Sunday, May 15, 2011

Adam Matak

The Physical Impossibility of the Death of Painting (Red), 2010
One of Adam Matak's works from his exhibition,
Maintaining Critical Distance
featuring Adam's pop-simplified version of John Singleton Copley's
Watson and The Shark (1778)

My Adam-Inspired Self-Portrait

working on Cutout Me with Adam Matak looking on

I recently participated in a Community Arts Initiative entitled "Stand Up, Stand Out!", guided by artist Adam Matak. About three times a year, the Thames Art Gallery issues a challenge to community artists, which often features an opportunity to learn a different technique.

"Adam's works comment on the distinction between 'high' and 'low' art as well and the making, buying, and selling of art. His works are characterized by their distinct appearance, and vivid use of colour and line which is achieved by using acrylic paints and graffiti markers."
- Thames Art Gallery website

I first saw Adam's work at his Thames Art Gallery show, Maintaining Critical Distance. It was one of my most favourite shows at the gallery to date. It was many things, including very funny critiques on the average person's response to masterworks of art.

Our "Stand Up, Stand Out!" Community Arts Initiative challenge was to create a version of ourselves in the style of Adam's work, and use it to respond to an existing artwork from the Thames Art Gallery's permanent collection. I was intrigued by the opportunity to try something new and, let's face it, cool. The process would involve using graffiti markers-need I say more?

I chose to respond to a large Fleming landscape (circa 1903?) that, to me, looked bare. It's a lovely moody European-style landscape, but completely devoid of any life. I think that landscapes of a certain period need cows or horses or a lonely shepherd.

Guided by Adam at a workshop he led to help us paint like him, I had my son Monty take a photograph of me (Monty participated in the CAI too!), copied it onto a transparency, projected the photo onto the provided MDF, and traced it. I then painted Cutout Me in the style of a cartoon character and used a graffiti marker to make thick black outlines (and resisted the urge to take the marker outside and write on the wall), had Cutout Me liberated from the slab by one of the ever-helpful and handsome maintenance staff at the Cultural Centre, and then glued a vintage 1960's Fisher Price cow in one Cutout Me hand and the matching horse in the other.

For a cheeky bit of fun, I had a spare hand brace floating around, which I put on the right hand of Cutout Me. Just in case you missed my ongoing Saga of the Sore Paw, as a result of a work injury, I am required to wear a brace on my right hand while doing computer work. With the brace as a finishing touch, I created the ultimate self-portrait, complete with fabulous hair.

I think it turned out quite well!

I am now participating in the recent Community Arts Initiative entitled 'Non-Representational Painting with Jordan Broadworth'.

And I say 'participating' somewhat loosely, because I haven't even tried to make a mark on the provided board. From the guidelines, it looks as if I'm supposed to throw some paint around and not have the results look like something. I'm just not good at reckless abandon.

What would Adam do?

Baton Being Born

Well, I've decided that with the manga theme for the upcoming ARTcrawl on June 18th, we need a Powerpuff Girls-themed baton to lead the procession down King Street. The Powerpuff Girls remains one of my favourite cartoons, and the references it makes to pop culture from my era are very clever. The absurd adventures of the three pint-sized girl-power evil-fighters never fail to make me laugh.

The Powerpuff Baton is the fourth in series of ARTcrawl batons. To date, I've made The Goat Stick, The Croc Stick, and Sir Real.

So far, I have sweet sugary girly ideas for the baton, but the only item I have ready is the head of one of the Powerpuff Girls, Blossom (redhead, centre of the photo). Blossom's signature colour is pink. Buttercup and Bubbles are the other two Powerpuff Girls.

Blossom is "The Smart One" and the self-proclaimed "Commander and Leader" of the Powerpuff Girls. I absolutely love this show.

Some great quotations from the show:

"Um, well, I'm sure to the untrained eye, this drawing may seem like one of mine. But if you look closer, you'll see it's an obvious attempt in pseudo-impressionism, while I deal strictly in realism. Bye."

