I've always been a sucker (pun intended) for old vampire movies. When I was a kid growing up in Northeast Iowa--long before the days of 500 cable channels, Netflix, and the like--I looked forward to Creature Feature, a Friday night show (I believe that aired on our ABC affiliate) featuring, as the title would suggest, "creature" movies. Vampires, werewolves, Frankenstein's monster, mummies, the Creature From the Black Lagoon, you name it, I loved getting scared by all of them.
That said, my last collage of the summer is dedicated to vampires. I think once you look at the detail shots, you'll get the gist.
It's titled "Infected"; it's on a 8 X 10" piece of cradled hardboard, and it includes:
• a map of the Transylvania portion of the Austria-Hungary Empire from a 1904 atlas
• images and text from American Red Cross: First Aid Text-Book (1940)
• a portion of a National Geographic photo that's been treated with Citra-solv
• various images from anatomy and zoology books
• pieces of dress pattern
• and some text from The Gardener's Catalog (1974).
Below is a shot of the the background layer, which is a good example of how the collage process works. Sometimes--oftentimes--the initial idea gets snowed under. Originally, I was going to keep it simple with just a transparent image and perhaps some other faint imagery layered on the left side of the piece. As you can see from the next pic--the final shot of the piece--the best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry.
I've also included a few detail shots below.
I report back to work on Monday, so my quantity of blog posts will more than likely drop-off. However, please keep checking in because I'm still going to post periodically--generally on the weekends.
Completed yesterday, a new collage on 5 X 7" cradled hardboard. I can't put my finger on it, but there's something about this composition that I'm not really liking. Oh well, maybe it will grow on me.
After a few days away from my "studio," it was wonderful to get back at it today. Here's the result, a 12 X 8" collage on cradled hardboard. I've titled it "Nerve Center."
This collage includes quite a few turn-of-the-century bits of ephemera, such as a couple of railroad company letters (the lower background) from 1909, the edge of a railroad freight tariff sheet (yellow, upper right corner) from 1910, an illustration of nerves from an old anatomy book, pieces from an Orange Premium Stamps booklet cover (date unknown), and part of a Washington state map from a 1904 atlas. The upper background portion was done using a favorite technique of mine. It's a photo from an older National Geographic magazine that's been treated with Citra-solv, a citrus-based cleaner that makes the ink in the photo run and bleed, giving it a watery look.
Below is a close-up shot...
Saturday I got back from a short-in-time/high-in-quality vacation on the north shore of Lake Superior. My family has traveled to Duluth, Minnesota, and the surrounding areas several times over the years, and we love the place. Dry air, rocky coast, lush forests, cold streams, and Gitchee Gumee--the mother of all lakes. Bliss!
This trip we stayed at a wonderful old resort in Lutsen, which is about twenty miles down the coast from Grand Marais. While I wholeheartedly enjoyed my time away with my wife and kids, the need to create is always with me. Every evening we walked down the steps of our resort and enjoyed the expanse of rocky beach at our disposal. While my family relaxed in Adirondack chairs or strolled near the surf, I busied myself stacking stones.
That's right, the assemblage artist assembled stones. Hey, whatever floats your boat, right? Here are a few shots of one night's stacking episode, done atop a driftwood log.
This vintage photo of a little boy on a pony has been in my possession for quite some time. I finally found a home for it in this collage, which I'm calling "Horse Power." The collage is on a 5 X 7 X 1.5" cradled hardboard substrate.
Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.
This is the time of the year, as the beginning of the school year approaches, when my spirit starts to wane significantly. I’ve taught high school special education for 21 years. By and large, over the years my students have been great; in fact, I’m honored to have taught and known the majority of them. Unfortunately, though, in the two decades that I’ve worked in public education, interacting with wonderful kids just hasn’t been enough to sooth my spirit. It’s probably politically incorrect for a teacher to admit—but I’ve come to dislike what I do for a living. I enjoy the kids, but I can’t stand the rest: from the mountains of paperwork and forms to crazy parents, from axe-grinding school board members to department infighting, from decisions-by-committee to moronic politicians thinking they’re education experts because Acme Testing Corporation cuts them fat campaign checks.
