Tuesday, September 19, 2017

New Art Quilt/Open Book: Hand Gun

If you had asked me to make something about guns a couple of months ago I would have shaken my head. Not my thing. I don't feel comfortable using them as imagery in my work. I began writing tiny stories for one of my favorite little magazines, Blink-Ink; but even though the theme was "Outlaws," my submissions had no guns. (My story, "Right of Way," was published; it has cows in it, instead.) Another call for entries got me thinking. How could I work with this subject matter? After taking an experimental fiction class in grad school, I found that I can learn a lot when I pursue subjects that make me feel uncomfortable. How could I pursue this one? Gradually, I remembered stories people told me about personal experiences with guns. I thought about good and bad and how you might begin a conversation. I began this art quilt: Hand Gun. The repeating visuals, like theme and variations, reference Wallace Berman's 1960s Verifax Collages, particularly those that contain a hand holding a transistor radio. Some of those collages contain guns, too.

The imagery was created using hand-dyed solar prints from a photograph of my hand, three fingers curled. The text was embroidered freehand and is the quilting technique. I letterpress printed wood type with the words: I GOT THIS / GOT YOU / IS IT / NEWS / GAME / REAL.

What really launches a project for me? I must remember, it isn't hard: the stories.


Hand Gun

she told me she got scared at a bad sound and shot through the window glass. the police told her this was dangerous.

during westerns they pointed toy guns at the tv and shot at the bad guys.

he told me his bad sister shot their good mother.


A larger image may be found here.
I've started a new page on my website to collect all the Art Quilts/Open Books.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Rethinking Submission Fees

Artists' books have undergone a change in the thirty years I've been involved in the community. They used to be inexpensive; book artists could afford each other's books. Once they moved to the gallery setting and became more visual and less literary, the prices went up to gallery prices, affordable only to the wealthy. We priced our best and most enthusiastic audience out of the market. Understandably, this was the only way galleries who sold artists books could stay in business. And it keeps the book arts field alive. The unintentional response to that, related or not, has been the proliferation of zines and inexpensive publications, which turns the focus back to reading, and is affordable to everyone. I've found that my artwork falls somewhere in between categories.

As an artist and writer, I want a conduit for my work. I can't stop making it, and I need room to make more. That means I need an outlet, which traditionally was a gallery, exhibition, or publication. Now it can be selling online. Or giving it away. The writing wants readers, otherwise whom is it for? But more and more calls for entry are asking for submission fees. Some are minimal, to weed out those who are not serious. Others are quite high, perhaps for the same reason. For whatever reason, I've been finding fewer and fewer opportunities that do not charge a fee.

I always felt that when artists and writers submit work to exhibitions and publications that they should not have to pay an entry or submission fee. (I touched on this in a previous 2014 post, "Thinking about Submission Fees.") Contests usually require a fee, which pays for the awards. But if you are not accepted, you are paying for something for which you get nothing. It seemed to me it was the responsibility of the magazine or organization to secure funding before embarking on the product. Artists make so little money as it is, I felt asking for fees when there was no guarantee of acceptance wasn't right. (I still won't do it for the magazine I produce.)

A step above paying entry fees is the requirement that if you are accepted you will have to pay (shipping, or catalogue, or print magazine copies). That makes a little more sense since your fee directly supports you. The ideal situation, one that supports an artist's dignity and self-worth, is: no fee, publications free of charge, and getting paid for your work. But in our society, this is rare, except for those who are already successful.

I'm rethinking the concept of submission fees again. Recently, I joined SAQA, an organization that is an empire of opportunities. It takes money to keep it running. The calls for entry are limited to members, but in addition, the members have to pay an entry fee to submit. The venues are good, and the judges are notable. So, I'm coming around to a new opinion. I'm thinking about entry fees now as supporting communities and organizations, which in turn support artists and writers. If I can afford the fees, why not contribute?

Within book arts, we've now established that we can be paid from outside of the community, which is an accomplishment; it fits my initial desire for organizations to secure funding from outside its members. But it limits what will be shown to what can be sold, which in turn influences taste and the field in general. While art is good for the soul of society, art is also a commodity.

