This is a packed week for me in terms of exhibitions: I installed my exhibition at Bromfield Gallery yesterday, while today at the Jewett Art Gallery at Wellesley College, I deinstalled “Dual Action: New England Print Faculty Invitational” and installed “Patrick Earl Hammie: Equivalent Exchange“. On Thursday I’ll be doing pick ups for the “Dual Action” prints, while hosting a gallery talk and opening reception that same day for Patrick Hammie’s exhibition. Then Friday night is the opening reception for my exhibition at Bromfield Gallery. On top of that, New Philharmonia Orchestra, the orchestra I play with regularly is playing two concerts this coming weekend. When it rains, it definitely pours.
I went to Bromfield Gallery today to drop off my works for my exhibition which opens this week. I have a total of seven drawings for the exhibition, each of which measures 48″ x 30″. Bromfield Gallery is divided up into three gallery spaces, with my exhibition in the middle gallery. I was very conscious when planning the drawings for this exhibition to not crowd the gallery space I’m in and to allow the drawings to have enough room to breathe. A few weeks ago I was concerned about not having enough drawings, but now after seeing the space again, I’m glad that I didn’t try to squeeze in more drawings.
I will note that my experience this year as Gallery Director of the Jewett Art Gallery at Wellesley College has certainly given me new perspective in terms of being on the “other side of the fence”. Previously I was only accustomed to working on exhibitions from the artist’s point of view, and now I’m seeing things in a different way since working from the gallery side. Bromfield Gallery has a great staff which manages the exhibitions and install, which made things easy from my perspective, making my role in the exhibition very smooth and manageable.
Bromfield Gallery, in the SoWa District of Boston.
There’s an article in The New Yorker this week by Atul Gawande titled “Hellhole” which asks whether long-term solitary confinement for inmates can be considered torture. The article describes in great depth the many physical and mental consequences suffered by both inmates and hostage victims in solitary confinement, as well as their mechanisms for coping with the isolation. Although this article is focused on isolation under very specific conditions which are unrelated to the isolation I’m focused on in my work, I found myself devouring every word of the article. I’ve discovered that any piece of writing or story related to isolation, no matter how seemingly unrelated to my work is of interest to me now.
New Yorker Illustration by Brad Holland
I was talking to someone a few weeks ago about a rough patch they were going through where they had difficult getting along with a group of people they had to work with. I sort of assumed talking to them that they were having difficulty because maybe the group of people were being mean to them, but they responded by saying “No, they’re weren’t mean to me. I was just ignored”. It got me thinking that being ignored within a group can be much more painful than when someone is mean to you- at least in that circumstance your presence and existence is being actively acknowledged, even if it’s for negative reasons.
I had my last day in the studio, ending the day with the drawings complete and ready for installation. I went through several finishing tasks: cleaning the drawings, final adjustments on a few drawings, and attaching the monofilament fishing line used to hang the drawings.
I hadn’t planned on re-working the three drawings I completed last August, but there was one drawing in particular, “Unseen III”, that I always felt was lacking in subtlety. I spent most of the morning on this drawing softening edges, removing dark passages, and refining gradations of black on the top layer.
Cleaning the drawings is time consuming, but quite necessary since the drawings look sloppy otherwise. Since the drawings are made of several layers of Dura-Lar on top of each other, the crayon naturally wants to adhere in areas where I don’t want it to. I spent many hours yesterday and today wiping the Dura-Lar with a cotton rag and erasing with a Mars plastic eraser to remove unwanted spots of crayon.
Attaching the monofilmanet fishing line was the most tedious task by far. The last time I installed these drawings, I didn’t do a very accurate job and the consequence was that it was tough to get the drawings to all hang at exactly the same height. I worked out a better system this time around that will be much more reliable and accurate.
I revisited the first three drawings today to make final adjustments. I’ve been away from the left and middle drawing for some time now, so it was nice to be able to approach them with a fresh eye. The left drawing required the most significant amount of re-working; it was the first drawing I worked on back in January, and since then my drawing technique and approach has changed quite a bit. The challenge was retaining the original intent of the drawing while also allowing the drawing to “catch up” with the others. The main difference was that I wasn’t drawing with knives with the left drawing, so the majority of the work was focused on removing crayon to push the figures in the back further into the distance.
This week I’ve been working in the drawing studio at Wellesley College; it’s spring break this week so I have the whole studio to myself. I’m working on the fourth and final drawing, and also putting on the finishing touches and conducting a final evaluation these drawings as a group this entire week. Stepping back and looking at these drawings from a distance has become very important so that I can scrutinize minor adjustments that need to get made. I have a small space at home I work in, but getting distance on the work is impossible in that space.
I put in two long studio days yesterday and today which enabled me to nearly complete this fourth and final drawing. I started using an exacto-knife which offered more options in terms of scratching away at the Dura-Lar surface. The matt knife I’ve been using to scratch at the crayon is rather dull which allows me to remove the crayon in a more gradual manner. The exacto-knife was much sharper and aggressive, giving me the ability to remove greater quantities of crayon more quickly.
