Friday, December 30, 2016

Slouching towards 2017

I used to dismiss New Year's Eve as just another day, unworthy of making a fuss or resolutions. But now I think resolutions are a chance to reflect and reveal who we think we are and hope to be. Last year I resolved to draw daily. Now one of my resolutions for the coming year is to be more deliberate in the professional work I do, specifically to write and draw more and with more deliberate aim. In light of that goal, I know I need to read and look more.

Similarly, I recently advised an aspiring student art critic to read more art criticism and sent him four links.* The first is by famed art critic Jerry Saltz and unusual in that he's not discussing art, but the graphic photographs of the assassination of the Russian ambassador at an art gallery in Turkey. When I posted the link on facebook a friend-of-a-friend (a non-native speaker?) wrote:
"I read manu[sic] words about visual set up, but nothing about history. If to look from historical perspective such murders often happened to be the start of giant wars and disasters. Also I feel that esthetic approach to terrorism as a way to tolerate it. If we start that we can go forward, let's enjoy the beauty and the drama of WTC collapsing, murder of American ambassador in Bengazy[sic]... what next? 
It is the wrong way. When you step on it you will lose all limits."
The assassin and his victim, Russian ambassador, Andrey Karlov.
Photo: Burhan Ozbilici/Turkey/AP
This sentiment is similar to Micah Mattix's criticism of Saltz in his article. He writes, "Saltz's response also shows us the vacuousness of criticism that takes provocation as the only remaining touchstone of art." I will admit I ate up Saltz's article because it spoke to and stoked my provocation. Those images are glossy and surreal. They echo the slick packaged way we present tragedy or elections in the news. They are stunning and Saltz's smart clinical discussion is a way, admittedly not the best or most humane way, to process them.

In the classroom I am a champion of quantity over quality and of separating the acts of creation and editing. There needs to be spitballing and what Anne Lamott calls "shitty first drafts." There's much to be said for putting-it-out-there without design by committee, but for me, in 2017, I want tighter focus. To make sure the work I do is doing good and not, as Saltz's writing, trading in provocation. To what end do my drawings, actions, essays go out into world? What do they do? I think answering this question calls for more production, but coupled with more editing and reflection too.

So here's to doing more in 2017, but more importantly, doing better.

* The other two articles I sent are about an exhibition in Minneapolis and reveal different approaches to art criticism. Original article by Gregory Scott here and rebuttal by Cristina Schmid here

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Semi-Annual Update

Hello, hello. Below is my semi-annual update in which I detail in one place some of my exhibitions and projects of the past year. If you subscribe to my newsletter, you got the a slightly different version in your inbox. (A link to subscribe is at the bottom of this post.) The newsletter included a link to my 2016 catalog of current work for sale which you should probably click on right now before everything gets sold. 

Visitors to the MOTHOLOGY exhibit St. Norbert College's Baer Gallery

Summer and Fall
Through an ART WORKS grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, St. Norbert College was able to host artist-duo PlantBot Genetics (Wendy DesChene and Jeff Schmuki) for a three-week residency. During that time I helped the artists stage their Moth Project in and around Green Bay. A culminating exhibition, MOTHOLOGY, at SNC broke the previous attendance record set by an exhibition of Packers' Super Bowl rings. We also produced a Green Bay-specific Pollinators Guide which you can download for free or pay to print here.

The St. Norbert College Magazine ran a nice feature on the Land Scouts. You can read it here.

I made a screenprint of muscular female thighs for an Exquisite Corpse show at the Hardy Gallery in Ephraim, WI.

I worked on a second illustration for Bruce Tonn and Dori Stiefel's article featuring Willow Pond, an imagined typical American subdivision converted to be more self-sustaining. Sadly the publisher (MIT!) decided to go with in-house illustrations for consistency.

Illustration showing the various sustainable technologies of the imagined Willow Pond subdivision


In an effort to keep up with drawing and creative work while on family leave from work I took on a practice of daily drawing (#dailydrawing on Instagram) and organized a collaborative mail art project: Plywood by Post. The process of shipping our drawings to one another has been more complicated than anticipated, but it's been nice to receive an unexpected drawing and prompt to studio work every month (or so). The daily drawing practice has been similarly helpful and sporadic.