But art has no limits. What happens to good art and writing that can be appreciated, that can touch people, but is not salable?

This is where the magazines and organizations come in. No one who starts a literary magazine expects to make money doing so. No one who starts a member organization does so to get rich. They do so because they love the medium, the interactions, the exchange of knowledge, the sharing of work, and the people involved. Organizations want members, and this by nature can also make them more inclusive. 

I enjoy the arts. I thrive on different kinds of opportunities. I've decided to pay entry fees this year and see how it goes. I know how subjective the judging can be, and that just trying one or two times won't be a good indicator of success. I'll go all in this year. But instead of being irritated or upset if my work is declined, I will accept that my fees are supporting a community, opportunities, and the promotion of the arts. And the soul.

View of San Francisco at Sunset 9.14.17: screen capture from the sfbayospreys,org web camera

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Star 82 Review 5.3 is LIVE!

The newest issue of Star 82 Review, the online and print art and literary magazine I produce and edit, has been released. An intriguing mix of art and writing that relates to intersections and crossroads and choices not yet made as well as the comforts we seek from images. I try to choose work that sparks a new thought or confirms a feeling, transforms a situation, and gives us a new view in bite-sized forms. This issue contains an image of an urban art quilt by Jette Clover, and paintings by Carole Jeung,  among other wonderful works. Thanks, as usual, to all the contributors; there is no magazine without you!

Online: http://star82review.com/5.3/contents.html
Print: https://www.createspace.com/7465291
Keep up with the news on Facebook.
Submission guidelines: http://star82review.com/submissions.html

Contributors to 5.3
Stephen Barber
Rebecca Brill
Natasha Burge
Simona Carini
Jette Clover
William C. Crawford
Lanny Durbin
Jennifer Fliss
Dorian Fox
Phil Gallos
Ann Marie Gamble
Joe Hess
Colette Love Hilliard
Carole Jeung
Richard Jones
Rebecca Landau
Claire S. Lee
Erin Leigh
Erica Lemley
Ray Malone
Nate Maxson
Mary McBeth
Pamela Miller
Claudine Nash
M. Rather, Jr.
Ricky Ray
Hannah Silvers
Tanya Singh
Rodd Whelpley

Roy White

Sunday, August 27, 2017

New Art Quilt/Open Book: Seraph

In January, 2017, I had been thinking I might do a book, a kind of typographer's pun, called Sans Seraph: without angel. The project turned out to be an art quilt, which I like better: you could wrap yourself in it like wings or a prayer shawl. 

My journal notes: "a seraph is an angel with three wings—no, three PAIRS of wings. What would you do with six wings?" Apparently, in addition to the wings on their backs, the other two pairs of seraphs' wings cover their faces and their feet. Seraphs appear in the Bible, and they voice an important part of a Jewish prayer that begins, "Holy, holy, holy." I began drawing my own versions of seraphs, based on a variety of butterflies, and made them into photopolymer plates.

I put the idea on hold until March, when I did a little writing for a linoleum block, a contribution to someone else's project.

I printed the seraphim (plural of seraph) on cotton cloth, and printed words in wood type. I pieced the quilt in June, then I let it rest until mid-August, when I solidified the longer text and began quilting. The design of the quilting, which seems to flow randomly, is based on the word holy in Hebrew handwritten text: Kadosh (circled in this photo in pink).

My thought was that holiness doesn't have to tie to a deity or religion. A cousin of mindfulness, holiness can be the spiritual in daily tasks. This paying attention, this reminder that nature is greater than ourselves, can ground us, humble us, perhaps slow us down and grant us a generosity toward others, so lacking these days.

I finished the binding on August 26. Sometimes a project needs a lot of breathing room. More deep breaths.

You can find larger images now on a new Art Quilts:Open Books page on my website.

I'm amassing a pile of textiles on the couch in my office. What to do? After a little online research I joined SAQA: Studio Art Quilt Associates. I was particularly drawn to the work of Jette Clover and will feature her quilts in Star 82 Review this year. SAQA has many calls for entries through the organization. I already have several ideas. Perhaps there is another outlet for what I'm doing, after all.