In the above detail, you can more clearly see the different kinds of marks created by scratching away at the crayon surface. I like that up close, you can see black lines on white and also white lines on white between the direct crayon drawing and knife work.
I’ve been thinking for some time now that I need to back up my project with more in depth and directed research on the psychology of loneliness and isolation. I’ve searched online, but the majority of the articles I’ve found are too brief and don’t develop the ideas far enough. This morning I headed over to the Science Library at Wellesley College to speak to the reference librarian about possible research options. He showed me how to navigate a focused search on my topics in their extensive database. Searching a database seems like it should be relatively easy and straightforward, but he gave me a lot of useful tricks and methods that I would never have thought of. It was exciting to see how much raw material is just a click away on my computer.
I’m hoping that by reading some psychology journals and books that I’ll be able to generate more specific ideas about how to address this topic. I have a general idea of what I’m trying to address with themes of isolation and loneliness, but I’ve been feeling lately like I’m lacking the specifics and details which will enrich my understanding even further. I worry about simply skimming the surface with this topic, so it makes sense to take action to increase my awareness and knowledge of the topic.
The Science Center at Wellesley College
I made a trip to the SOWA District in Boston today to pick up my exhibition postcards at Bromfield Gallery and also to attend a reception for my friend Jessica Straus‘ solo exhibition, “Fittings and Findings” at the Boston Sculptors Gallery.
Postcard for my upcoming exhibition at Bromfield Gallery. Nancy Diessner, who is exhibiting in Gallery I at the same time as my show has her work on the left of the postcard.
I met Jessica at my first teaching position after I finished my MFA in Sculpture back in 2004. I was a sabbatical replacement at Concord Academy in Painting and Drawing, and Jessica taught Sculpture and Drawing in the Art Department. Jessica has been a wonderful resource and mentor for me in terms of my work as a teacher and artist. I’ve always been thankful to have had the opportunity to work in the same department with her, even if it was only for one year. We’ve stayed in touch since then, and it’s always a treat to see her shows.
Jessica’s sculptures are created from both hand carved pieces of wood as well as an assortment of found objects. She combines the various materials seamlessly into a single object which makes sense within itself. The installations for her sculptures are always very involved, and I think this exhibition was one of her best yet; she really understands how to get the work to interact with the space and surface planes of the wall and floor in a manner which compliments and highlights the work very successfully. Another aspect of her work I’ve always admired is the way her sculptures are reminiscent of toys, gadgets, organic materials, and tools, and yet they always manage to escape being labeled any of those items. Her sculptures walk a fine line between all of these associations and result in quirky, whimsical and odd objects which are visually engaging and thought provoking.
I have 8 days left before I have to bring the completed drawings to Bromfield Gallery for installation. Bromfield Gallery is the oldest artist co-op in Boston, so they give you the option to choose how much you’re involved with the gallery installation. In the past, I think I would have been fine leaving myself out of the installation and willing to hand it over to someone else. However, since I became the Director of the Jewett Art Gallery at Wellesley College, I’ve found taken much more interest in gallery decisions based on my experience on organizing and installing shows there.
That said, I have a lot of work ahead of me in the coming days for the exhibition, with one more drawing to complete. For the first time that I can ever remember, spring break for the schools I teach at ( RISD and Wellesley College) actually fall on the same week. One year when I was teaching at three schools, all three had spring break a different week in March, making for a fractured schedule and no solid break. This time around, I’m getting 5 days of uninterrupted work time to get the final drawing and other preparations for the exhibition ready. Below is a digital compositional sketch of the final drawing that will consume the majority of the week.
Andrew Raftery, a professor of printmaking at RISD and my former professor was on the Wellesley campus today as a Visiting Artist in the Art Department. Andrew is one of the very rare and few contemporary artists who specializes in the technique of engraving. He gave a lunchtime gallery talk at the Davis Museum on their current exhibition Prints in an Age of Artistry which features 16th and 17th century Italian prints. The gallery talk was a wonderful intersection of commentary which involved discussion of various printmaking techniques, the diversity of the subject matter, and history all in one.
After the gallery talk, we headed over to my Life Drawing class for a demonstration and lecture. My Life Drawing class just started a unit about cross-hatching techniques, so it was perfect timing to have Andrew visit and talk about some of the research and visual analysis he’s been doing with cross-hatched prints. He’s been breaking down the multiple layers of hatching from historical prints on separate sheets of acetate to demonstrate the process and motivation behind the hatch marks. Andrew then did a demonstration on how to cut goose feathers into quill pens, which students then proceeded to create and cut with exacto-knives. The quill pens were then used to do a small cross hatched portrait from a model for the rest of the class. At the end of the class students had the opportunity to view his two engraved projects “Suit Shopping” and “Open House” which was recently completed last year.