Saturday, March 19, 2011

Catching Up at SGC

Hung Liu, Lifetime Achievement Award
It's Saturday night and raining in St Louis.  They are predicting possible snow flurries in the morning.  It was 75 degrees a couple days ago.  I love the variety in weather here.
When we were out and about on Friday, it was cool and clear.  Our day started with  Hung Liu receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award.  She spoke compellingly about her work and how printmaking inspires her paintings (and vice versa).  She talked about being a teacher at Mills College for 21 years.  She said of her teaching style, "I dare to tell the truth" to her students.  She said teachers are like gardeners, with beautiful trees and flowers but it is hard; they burn the candle at both ends.  She said it hard to teach and work (make art). "But life is like water in a sponge.  If you squeeze, it's still there."

woodcut demo

Afterwards we headed to Wash U to attend a woodcut demo which was largely disappointing.  The artist never spoke unless asked a direct question and it appeared you could watch for 5 minutes and get the gist of the whole thing.  So we headed to a few other demos and events scheduled and inked up farm animal stencils and taped them to large Farmville prints (yes the evil Facebook app).  Searching for equilibrium everywhere we went.

Female Mouth #2
Diana poses
We found a really interesting trio from Delaware using a computer router to cut out woodcuts of parts of people's faces (from photos taken and manipulated by computer).   After the router cut out the facial feature, another artist would ink it up and print them.  It was fun to see but we felt they didn't take it far enough.  Maybe that was by design.  They did make a 5 minute presentation but might as well not have.  Here's the procedure - Take pics.  Find the vector paths and save as DFX file.  Bring into PC with Cut 2D which turns it into G code.  Then send it to the CCR.  I guess some people actually understand that stuff.  Diana had her picture taken and they made a woodcut of her lips AKA "Friday Mouth #2"  She saw it inked but didn't see them print it.  Other activities beckoned.   

Worthwhile was a panel discussion about Hung Liu's printmaking process and relationship with Trillum Press' David Salgaldo.  And a guy from Two Palms Press who prints for Elizabeth Peyton.  David's advice to artists "You have to create a place that's yours, a holy place"  in which to work.  They have created a new process they call Bastard Printmaking by which painting and prints and collage are all worked together but each layer is clear and visible and realistic.  The results are amazing.   Hung Liu talked about how she starts with an image, usually a historical photo in black and white and tries out colors on the computer.  She builds her image and over time she comes to love the image and the story it tells.  She creates several versions of her paintings, or the painting is changed into new versions, telling different parts of the story, like the one here with two women on donkey back.   

Caledonia Curry (Swoon)
The hit and heart of the conference was the Friday afternoon Community Engagement Award presentation to Caledonia Curry, also known as Swoon.  The room was packed, filled up early with young people and me and Diana :) and she sweetly accepted her award saying she had never won an award before.  (It is so hard to believe.)  She is young and beautiful and smart and so well spoken and her heart is bigger than the sky.  She started out as a bit of a rebel but learned to put her name out there and claim her place in beautifying the world and making a difference to the people who live and pass by where she puts her prints.  She has lived a life of adventure that most people dream of and made everyone in the hall think they can do it too.  She is working on building homes in Haiti and fighting for an end to the Femicide in Juarez.  One of her bits of wisdom for artists was to "find your people and stick with them" which is, I think, how printmakers work.   When the 300-400 people in the hall gave her a standing ovation at the end of her presentation she actually was brought to tears.  She said she had never had that happen before.  It will certainly not be the last.

Diana and I made a quick stop at the Publisher Fair this morning to catch up with Amanda Verbeck of Pele Prints.  She assisted Dan Welden in the first workshop I took from him in Santa Fe and this year was the chair of the portfolio exhibitions at the SGC conference.  She gave us feedback on why we were successful in getting accepted for showing when so many other groups were rejected.  It helped that we planned for this event in creating the work, so our work was on theme and universal.
Vicki LoSasso, Becca and Candace Nicol
Audrey Van Kirk on left
We then spent the next 3 hours traversing the rows and rows of open portfolios looking for works that caught our eye and sucked up the rest of the cash we brought.  I found some new Art Werger prints, and a few others that had swimmers or water themed work.  It was exhausting but fun seeing two of our group, Joe Marshall and Audrey Van Kirk sharing their wares and running into old friends from near and far (Kathryn and Andy Polk from Tucson and the Oxbow Press ladies from Reno.)  Also hitting the tables were Dan Welden and his honey, Holly, trying to see as much as possible in such a short time.  I re-met artists I had met at other conferences, or with whom I shared a print exchange.  That is the best part.  I also saw Tyler Krasowski who I bought a print from at Tom Huck's on Thursday. 

Dan and Holly
Kathryn Polk and me
It is great to see so many people putting their art out there for the world to see.  The bad news is that the prices are ridiculously low for such good work.  The good news is that the prices are ridiculously low.  If you aren't going to give other printmakers your best price, who will you give it to??? 

After a short break to drop off our prints and down a big burger we caught a late shuttle out to Bruno David Gallery where Swoon had done an installation piece on Thursday.  The gallery also was showing the Bastard Paintings of Hung Lui which were so beautiful and intriguing in person.  She was in the outer gallery when I noticed she was standing alone so I went over and told her how her work and her speech and her panel discussion were inspirational.  She was great and engaged - especially when I told her I saw her show at the ASU Art Museum many years ago.  She remembered it well and  said it was 2002.  I told her that was the year I retired from my job with the City and became an artist full time.  She gave me a friendly punch on my arm and said that was when I saved my soul!  It was a nice moment I will always remember.

When we got back to the hotel we went right into a movie to clear our heads of art for awhile- happily entertained by Matt Damon and Emily Blunt in the Adjustment Bureau.  It will be good to go home and hit the studio!

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