"Bubbles! Put down that stupid octopus and help us with this stupid octopus."
- Buttercup

"Mayor, you could have mentioned the caveman and the mastodon
when you called before."

I'll post a photo of the Blossom Baton when it is done. This will be a fun project!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Nightmare of Suzie-Q

The Nightmare of Suzie Q


I am plagued with them at times.

I've never been a sound sleeper.

I took this photo in the backyard.

It sums up how I feel sometimes.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Smiley Squirrel

Smiley Squirrel in the Quince

I swear this has been the longest winter of my life.

Yesterday, when the sun was finally shining, I went outside and started cleaning up some of the debris that had collected over the winter. Found lots of Nerf bullets (my son just opened the back door one day in March and in frustration shot his Nerf gun at the snow) , tons of cigarette butts (from our not-so-ideal exchange student), half-chewed tulip bulbs (I think those were the nice orangey ones I planted last fall that seem to have become squirrel snacks), half a frisbee (I don't even want to know), and lots of leaves.

I didn't actually accomplish much, but it was great to be outside and hear the '50's tunes warbling from my neighbour's garage next door. Spring on my street means many things: Bring Out The 1970's Muscle Car, or Dust off the Harley, or Throw Out The Christmas Tree, or Take the Training Wheels off the Bicycle, or Pull The Snails off the Hosta Shoots, or Take Your New Shizhu For a Walk Down the Nice Dead-End Street, or Put a New Outfit on the Stone Goose, or Crank the Country and Western Tunes That No One Likes.

I uncovered Smiley Squirrel (above) who stands guard under my Quince. Now for those of you unfamiliar with greenery, a Quince is a vicious piece of shrubbery. It has nasty-ass thorns that seem to find your tender flesh, even if you walk two feet around it. And, in that strange juxtaposey twist that one often finds in Nature, the Quince also has beautiful scarlett blooms (which I believe are coloured by all the blood it has taken from you). To prune a Quince, you have to sneak up on it in early spring when it is still somewhat dormant and clip with stealth and speed. Sometime you have to say out loud, to no one in particular, "I'm just going to check on this cedar over here" and fake it out.

So here's the story of why Smiley Squirrel ended up living under the Quince. We had a concrete retaining wall built a few years ago, which involved having a Bobcat drive all over the backyard while it was digging a pretty impressive trench over 110 feet long and 4 feet deep. This Bobcat rolled over everything. Absolutely everything. At least 30 times. I cried. I had been forewarned and had moved my special plants to friends' gardens or given lots away. I cried anyway. When it came to the Quince, I had just left it where it was, hoping that it would die during the abuse it would sustain during construction. More to the point, I just didn't want to risk losing a pint of blood trying to dig it out. It wasn't worth it. My relationship with that Quince had been tenuous at best and I saw the annihilation of our backyard as a way of settling the score.

The following spring, I was absolutely shocked that the Quince sprung up, sassy and barbed as ever. Our backyard looked like the Bonneville Salt Flats and yet there was this defiant spring of Quince, thrusting its way up through the mud, ready to shred the pant leg of anyone who would get too close.

Smiley Squirrel has stood sentinel under that murderous shrubbery ever since. He's certainly an interesting alternative to the more mundane forms of garden sculpture, but he has a specific purpose. He reminds me that there are things in life you just can't fight. Things like needing reading glasses, finding that the bathroom tiles you really want are discontinued, losing stuff, admitting defeat and buying a not-cool minivan to transport all your crap, feeling guilty about not calling your mother enough, plastic-wrapped cucumbers turning to slime in the refrigerator before you can use the whole cucumber, the ever-increasing lines on your face, and losing a friend. And you can't kill a Quince if it doesn't want to die. You can't fight Nature or What Was Meant to Be.

Smiley Squirrel reminds me that you may have thorns sticking in your back, but you have to keep on smiling. That's just the way it is.

And yes, there IS such a thing as getting too close.