I had my seed ball piece accepted to the Wisconsin Biennial, an exhibit sponsored by Wisconsin Visual Artists at the beautiful Museum of Wisconsin Art in West Bend.

Baby Crazy: Double Self Portrait, mixed media on mylar, 2015
I was invited to participate in Candice Corgan's portfolio exchange The Wanderlust Matrix: A Long Distance Relationship. Unique to this portfolio was that all the participating artists made drawings and sent them to Corgan, then at the Tamarind Institute, who processed and printed the drawings.

Mosaic Art Inc. invited me to help jury the submissions to their annual Artstreet festival. I was reminded by the experience that good presentation matters as much as, if not more than, the work itself.  My drawing Baby Crazy: Double Self Portrait (above) was accepted into the Neville Museum's 71st Art Annual.

I was invited to be part of the panel of jurors who curated the Hardy Gallery's 55th Annual Juried Art Exhibit in Ephraim, WI. My friends and artists Don Krumpos and Johanna Winters invited me to show my Costumes to Save Your Life at their new Jabberwock Gallery in Algoma, WI. This body of work comes from my grad school days and I enjoyed revisiting the pieces and seeing them newly inhabited by gallery visitors there.

In July we kicked off ReallyBIGPRINTS!! and welcomed printmakers from all over to Manitowoc for four days of large scale relief printing. You can watch some vines (i.e. short videos) from the event here.

Detail from Taraxacum officinale, my "really big print" from this year.

The school year began and my colleagues April Beiswenger, Shan Bryan-Hanson and I debuted Fashion This, an exhibition and lecture series about sustainable fashion. The really-big-print I printed in 2014 with Don Krumpos and Johanna Winters was accepted into a show at the Fe Gallery in Sacramento, CA and my seed ball piece and Land Scouts Guide Book were accepted into Atypical Topographies at the Cylode Snook Gallery at Adams State University in Alamosa, CO. I had a solo show of the WERKBOOTS project at the Donald P. Taylor Gallery at Silver Lake College in Manitowoc, WI and got to work with students there making low-resolution paper prototype boots.

And now it's November and you're up to date with my professional goings on. I'd love to hear how you're doing, what you're making, and how you plan to fight the good fight in 2017. Lastly, if you've not already signed up, please consider subscribing to my semi-annual newsletter by plugging in your information below.

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Sunday, November 20, 2016

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Map of Burlington

Earlier this year I drew a map of Burlington, VT for the wedding of my friends Sam and Elise. I was sorry not to attend their celebration but drawing this map for them gave me a sweet sense of their rich lives there. Both the map and the snippet below (from the front of the invitations) were drawn on paper with pen, scanned, edited, and colored digitally.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Sustainable Fashion

Last night was Knights on the Catwalk, an inaugural sustainable fashion show at St. Norbert College. It was one of many events under the umbrella of Fashion This, an exhibition and lecture series looking at sustainable and ethical fashion through the lens of art and design. It's a collaboration between myself and two outstanding colleagues, Shan Bryan-Hanson and April Beiswenger. The fashion show included wearable cardboard sculptures from my ART 131 students as well as outfits put together with less than $20 spent at area thrift stores and a couple of pieces by our colleague April Beiswenger. We've passed the half-way point with Fashion This and it's been exciting to see the work and ideas take root on our campus.

As a quick aside: you can check out #fashionthisSNC on social media like Twitter and Instagram.

Final bow at Knights on the Catwalk
In addition to the fashion show last night Shan curated an outstanding exhibit that included the clothing of Alabama Chanin and the on-site installation of and scheduled tours through a tiny house built by a local pastor Rebecca Rutter. At the same time April's 1000 T-shirt Project was on display in the Godschalx Gallery. April turned her skills as a prolific maker and thinker to the issues of fashion production, waste, and consumption to turn out a gallery-full of sculptural pieces made from t-shirts.

