In the tradition of side amusements for The Players– the musicians, clowns, dancers, arialists, stiltwalkers, magicians, storytellers and poets of the cosmic, comic Circus– the cards provide diverse diversions, a little taste of trickster mind at play.
As in my Saltworkstudio classes, we work in series, doing three at one time, and follow one of the Almost Unbreakable Cardinal Rules–Paint First. Getting the mark of the hand, paint, brush or ink down before applying images is vital. I’m not sure why, but it seems to transform the cards from stiff constructions to flowing, “wavy,” spontaneous combustions of dreamy image.
They are meant to be entertainments, in the way that some novels are called “An Entertainment.” There is no number to the deck. The deck is temporal and temporary, created in time by a group, played with, and dismantled after. Because they call forth a certain bubbly synchronicity, their accuracy can be astonishing, but unrepeatable. Like an appearance of a Loch Ness Monster, they leave splashy traces, but can’t really be nailed down or captured in a net of a single meaning. And they dissolve after the week at camp, each player claiming their own trading cards of vision, dream, and just plain weird stuff.
Since Camp Winnarainbow emphasizes fun, play, and performance, we wanted to create a recreational visual art form that would give satisfaction in the both in the making and in active use after. The cards were read by a raggle-taggle Amuse group in the temporary Amuse Grove you see below. There’s a Cosmic Phone for when we get stuck. We just dial up the Demigods to get an anwer. The chairs are decorated with old wedding gowns from the Costume Tent.
Metaphoracards require a community. You need a group to get a deck, and you need someone else to read your card. It’s the rule of the Cosmic Trickster that you can’t know what your image might say. I puzzled over my image of Faulkner, doggies, and a flower, until my husband Scott said, “That’s easy. It’s Power: dog power for the body, Faulkner power for the intellent, and the flower is pure vegetative power, an idea bursting out.” Huh, and wow. Flower power?
As I was going through my overcrowded art storage area, I came upon my nemesis– the art collage box. It was full of things I collected at one time. I was sure I would use them some day.
I won’t tell you everything I found, but there was Monopoly money from a broken antique set, German fortune-telling cards, a work on rice paper by an artist from Bangalore, India, and Mexican loteria cards. Out fell ancient notes and antique photos, a Virgin of Guadalupe print and a Holga photo of Spidermen, and a paranormal magazine I got in Prague in the 90’s.
I thought I might tell you what I kept and what I discarded, but I found I was reluctant to list things I threw away. Hey, it felt like a taboo. Why?
I’ve always said that collage itself had some connection with destruction and death, the dark side. Things are dismembered and removed from their original space, time and context, often by cutting or tearing, actions that have an air of violence. There’s an air of secrecy about them. That box felt like a coffin for dead ideas combined with a treaure box, a graveyard for things that had once compelled me.
Someone would be sure to ask, “Why did you throw that out?” Even worse, they might say, “You could have given that to me. I would have liked that.” I would be responsible for disappointing someone. Another person would become implicated and entangled in my decision. I’ve encountered this a lot. People really do not like it when one simply disposes of things. A taboo has been broken. Improper burial? Disrespect for objects? Then the discarded object comes back to haunt you through the remonstrations of others. And now, with the advent of eBay, all junk has been acquired a false patina of consumer value.
Each item is really the representation of a certain dream, experience, or longing. An object then has become a literalized metaphor, carrying meaning far beyond itself. If I discard the object, do I discard the idea? Or does the object become a substitute for fresh experience? Each item becomes a love letter from a past idea-affair.
Nowadays I use only two kinds of collage: text and black and white non-copyright photocopies of drawings or my own photos. Often the collage vanishes completely, or is torn to become an area of texture that may have figurative associations for me, but not for the viewer. I’ve never liked using “old” or “failed” paintings as collage parts. It seems disrespectful to the original impulse, a Frankenstein construction that I am forcing to life.
I think I’m just as happy putting this flotsam on the floor and photographing them, and then letting them drift back to the strange ether of discarded objects, or the garbage. But then, again…
There, I’ve revealed my collage underbelly. What’s in your boxes?
