Formative Assessment

Today I set up my work as it stands now,  in the studio for the formative assessment. It was a useful exercise as I learned several things:

  • I need a lot more space than I first envisioned if I am to present my work this way in the exhibiton at the end of the year.
  • My mixed media work of the girl and the beast will look great if it is much bigger. I have sourced some quotes and I think I will get it printed onto a wrapped canvas, in at least A2 size.
  • Given more space I think shadows could work really well even with ambient lighting, depending where I am in the gallery.
  • I need to do the technical research to ensure that my trees and trophy are stable once installed. For the formative I relied on masking tape.

Anyhow, here are the images, the trophy of course has a way to go, but on the whole I am please that I have a clear vision of what my final work will be like.

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The ruination of Ruby…

I started to make Ruby more beastly looking today, but I made a mistake of rushing the process in time for the formative assessment tomorrow. I created her ears ok, but then I applied wet wallpaper paste and tissue paper to the dried Ruby head and of course it soaked through the dry stuff and she ended up a bit if a mush.  :(

I dried her with a hairdryer and added more foam inside, sort of like botox, to push her nose and lips back out. I also experimented with making the wolf hat that will go on top of her head, but didn’t get too far with that.  I kind of managed to resue her but as you can see from the photo below she is rather battered looking. Still I quite like the texture of the new tissue as it looks fur-like. I was going to beastify her anyway so I guess it is not too much of a disaster.

Lesson learned… wet wallpaper paste on top of dry paper mache is a BAD idea!

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Antlers for Ruby

I spent a couple of hours today working on Ruby and her antlers. I had to carve out a polystyrene ball and insert in inside her head to hold them in place. It will still need some weighting though.

The images below show the various branches I tried. The one I really loved was way too large in the end for the scale of the head but I am pleased with how she looks now, which is the image on the bottom right.

Photos from Sep 2014 Photo Stream

 

Getting ahead…

Ok sorry for that pun there, but meet Ruby… the beginnings of my trophy…

Ruby is created from tissue paper and wallpaper paste around a rubber mold of a head. Removing her from the head mold involved a bit of a frontal lobotomy, but she looks great. I am going to be beastifying her up somehow, to give an anthropomorphic look.

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Getting it together with Level 7…

This morning the Level 7 guys n gals came into our lowly space to join in with our critique. I love it when we all get together, sadly it doesn’t happen enough. Our group was rather low on numbers as three of the students were absent, (there are 57 varieties of bug going around at the moment), but it was still very cool.

I went for a cold read and the feedback was really good. Most of the group got the anthropomorphic angle, and none of them mentioned Little Red Riding Hood! I was pleased about that, as it means that my own story is coming through now. I had some interesting discussions about theorists too. I hope to have further chats with the 2 students from Level 7 particularly, as we had lots in common. My favourite comment from a Level 7 student was:

Oh my God, I wish I had a mind that worked like yours

I do feel blessed to have such a quirky outlook on life, I have to admit. But then how could I be any other way? It would be enlightening to swap minds with someone else for a day though, imagine that!! Anyway back to the critique…

All of the group loved my book: Wolves Are People Too, which gave me a buzz. I am always amazed when people enjoy and get my art, especially something like a book, which has to work on many levels. This book may not end up being part of my final work for this project, but I am carrying on with the theme next year and I may produce a series of books. I was thinking along the lines of picture books for bigger people.

No suggestions of improvement were out forward, so I will carry on and have more faith in myself, my ideas and my odd mind!

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Advice from Einstein

I am not sure if fairy tales make children intelligent, but it certainly gives them a basis for working out feelings. They are a wonderful way of comparing a situation in the child psyche, with a resolved story. The child knows it will all be ok. A great of this, is Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are.

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Image retrieved on 12/9/14 from: http://tinyurl.com/mjx39od

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Wolves in the Shadows

Today in studio I was experimenting with large, shadow like drawings of wolves. I quite like the idea of drawing these directly on the wall of the exhibition space. I would ideally like to project them as shadows on the wall but given the fact that it will be a joint exhibition this could be difficult. I talked about this with my tutor, Will, and we discussed creating an enclosed space which would eliminate ambient light. It would involve having a viewing gap though which would create more of a voyeur effect which I don;t really want.

I think this vague shadow drawing is actually quite effective and can imagine it larger on a wall. I believe it would look pretty neat with the tree branches around it. I will have to experiment in the studio. I am running out of space with all my trees and branch antlers!

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Embracing the Beast

While walking in the woods around my property, looking for decent branches, I found some awesome ‘antlers’ in the form of fallen pine tree branches. I have been using antlers in my recent work to symbolise the beast in Red Riding Hood, her animus, if you like. I am aiming to present my work in a forest-like setting within the gallery, and these antlers would look great with my work, so I looked at them and thought about it and decided they needed to become a part of my exhibition, in the form of a trophy.

A trophy is generally something that is won through a sporting achievement of some kind, or a souvenir of a hunting expedition in the form of a stuffed animal head. My using a ‘trophy’ in my work will symbolise the achievement of Red Riding Hood, having faced her demons in the forest. There is also another motive for me; as a lifelong vegetarian and animal rights supporter, I deplore the practice of collecting dead bits of animals that have been killed. My trophy will not be dead, but it will represent rebirth and new life and the union of anima and animus within Red Riding Hood.

