Tuesday, March 22, 2011

some projects. it's a long one.....

Sketchbook stuff….
Drawings from the surgical museum in Chicago.

Here is the stuff I started as a warm up exercise to get me back into the game at the tail end of February.....

I got a medical word of the day from a medical dictionary site and then did a drawing.
It ended up being more of a challenge and I was second guessing everything I tried. I didn’t really want to post these but eh….

1)   Fibrous dysplasia (basically your bones are destroyed by this fibrous bone tissue)

SOOOO logically… bones…X-rays….  I experimented with acrylic and wax /watercolor pencils on transparency film.  I also made some dark splatters on other sheets to play with the layering. I made 5 different versions.

What I liked: the layering qualities of the transparency and the wax pencils

What sucked: acrylic is not as cool as I thought. I feel like I stuck with what I knew how to do.

2) Familial Mediterranean fever- Familial Mediterranean fever is a disorder passed down through families (inherited), which involves repeated fevers and inflammation that often affects the lining of the abdomen, chest, or joints.
I was stuck on this one. I just drew a family with a fever halo. And some anatomy. My logic… how do you show a fever? Its warm and radiating… so I went with that.

3) Prepatellar bursitis: known as housemaids knee. Which really got me riled up. I purposely looked up descriptions of  what people felt when they had this issue.  People described the pain as burning and  similar to kneeling on lava.  So I went with it.

4)   Williams Syndrome- a rare genetic disorder. One of the trademarks is particular facial features like a flattened nasal bridge and prominent lips.
 I took a cue from my girl Aris and made a creepy collage of perfect kids faces from a parenting magazine and then redrew them. I was thinking about people who have children and all you want is your kid to be perfect. But what happens/how do they feel if they aren’t. 

Fibroid Tumors of the Uterus 
I liked re arranging the collage elements and redrawing.  Aris also sent me an artist (Wangechi Mutu) that does collage over medical illustrations. I would like to use this collage then draw process in the future.

5)   Branchial cleft cyst. I actually found surgical images of the removal of this cyst. The cyst itself was a really interesting shape, color and texture and I tried to emulate that. I wanted it to look slimy and also emulate  flesh. I used gel medium within the painting to achieve that.

I liked the texture I could get when using the medium but I think I should have built up the layers slower.

More drawings…..
First while at my parents I found some of my pieces from my last semester of college. This work is starting point/similar to what I am doing now. It was great to see them again.  Brought back some confidence that I was on to something.

Some anatomical studies from actual dissections.  These are slightly smaller than life size. Nice to change up source material.  Not sure what to do with them right now.  Loved looking at real anatomy. Not sure about color? thoughts?

To break up my time and on nights when I just couldn't get it going or got frustrated... I drew my sleepy partner in crime. Ruby is the best dog in the world. She just sits next to me and just sleeps while I work. 

Also started with some portraits which I attempted to keep close to life size.  From observation and pictures. 

Lastly I did some drawings of my old sculptures with the skins on them. Actual size as well (on 18x24 paper) .  I kind of lost interest with these because the skins didn't really fit and felt a lot like stickers. 

The wax incident …..
I tried to do some drawings with wax and wax elements. I made copies of my drawings (same size 18x24… thanks kinkos) so that if I liked the elements great but if not it wouldn’t be too heartbreaking for the drawings I just spent 2 weeks on.  Major fail… I almost burned down my kitchen. ruined like 3 pans ( wax overflowing out of double broiler into the side of the pan ect….) and I'm not super happy with the results. 
I had a batik pen that decided it didn’t really want to work so I just tried to pour/paint the wax.  I tried to carve back into it. Broke a pen…  ink and wax everywhere. Which lead me to think that I should carve into the wax and then stain the creases with ink for better visibility. The wax also just cracked off the paper and left a stain… 

So long story short…
I really like the texture and the sculpture element that the wax brought to the work but  I don’t have the control of the medium or any specific use for the wax at this time. I’m going to get a hold of  a new batik pen and perhaps try to build up the layers more slowly if I decide to try it again.

The best thing I made from a small sheet of wax was a little heart vessel.

I continued with some portraits with combining everyday objects and anatomical elements. I like this idea because everyone knows what dead flowers or a rotten apple looks like and most likely have experienced these things but most don’t know much about human anatomy.

I also used the copies of the portraits and put gel medium on them… I was thinking that if the anatomy pieces were too muddy would the opposite work?  Like if the anatomy was the background and the person was the ghost or skin? The skin layers are drying and I will soak and re-dry them tomorrow. So I will add pictures then.
So for example I did this huge (24x36?) watercolor/ink painting of microscopic cancer. It is really pretty and could almost be a pattern on a fabric. I am hoping to add a “skin” of a person’s portrait over it.