Yes, I can hear the scoffing now. “Oh, you spoiled teachers! Jeez, you get your summers off—and the holidays and spring break, too. What’s so bad about that?” I know—believe me, I know—my situation could be much worse. I could be shoveling hot asphalt in 100-degree heat. I could be cleaning toilets ten hours a day. I could be slinging fries and burgers for minimum wage. So don’t get me wrong. I understand that in the big picture, my situation is pretty darned good. But that doesn’t stop me from taking what-if trips in my head. During the two-and-half-months in the summer when I sequester myself to my studio and immerse my mind and body in my art, and my J-O-B is a million miles away, I’m reminded of my Big Dream: doing the art gig full time. I’m a realist; I know that for many people—me included—dreams are just devices to keep them from going off the deep end. And so I continue to I hold onto mine.
I didn’t set out to become a special education teacher; I guess I just sort of fell into it. Originally, in the back on my mind, I saw it as a temporary deal, just something to pay the bills until I landed something more dear to my heart. But then—surprise, surprise—life happened and it became tougher to, so to speak, jump ship. In that regard, I’m so thankful for my art because without it, I’d be up the proverbial shit creek. My art keeps me going. And even though the job stress and frustration I lug home with me does its best to numb my creative spirit for three-fourths of the year, the Big Dream’s always there, whispering to me, Get out! Bring me to life.
As an artist I draw inspiration from a wealth of sources, one of which is other artists. Obviously, I draw inspiration from their creations, but I also find gold in what they say. Michael deMeng is one of those artists. In Jenny Doh’s book Art Saves, Michael shares an epiphany of sorts he had many years ago. “[H]e lived tending bars 20-30 hours a week, and making art 40 hours a week. It was a midnight brightly lit by the full moon when he decided that even if he might never find acclaim, even if he had to tend bars for the rest of his life, art would remain his pursuit.”
Michael did a better job explaining the power of art than I ever could, but that’s exactly how I feel. I may never find acclaim as an artist, and even if I never manage to free myself from my job as a special education teacher, art will remain my pursuit.
As a mixed media artist, I'm always on the hunt for junk--the kind of stuff one could find, perhaps, buried in an old garage or shed. I'm talking rusty gears and nails, wooden boxes, brass drawer pulls, and the like. However, when I run across interesting paper "junk"--old journals, bills of sale, letters, that kind of thing--I usually grab them as well. Not only can I occasionally incorporate paper items into my assemblage work, I certainly can use them in my collage pieces. My favorites are those paper items that include something hand-written. One reason is that no one writes by hand anymore, so these items are somewhat of a rarity, and two, I find a certain beauty in the flow of cursive writing.
A few months ago at a local junk shop I ran across this (pictured above) old journal with pages and pages of hand-written text. I flipped through it and was intrigued by the old-style cursive writing so I bought it, thinking somewhere down the line I'd find a use for some of its pages.
Well as is often the case, I lugged it home and deposited it in my "studio," where it promptly melted into the pile of junk that dominates that area. Recently, as some of you who follow my blog know, I've put aside my assemblage work for awhile to play around with some collage. Looking through all of my paper stuff, I found the journal and began to thumb through it.
Many of the entries are dated 1925, so I knew the time period. Right away I knew it was a book of meeting minutes for some group. What group? At first I couldn't figure that out. The notes seemed fairly innocuous. For example, in the picture below, the group "moved that we go to sugar lake." Okay, sounds fun. In the picture after that, the group "moved that we throw a Halloween party." Again, relatively harmless stuff.
Given my inner-geek, I had to laugh when I ran across the entry in the next picture. Apparently "Night Hawk" was "absent" at the November 9th meeting. Night Hawk--ha--it made me think of some super hero get-together. I surmised that all the other super heroes were pissed off because it was Night Hawk's turn to bring the beer. Later on I discovered that "Night Hawk" was a code name for something a bit more sinister than my comic book day-dreams.
I'll admit, I'm not the best at deciphering cursive writing--plus my attention span has always been suspect--so my first couple of times through the journal were basically scans. But then I began to slow down and actually read the entries. That's when I began to pick up some strange words, such as (pictured in the next 3 images) "KloKann committee," "Klaliff-Kladd," "Kligraph," and "Klabee." Given all of these "K" words, I had a pretty good idea of the organization that used them...
And then on one of the last pages in the journal, I found the following entry, which validated my premise. This journal belonged to some chapter of "The Women of the Ku Klux Klan." Whoa, what a bizarre discovery!
By the way, according to a quick Google search, the definitions of the "K"-words are as follows:
klokann (plural of klokan): An officer of the Ku Klux Klan who investigates prospective members.
klaliff: a vice president.
kladd: a "conductor," in charge of initiating new members
kligraph: a secretary.
klabee: a treasurer.
By the way, a nighthawk is a member in charge of security.
The (sometimes mad) ramblings of a mixed media artist.