Opening a studio is like cleaning a window into the inner life of the artist. Down the rabbit hole we go!
It’s more intimate than having people into your home, because you give your hospitality to everyone. They can luxuriate in your colors, drink in images, and dine on your line. The public sees the traces of your best effort and your worst nightmares, the deep and superficial. The artist tries to be fully with each question, from sublime to inane, without falling into the pit of sales obsession. It’s quite the wine-and-cheese marathon. Unless your heart is open, it can be nerve-wracking . But when someone really sees your art– and really loves it– there is no greater high.
A few times people have burst into tears in front of one of my paintings. James Elkin explores the phenomena in his Pictures and Tears: People who have cried in front of paintings. The book is a strange and fascinating exploration reactions to art when the eyes in our hearts have opened. Museums used to have nursing stations where patrons overcome by art could recover… I think the Louvre still does. Have you laughed or cried over a piece of art?
Turquoise Window World is a sort of threshold or sill where the everyday table starts to tip over into the extraordinary, like the tables that the spirits move. Strange fruit converse. Flowers march and sprout angels, and a grove of spirits wavers in the background. The painting expands domestic motifs as an un- still life , animated. The turquoise paint, that bright opaque, came from my time living in India, where houses are unabashedly brilliant blue as a Kodachrome sea.
Saltworkstudio and my friends the Barracks Artists are open November 5-6 at 3840 Finley Ave, Santa Rosa, California. Drop by to visit 24 artists in one location. I’ll be painting.
In a Mythic News today, I introduce Jeremy Joan Hewes, Caren Catterall , Mardi Storm, Paula and Cliff Strother, Kathryn Kelsey, Maris Peach, Claudia Rhymes, Monica Lee-Boutz, and Chuni Anello. We will be having a party on Saturday between 4 and 6. All our studios will be open. Join us!
Jeremy Joan Hewes is a dynamic, subtle printmaker, photographer and my friend. In her words: Sometimes you walk into a room and a discover an alluring mystery. That’s how I think of this image of subtle colors, dynamic pattern, and silhouettes, which I made at a recent workshop in Coupeville, Washington. I kept returning to that room as the day wore on and the light changed, each time taking more photographs. Color and light, with a little bit of “what is this?” thrown in. Come see this photograph and some new mixed media pieces in studio 250 at the Barracks Artists open studio on November 5 and 6 – this weekend!
Don’t be fooled by Claudia Rhymes’pixie glasses or shy demeanor. Her new series of urban landscape grids over bright backgrounds rocks, and she’s a gifted, secret graffiti artist. She also has one of the new, larger downstairs studios. Claudia is our hidden wonderchild in this Open Studio.
Paula and Cliff Strothershare the studio with the most beautiful outlook on the hills. Paula paints in acrylics and Cliff in oils. Visit this newly established studio to enjoy lush landscapes in a room with a view.
Kathryn Kelsey’sfascinating mixed media work changes every year. Dedicated to wild animals, the environment, and indigenous peoples, her textures and materials are a delight. I love her mixed media with dried radishes. She is the Editor of the Barracks Bulletin and writes a blog. Her downstairs studio is filled with the calm green light of nature, one of my favorite places to sit and relax.
Maris Peachis our very own Joseph Cornell. I own a piece she made, the Alchemist’s Arcade. In her words: I tell stories using the flotsam and jetsam of life’s leftovers. Sometimes I begin with an object, sometimes I build from a concept, sometimes I fiddle and nuture a dream memory until it becomes an elaborate narrative. Othertimes the story is sparsly simple or even hidden, revealing itself through the beholder’s eye. Don’t miss her intricate, fascinating workshop and studio.
Monica Lee-Boutzis an energizing force of nature! She paints in watercolor, is an accomplished collage artist, and has had several recent exhibitions. Visit her studio upstairs across from Paula and Cliff.
Chuni is from Madrid, has a new studio downstairs, and absolutely unique mixed pieces using fabric, fiber, and wool.