The last thing I have is decomposed paper. I spent 2 days of spring break researching paper and how it is made and how cellulose is broken down. I am even more confused… science wasn’t my forte.  I was going to make a box of sorts to essentially create a compost and bury the paper. I was going to add worms but it is still too cold.  I left 3 different hardware stores with nothing. 
I though about adding chemicals to break down the paper but thought it might defeat the purpose/concept of decomposition. I took the advice of my dear friend Ashley ( “just go bury it” )and while we still had snow I went and just buried some in the yard. A few that were drawn on and a few that were scrap paper. I used lighter paper and some old printmaking paper.

Here’s the deal: bodies decompose. Paper will decompose. I want paper to decompose like a body might.  So I don’t really want to use any chemical  or oven. But I don’t want to wait weeks for paper.  I also just want random holes or gaps in the paper so that I can draw/create layers.

I unburied one pile after a week and it just tore in separate sections.. … left the other piles… I guess I will dig up in a week. any other ideas are welcome. I am going to try and sign up at red line ( a artist/printmaking/paper studio)  for a paper making class. 

Moving forward….. Meeting with Rory one more time before midterm this week. Looking forward to having someone look at my work so far.
I like a lot of the things I have been working on but I consider them more studies than final pieces. I will be trying to clarify these in the next few weeks.

I want do tie up the skin drawings. If they work… more!

love knowing that I can get huge copies at kinkos… life size skin? Yessssss.

I am also going to do some drawings on Velum. 

I am really looking forward to more sculpture work. I set up my basement for ceramic work over break as well.  I wedged up some clay but couldn’t get much further past that… I was thinking too much about the drawings.

 Also, looking at the Mark Bradford show when I was at the ICA i loved the idea of layering paper and string. I think I'm going to try that next with some anatomy and portraits. layer string and paper and then gesso/plaster over so it just has a relief effect. 


Wednesday, March 9, 2011


so I had (what i think) is a good idea.... I have been struggling with trying to find some interesting way to show the duality between the inside of the body and the outside. Simultaneously, I am realizing that i am more and more drawn to decomposition and autopsies. Yeah I know... creepy girl....

So instead of draw something that is decomposing or opened up by manual or medical/technological means, (ei x ray/cat scan/mri), why not decompose the material?

so bottom line.... i want to partially decompose paper... and then draw on it.

or draw on paper an decompose it.

googling now...

any tips?

I like the idea in the previous post that the guy is nicknamed the book surgeon.... I want to perform surgery on my paintings/artwork.....

oh whiskey does a body good.

awesome artist!

AWESOME ARTIST via my friend Julia

Brian Dettmer http://briandettmer.com/

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


 I am still alive in the frozen wasteland that is Wisconsin… but just barely.

and for the record I apologize for the long post. 

Wisconsin.  Yeah.  Hopefully you have been watching the news because the situation is/could potentially effect other states but long story short our governor is an idiot.   Being a teacher has been extra rough this month. It is unbelievably stressful to wake up and try to deal with the uncertainty of the situation we are in everyday.  

The weather is taking its toll on me as well. I don't think my car or myself can handle another round of snow.  Almost 2 hours (normally 45 min) to get to work and almost 2 to get home and shovel my self in/out once or twice a winter is bad enough but it has snowed so much this month its more like once a week if not more. I know you east coasters are feeling my pain. 

Balancing school and work has been a harder task than I thought. This is the first night I have gotten home before 5 in a long time. Most nights this month have been 7 or later.  I always imagined that I would work a good 8-hours+ day on in the studio on the weekends to make up for my workweeks. Although I have been spending time in my studio, research is about the only productive thing that has come out of there.  Stopping and starting and restarting.... 

I have had a huge time starting up the work making process again. I have been so caught up with research the past month I was having a hard time switching gears. Plus I have a bit of performance anxiety. I felt like I got great feedback at the first residency but now I am second-guessing my decisions based on some of that. This is now seeping into my paper writing as well. 
I wrote 5 different versions of the critical response paper before I finally finished one. 
Anyone got a fix for over thinking things? 

I gave myself an assignment to try and jump-start the process of getting back into working. I found a website that generates a medical word a day. I tried to do a drawing from each day on that day.  I completed most of the drawings but I just felt were such obvious solutions to illustrating the word.  I attempted some things with wax that I thought would add a cool bodily substance effect. It actually turned out to be kind of a huge mess that didn't really add anything to the content. Maybe ill go back to that one ugh... later.

