A long time ago, while studying at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, I became pretty obsessed with a few World War 1 era artists and poets, specifically Siegfried Sassoon (bio here) and Paul Nash. Nash was a great artist (see examples of his work here and here) who worked from a deeply-felt conscience regarding his painting. This is what he thought about the work he did during World War 1:
“I am no longer an artist. I am a messenger who will bring back word from the men who are fighting to those who want the war to go on forever. Feeble, inarticulate will be my message, but it will have a bitter truth and may it burn their lousy souls.”¹
A Mystic as Soldier
I lived my days apart,
Dreaming fair songs for God;
By the glory in my heart
Covered and crowned and shod.
Now God is in the strife,
And I must seek Him there,
Where death outnumbers life,
And fury smites the air.
I walk the secret way
With anger in my brain.
O music through my clay,
When will you sound again?
Every year on memorial day I think about these two men and the legions they represented. And then I think about Second Lieutenant Arthur Conway Young of the Royal Irish Fusiliers. He died August 16, 1917. Below is his grave marker. Read the inscription at its base.
While I realize it’s a little odd for a 33 year old to play with toys and that Star Trek is odd in any case, I have to say that I love them both. One of the things I like to do – especially after a semester of high intensity, intellectually challenging dialogue and investigation – is to break out my LEGOs and work on some space ships… just like i did when I was 9 or 10. It’s a recharge of sorts, and I prescribe creative play to all of my students. Anyway, I just made a new ship. I’ve christened it USS Abblasen after Gottfried Reiche’s famous fanfare. Here are a few shots of it…
My daughter knows where her towel is. I hope one day she’ll know the work of Douglas Adams and love what he brought to us. I certainly appreciate his work and commend it to everyone as challenging, thought-provoking, and important. Don’t dismiss his writing as low-brow sci-fi; Adams aimed at the big issues we humans get up to (like digital watches).
My work, titled Galaxy (Shell, Fecundity, Emanation), will be seen at the 6th annual MAGNITUDE 7 exhibition at Manifest coming up at the end of this month. The piece is a mezzotint print that has been embossed with a unique collograph print.
And here’s my statement about the work for the show:
Over the last two years I have become increasingly enamored with the mezzotint printmaking process. I have used mezzotint as a way to find new and different access to some of the subject matter I have used for years in my paintings and drawings. Bricks, shells, geometric forms, and bodies have all become part of my mezzotint repertoire. Those geometric forms – specifically the Platonic solid called the dodecahedron – have begun to inform my mezzotints beyond simple representation; I have started using the angles of the dodecahedron and its constituent, the pentagon, as dimensional embossments upon the mezzotint prints.
In the work I present here at MAGNITUDE 7, titled Galaxy (Shell, Fecundity, Emanation), the beautiful gradients and milky consistency mezzotint is known for are used to display a shell, spinning in an amorphous space. Yet a fine tracery of lines and angular counterpoints shifts the surface level of the image itself, creating a bas-relief. The angles are formed using a collograph print over the final mezzotint. This collograph is a unique, one-time embossment; though the edition of mezzotints is all the same, the embossment seen in each print is one of a kind.
By embedding these angles (taken directly from the dodecahedron) onto the image of the spiral form shell, I reintegrate their inherent relationship, since both the spiraling of the shell and the angles of the quintessential Platonic solid display the natural mathematical beauty of Phi, the golden ratio. While the depiction of the shell can be a visual entry point for contemplation, the angles of the subtle embossment encode a physical reality into the artifice of the image. This duality is something I am hoping to develop more and more. I want the image and the icon, the depiction and the object, the picture of the idea and the idea itself, to become manifest in these prints as I continue them.
A year ago I started teaching all levels of Color Drawing (Beginning, Intermediate, and Advanced) at the University of Missouri. While I really enjoy all of my classes, the Color Drawing sections have been particularly special to me.
So here’s just a review of some of the great work from this semester…
Danielle Moser, Beginning Color Drawing: Reflection Project Drawing, Oil Pastel, 24 by 18 inches.
Jillian Blanck, Beginning Color Drawing: Master Copy Drawing (after Dali’s The Hallucinogenic Toreador), Chalk Pastel, 30 by 22 inches.
Scott Fisher, Beginning Color Drawing: Master Copy Drawing (after Michelangelo’s Libyan Sibyl from the Sistine Chapel), Chalk Pastel, 30 by 22 inches.
Holly Meador, Intermediate Color Drawing: Head Planes Model Drawing, Chalk Pastel, 44 by 30 inches.