Detail from April Beiswenger's 1000 T-Shirt Project. Photo by Shan Bryan-Hanson.
One of the more energizing and interactive elements on display in our art building was the swap pile. We began with a stash of clothing April curated from faculty and staff donations and thrift store selections. Signs on the display invited passersby to take a piece (or several) from the pile and to leave pieces behind. Students and campus visitors got a kick out of riffling through the pile and finding new-to-them clothes to take home. I found a stunning sequined skirt and a cool t-shirt for my youngest brother. Although that swap pile has been dismantled and returned to the second-hand clothing stream, I'll be recreating the abundant swap ethos later this month as part of my exhibition WERKBOOTS at Silver Lake College.

The Fashion This swap pile at the Bush Art Center at St. Norbert College
Which brings me to WERKBOOTS, an exhibition of my work on display at the Donald P. Taylor Gallery at Silver Lake College through October 28th. The show is a current take on my ongoing pursuit of "sustainable fashion boots." Included in the show are drawings about the process of trying to make my own fashion boots, a display of past and possible future materials, boot drafts made to date, and a work table where gallery visitors are invited to design their own boots and to trade that drawing for a screen print (shown below). Special thanks to Maria Deau who contributed both screen prints and major installation help to the show.
Gallery visitors at Silver Lake College draw boot designs to trade for prints.
I'll be hosting a public boot-making workshop (with an emphasis on low-resolution prototypes) and a clothing swap on October 6th at 8:15 AM and October 8th from 9 AM - 12 PM, respectively. If you're in the area, stop in to join us, see the work, and consider how you might take steps towards a more sustainable style.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

ReallyBIGPRINTS wrap

ReallyBIGPRINTS!! is done. Now we get to bask in the glow of the project completed. It was a tremendous four days. We got to see so many wonderful printmakers pull large prints off their really big blocks. In addition to the thrill of the prints themselves, I loved getting to know the printmakers from all over the country. Special shout out to our esteemed print helpers and Lawrence University students: Cael and Molly. You all were great!

Some photos below. I'm sorry not to have photographed every team and print, but more photos will likely show up on the ReallyBIGPRINTS facebook page over the next couple weeks. You can also see some short videos of the process here. 

If you're reading about this project and feeling inspired: mark your calendars for summer 2018 when we're planning to host the third (and final?) ReallyBIGPRINTS!! That should give you enough time to carve a block, ask off work, and plan your road trip to lovely NE Wisconsin. 

Lastly, if you're in Wisconsin now and missed the printing you can still see the prints! They'll be on display at the Rahr-West Museum July 31 - August 28. After that they'll head to the Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum and be on display in time for Wayzgoose 2016.  And then on to Lawrence University. Three chances to see the full collection of Really Big Prints.

My block, finally carved and ready to proof.

Hannah and Rose were our lone undergrad printers on Wednesday. I am so proud of the point that I had to stop myself from telling them that every hour.  But seriously, look at that print! 

The all female team from Redline Milwaukee. Their collaborative block read like a narrative biblical painting...all about the state of things in Wisconsin. 

Our two story drying rack. We pulled prints as they dried to make room for the next day's prints. If you're planning a big print event, this part is key. 

Michael Connor's lovely fishermen print showing through on thin paper. 

Lemonade cup/glove holder added to the roller. 

First color run of Ben Rinehart's pressure print. 

Billy Wenner's block before being inked. Staining a block red before drawing helps with tracking your carving.

Mr. Wenner with his inked block.

Printmakers resting on Thursday. It was hot and windy. 

At the Printers' Party on Friday. 

Included in this photo is UW-Manitowoc Chancellor Cathy Sandeen who made her own print!

The UW Manitowoc campus sits right on Lake Michigan. 

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Really Big Dandelions

Continued work on my block for ReallyBIGPRINTS!! The block on the right shown below is by two great SNC art students.  It's crunch time for all of us.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Costumes to Save Your Life at Jabberwock Gallery

I'm delighted to get to show my Costumes to Save Your Life at the nascent Jabberwock Gallery in Algoma, WI. If you're in the area, please plan to join us for the opening Friday, July 1st, 5-9 PM. Here's the gallery address for your navigation: 219 Steele St. Algoma, WI 54201

Below are some of the initial sketches and prints that led to the final work. Versions of some of these and other prints will be for sale at the gallery. You can read more about the project and its genesis here.