Watch this space… meanwhile, I like these:

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Image retrieved from: http://tinyurl.com/l3lpj2f

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Image retrieved from: http://tinyurl.com/mlrq6y3

Kiki Smith

Kiki Smith is an artist who I totally get. An American artist, born in Germany in 1954,  Smith occupies a unique place in the art world. Her work is varied, versatile, powerful, weird and wonderful. There is no artist I have found who works as she does, except myself, and I am a mere fledgling.

Kiki Smith works in several different media and her exhibitions bring together etchings, painting, textile art, sculpture, book art and photography. The glue for these works is a central theme for each exhibition. In the late 1980s  and early 1990s Smith worked with themes surrounding body issues, effluvia, and taboo. Her work has often featured female iconography and more recently the female icons have been plucked from the world of the fairy tale.

In the sculpture below we see a different take on Little Red Riding Hood.

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Image sourced on 4/9/14 from: http://tinyurl.com/m723ljx

This time a drawing entitled, ‘Wearing the Skin’, this image reflects how I portray the Red and the wolf in my own art.

Wearing-the-Skin-Kiki-Smith-2002Image sourced on 4/9/14 from: http://tinyurl.com/l8pjrqc

In an interview with Psychology Today,  Smith said:

Just do your work. And if the world needs your work it will come and get you. And if it doesn’t, do your work anyway. You can have fantasies about having control over the world, but I know I can barely control my kitchen sink. That is the grace I’m given. Because when one can control things, one is limited to one’s own vision. As a child I prayed that my calling be revealed—but not with expectation and not with a destination. I became an artist because I didn’t know what to do and I thought it was really fun to make things.

I like her words as much as I like her art. Making art, being creative because you have to, is the difference I think between being an artist and being anyone else. I am amazed that not everyone has this burning need to create, that not everyone obsesses over colours, shapes, light, shadows, the way I do, that not everyone regularly takes a hundred photos on a morning walk.

I was also very excited to discover that Kiki Smith worked with fairy tales, and that we had much in common in our media and themes, if not expertise. I had already planned that my personal work would be a collection of various different media and techniques around my theme. Finding out that an artist whose work I admire and respect, both creates and exhibits her work in this way, strengthened my concept for me personally.

More about Kiki and her work soon. I discovered her fairy tale work through a cover on one of my Jack Zipes books. The cover art was created by Kiki Smith in 2002, it is entitled Born

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Image sourced on 4/9/14 from: http://tinyurl.com/o7qatwa

 

 

The Alchemy of Black White & Red

The Brothers Grimm version of the fairytale of Snow White opens thus:

Once upon a time in midwinter, when the snowflakes were falling like feathers from heaven, a queen sat sewing at her window, which had a frame of black ebony wood. As she sewed she looked up at the snow and pricked her finger with her needle. Three drops of blood fell into the snow. The red on the white looked so beautiful that she thought to herself, “If only I had a child as white as snow, as red as blood, and as black as the wood in this frame.

My current work has so far all been in red, white black and grey, I am instinctively drawn to these colours, especially as I like winter which is very much the grey white and red season in nature, at least if you are lucky enough to get a decent winter.  I have been thinking about why I use these colours, and how predominant they are in some fairytales, like Snow White and Little Red Riding Hood. I found an article by English professor and author John Patrick Pazdziora about the alchemical symbolism of colours, particularly black, white and red, and they seem to fit the fairy tale narrative very well. This article by Pazdziora explains it very well:

The queen’s wish is for a child that’s black, white, red. That’s the classic color spectrum in literary alchemy.

If you’ve read Harry Potter, you’ve encountered a great example of literary alchemy, though the tradition is hundreds of years old. Here’s a crash introduction.* Each color represents a different phase of the alchemical process, or Great Work as the alchemists called it. Black signifies the nigredo stage, where the lead or base metal is burned, to remove its impurities. White is the second stage, albedo, where the purified matter is washed repeatedly to transmute it into the final stage, rubedo, signified by (you guessed it) red and gold. The beginning of the rubedo is signified by the blossoming of streak of red on the white metal; the metal is put into a container, symbolised by burial or interment in a coffin, until the transmutation is complete. The elements in the metal that were in opposition—fluid and solid, female and male, life and death, and so on—become reconciled; this is called the alchemical marriage.

What if  “Snow White” is an alchemical tale? The argument would go something like this.

   Snow White is the philosophical orphan, traveling through the three stages. The nigredo is her loss of home and self-identification in the forest, that labyrinthine fairy tale symbol for peril, liminal space, and the transmigration between worlds.The albedo is her time with the seven dwarf’s (and the number seven has so much symbolism surrounding it, there’s not enough space to even mention it here). She’s reached an equilibrium, and can be herself without the threat and shadow of the forest. The end of the calm albedo is signified by the arrival of the queen-crone, and specifically an apple that’s half white, half red. Snow White bites the red half and becomes as if dead. So she’s put into a coffin that’s decorated with gold lettering. The philosophical orphan is buried to wait for the completion of the rubedo. Enter a prince—the union of opposites and the alchemical wedding, and the completion of the Great Work.

Fascinating stuff, I can see I have years of inspiration and research from this fairy tale theme. I am going to apply the theory to Red Riding Hood and see how it works.Here is a doodle I was playing with earlier in my theme colours… I am taking photographs of local woods and adding red threads and playing in Photoshop. I think I am going to have a book of photographs as part of my work, photos of my work and stuff I have set up in the woods, my little house models etc.

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