging on their own wall… Less is more… I know, I know, and I believe it all.  But I just can’t help myself.  If I bring fewer pieces, people will see fewer pieces.  And they can’t enjoy what they never saw.  So I shrug and fit in as many pieces as I can.  Which means that this month I need to have just shy of 100 pieces of art framed and hung simultaneously, which is why the past couple of weeks I have been madly matting and framing and laying out arrangements of art all over the floor.  But I’m on the home stretch now, and looking forward to Arisia.
        Meanwhile, all the December shows are over, so yesterday I had to drive out and pick up pieces from a show in Lexington, while tomorrow I’ll have to drive in and pick up a piece from a show in Jamaica Plain.
        Meanwhile, work is beginning to ramp back up in organizing Strong Women-Strange Worlds author readings (I’ll be one of the authors presenting my work on March 3) and organizing Needham Open Studios (which will be May 6-7).
        Meanwhile, I’m not getting any writing done, but I certainly can’t complain that I don’t have enough to keep me busy!  (And I am trying to keep up-to-date with submissions of the stories and poems I do have.)  For my next creative endeavor I have to think of some little block to carve as a demo during workshops at Arisia.  Any ideas?

[Pictures: Steam-Powered Insectivore, rubber block print by AEGN, 2022;

Trevithick’s Locomotive, wood engraving (by H.W. Benno?) from The Progress of Invention in the Nineteenth Century by Edward W. Byrn, 1900 (Image from Internet Archive);

Black and rufous elephant shrew, photo by AEGN, 2009;

A Place at the Table, rubber block print from two blocks, AEGN, 2022.]


Charlotte (MotherOwl) said...

You ask: "It’s always been a bit of a puzzle to me how people can be so fickle in their likes. Do you actually like something, or don’t you?" For me the question always have posed itself the other way around (taking Steampunk as an example - no offence inended): "Why do you love this piece just because it's Steampunk? It's not well executed, the lines are off and the colours garish?"
I am more ... I like a good painting, woodcut, book, poem, tune, any piece of art in short, where the motive speaks to me, and I think the artwork is well done - Migth be "only" that the artists did his best. .... My home's walls are a jumble of things in a zillion styles spanning throughout the ages, but all having a message or a meaning for us.
I find your steampunk elephant shrew anusing and really well done, but I would never have it on my walls - an owl, on the other hand, done like an old clockwork would be very tempting ;)
... I hope I did not totally misunderstand what you meant here.

As to exhibiting as much as possible. I am with you all the way. The "People can't like what they don not see", hits home for me!
I'm sorry I do not live closer, so that I could come and look at all your art.

Charlotte (MotherOwl) said...

PS. I wish you a happy and productive 2023. And I love the name of yoyr exhibiition. Because yes there are!

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

Ahha, you are referring to the phenomenon that I address in a previous post: https://nydamprintsblackandwhite.blogspot.com/2010/11/cat-art.html We talk about "Cat Art" to designate something that people will embrace uncritically regardless of intrinsic quality.
My puzzle is more about the whole idea of fashions and trends of all kinds. I, for example, love blue and white china. If blue and white china is "in," then I will be on-trend for the duration of the fashion, but when blue and white china is no longer trendy, it isn't as if I stop liking it. And since I still like it, I will still have it in my house. I am baffled by the people who use blue and white china only while it's fashionable, because if they didn't like it before, why do they want to have it around during the trend, and if they do really like it, why do they want to get rid of it when the next trend comes along. Do they like it or don't they?