Friday, April 29, 2016


This past year I got to participate in a unique portfolio exchange. A quick word on portfolio exchanges as they are common in fine art printmaking and a neat way of curating and collecting work, but relatively unknown (as far as I can tell) in the rest of the world.

A portfolio exchange is usually organized by one or two people around a particular theme. The organizer may write a short paragraph or essay about the theme to inspire the participating artists. The organizer also sets the dimensions of the print, any other parameters like technique or paper, and the number of prints in the edition, usually one for each artist plus one or two for touring shows and archives. Each artist in the exchange makes a print in response to the theme, prints the number of prints specified, and sends in her prints to the organizer to be collated. Each participating printmaker gets a full set of prints. It's a great way to connect with other artists, creates a cohesive body of work that's relatively easily shipped and displayed, and can be a good way to collect prints you might not otherwise encounter.

You can see a portion of my print in the E above. 

What made this portfolio exchange unique was that while each artist created original imagery, all the prints were produced by Tamarind master printer Candice Corgan. The full portfolio will be on display soon at the Small Engine Gallery with an opening reception Friday, May 6th. In addition to looking forward to seeing the full portfolio, I am curious to see how my image, made of litho crayon on frosted mylar with transparent collaged elements, translated to print.

Thanks to Candice for this opportunity. If you're in the ABQ region, stop by and see the show.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Work in Progress

I've been slowly chipping away at this drawing of a dandelion for ReallyBIGPRINTS!! this summer. Next I'll add in the gradated lines of the sky. Then: sand my wood, raise the grain, sand again, transfer the image, seal it, and carve, carve, carve. All in time to print in July.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Plywood by Post

I now live in a place that is somewhat lacking in visual arts culture. It exists and some of it is excellent, but it's harder to find and geographically scattered relative to my previous homes. As an extrovert and artist this means I have to work harder to make and maintain the connections that feed my spirit and sustain my work. This need for creative connection is compounded by the recent birth of my son. Though he is a delight, caring for him makes getting to galleries and museums, to say nothing of events after 8 PM, more of a challenge.

All of this led me to stew on how I could cultivate and experience the kind of creative community I seek. Number One on the list: be better about showing up for what's going on in my area. There's the wonderful John Michael Kohler Art Center, the Lakeshore Artists Guild, and the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum to name a few. Number Two on my list is Plywood by Post (#plywoodbypost for the digital savvy), a recently launched collaborative drawing project in which participants will draw on and pass along by mail small pieces of birch plywood. The boards went out earlier this month to 14 artists all over the country-- listed and linked at the end of this post-- and I'm excited to see what happens. 

Wood going out in the world thanks to the USPS. 
I modeled the project after Global Drawing Circles, a project by Thinking Through Drawing, an "interdisciplinary education and research network." In those circles each artist started and then worked in a a sketchbook which we passed on monthly. I don't know if it was the chemistry of my group or the large amount of real estate afforded by a whole book, but my drawing circle did not draw on or into the previous drawings. My expectation here is that the limited space of the plywood will force us to respond to what others have done. These are the participating artists: Alex ClineBrian HitselbergerBud RiesChatham MonkDon KrumposGenevieve LoweHolly Briggs, Justin RiceKatie RiesRachel ClarkRachel SchattmanSara Marie MillerSusie RiesTanyssa Behnke, and Veronica Siehl. (Update! Just added to this mix: Steph Untz.)

I look forward to seeing the project unfold and to the artistic communion of shared drawings (and occasional emails about the project). Need to get my board started soon. 

Birch plywood, 11.75" x 9"

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Wisconsin Biennial

Alex Hopkins, The Fifer, Archival pigment print, 2015

The Wisconsin Biennial is coming up. I'm honored to have a piece in it and to be in such good company as Alex Hopkins of Green Bay (above). The exhibition is sponsored by Wisconsin Visual Artists (WVA), the oldest artist organization in the state, and will be put on at the Museum of Wisconsin Arts in West Bend, WI.

The exhibition features work by around fifty WI artists and will be up February 6th - March 27th. If you can, please join me for the opening reception on Saturday, February 6th from 2 - 5 PM. More information about the show is available here.