Holly Meador, Intermediate Color Drawing: Self Portrait as Flaming June (after Lord Frederic Leighton’s Flaming June), Chalk Pastel, 30 by 36 inches. (Unfortunately, this drawing was stolen from my flat files at the University – I’m actually pretty pissed off about it. How can we expect our students to be willing to put forth their best efforts when their peers don’t respect that work? Really unbelievable.)
Roxanne Kueser, Advanced Color Drawing: Courtney, Chalk Pastel, 24 by 18 inches.
Brittany Carney, Advanced Color Drawing: Neil (The Proper Posture), Chalk Pastel, 24 by 18 inches.
Marcus Miers, Advanced Color Drawing: Untitled Composition, Chalk Pastel, 60 by 45 inches.
I want to thank all of my Color Drawing students for making the class so enjoyable. I could have easily had 100 drawings to show from the production of my 24 students; I don’t mean any disrespect to those I’ve not displayed here. These works do show the overall quality and worth ethic I’ve seen throughout all of the students this semester. I’m so glad I got to work with them. Here’s to setting the bar high for next semester!
On Mother’s Day, 2010
One of the most precious things to me is the gentle, loving, intimate voice of a mother in communication with her child. This voice is sometimes audible, sometimes unheard by anyone else, sometimes not even heard by the child. Sometimes it’s a voice of words, sometimes one of deeds. It is a form of communication that speaks as much to the mother as it does to the child. It is a mysterious speech, a multilayered kind of intonation that expresses love and hope and encouragement.
Right now I’m sitting 20 feet away from my wife, Alison, and our first child, Miranda. Her birth just 10 days ago was amazingly wonderful. Yet perhaps it was not the most amazing transmutation that occurred. You see, many times before giving birth, Alison would write to Miranda, speak to her, sing to her, hum to her. In these things Alison was experiencing a transformation into mom-ness. The state of being motherly, of extending unconditional love, of earnest, joyful support for that child, was becoming manifest in her character and nature. Yes, she was always wonderful with children; now she was becoming a mom.
I remember a few weeks early on in her pregnancy when Alison started to really inhabit her mom-ness. What happened was that for several weeks, during the early morning hours between 4 and 5 am, Alison – totally asleep – would sing to her unborn child. Well, sing isn’t really the right word. It was sing-humming, a kind of spontaneous melody of pure joy. It was involuntary – she was not conscious of it when I told her about it later. Yet there she was, serenading her child weeks before she would feel her, months before she could hold her. She was becoming a mom, then and there. It was beautiful. I think it was a powerfully important thing as well: a song for growing, for knitting, for becoming. Miranda needed it, and Alison could sing it. As the only conscious witness to that sweet concert, I hope I never forget that sound.
Alison and Miranda sleeping
Thinking about this reminds me of the other mothers close to me in my life – my own mom and Alison’s mom. They’ve got their own mother powers, too.
When I was a child I was desperate for my mom’s touch before sleep. Once put down, if I awoke I would cry and cry… less from fears or needs, but rather in order to bring her to me, to have her put her hand on my back again. I wanted to have that hand lull me back to sleep with its warm, rhythmic, safe motion. My understanding is that this specific mode of soothing was a constant desire of mine; sometimes my mom would resort to placing a warm water bottle on me in place of her hand just so she could get something done in the evenings. But I love that she came again and again, sitting next to me and bringing that touch that only a mom knows how to do. This was just one of the many, many ways my mom exhibited her mom-ness toward me, built me up, gave me what only she could give.
My mom as a young woman – about my age now, I think…
My mom-in-law, Kathy, also does something only a mom can do. Well, others can do it and are supposed to, but moms do it best: selflessness. When her children are in the midst of their work, projects, fears, triumphs, and lives in general, there she’ll be, selflessly being supportive, giving of her time and energy with no thought of return. On countless occasions over the years that I’ve known her and seen her with her kids, I’ve witnessed her aid come to them. That aid took on many forms, from helping with studying or editing lengthy papers to nursing them through sickness or helping them move, these kids knew they could count on her. In a world where so many people are out for themselves, she’s rejected all selfishness, seeing her support for and encouragement of her kids as vital and necessary. And it’s totally appropriate that she exhibits that giving character so fully – there’s no support, no love, no aid like what comes from a mom.
Mom Schwei with Miranda
So today I think of all of this, and am overjoyed. I thank God for it… and there again is Alison in the other room, speaking to Miranda with a mother nature uniquely her own. I am so thankful for this goddess-voice in my wife, for the goddess-touch in my mom’s warm hand resting on my back all those times, and for the goddess-sensitivity my mother-in-law’s selflessness and constancy. Thanks Mom Bourgeois, Mom Schwei, and new Mom Ballou – I love each of you.