I met with Rory Burke my mentor last Tuesday.  http://www.roryburke.net/ 
It was the best hour I had in the past 3 weeks mostly because she is awesome and partly because that's how crappy February has been. 

I saw Rory's MFA show when I was in undergrad and I pretty much loved it. She was one of the local artists that were on my short list as ideas for mentors. I mentioned to an old professor that I needed a mentor and asked if I could get her opinion about who I was considering to see if she had any insight. She actually suggested Rory before I could even read her the list. 

I wanted Rory as my mentor because she is in Milwaukee and has many access to many local resources. In relation to her work I feel we have a common thread in trying to portray factions of the human condition. More specifically, she also tries creating a visual of an idea using the figure. I am interested in her use of multiples and how she alters and adds objects the figure/ head to illustrate her message. I am interested to know more about her planning and development process as well. She just finished an artist in residence in Kohler Wisconsin, which would be exciting to learn more about. 

I was really put at ease by how easy Rory was to talk to. I showed her some of my sculptures from undergrad and the work I brought to AIB. Plus the medical word a day and the little sketches I had done in relation to potential finished projects. 

Rory's input
- Really felt there was something with the sculptures. She said they felt genuine and she could tell that is where my heart/interest is. She felt I shouldn’t abandon them, if anything use as drawing reference. Draw a few. It will feel good.  It helped her to draw her stuff when she was stuck. 
-Try other forms of 3-D, paper Mache/plaster
- Do not start with the end in mind/Don’t necessarily start with an idea
- Don’t get caught up with making work to show to others. It’s OK to fuck up. No one has to see it.
- Get out of rut by trying some self-portraits in relation to anatomy. This will play up the personal 
-Obvious isn’t necessarily bad might lead too more esoteric.
- Check my scale
-Think about why I like the body is it because everyone has one, because its a complex machine ect... this might generate some ideas.
-Look up/contact friend (who I actually had some art history/drawing classes with)

I also talked to her about her residency at Kohler. I thought it was interesting that she was making work on the floor with the industrial dudes. She described how the dynamic was a little weird because you have people (people: the workers who are trained to work with the utmost craftsmanship) watching you work. I also didn’t realize people came from all over the country/world to participate in the residencies.


Her list of artists to reference for me: (she sent this before our meeting, and most are already my favs and frequent reference... made me feel like we were on the same wavelength).

Damien Hurst
Marc Quinn
Ron Mueck
Egon Schiele drawings...
Alberto Giacometti drawings...
Louise Bourgeois---

Mutter museum
Gunther Von Hagens-- issues on whether he is scientist or artist...which historically weren't as different as they are perceived.

I managed to accomplish a few of my other goals as well...

1) Visit the Medical College of Wisconsin library
 I found some pretty amazing medical journals that are 8 times older than I am and some amazing photographic anatomical resources. My favorite was the forensic anatomy guide. Unfortunately to get a copy for myself is going to run over 200$ and I cant check any books out because I am not a student at the school. During spring break (librarians are only there during the day 8-4 mon-fri) I'm going to go see if there is anything I can do about that. :)

2) Reading: finished several books. 

The Amazing decade : women and performance art in America, 1970-1980 / edited by Moira Roth
             The birth of the clinic; an archaeology of medical perception./ Michael Foucault
             The body in pain : the making and unmaking of the world / Elaine Scarry. 

             The object of performance : the American avant-garde since 1970 / Henry M. Sayre.
Illness as metaphor ; and, AIDS and its metaphors / Susan Sontag.  

3) Movies!
Snow days leave lots of time to watch movies...

Sick featuring the work of Richard Flanagan
Favorite thing was he used an anatomical sculpture of a person (the plastic one) and added the bodily fluids. 

What remains?- Life and work of Sally Mann
umm... body farm (the one from stiff!!) is pretty much awesome. I took a lot of notes with this one so I might need to save that for a separate post.

The Collectors- originally movie Michael picked out because he thought I would like it. It is a doc about 2 guys who collect art of serial killers. I was pleasantly surprised to see that Joe Coleman (artist I was told to look up by Peter at the residency) was featured and interviewed for both his art and his interest in the work of serial killers. 

4) Visit the International Surgical Museum in Chicago.

Had a section/exhibit similar to the Body Worlds exhibit.  It was not as good/ flesh like… seemed more like jerky and fake. Also, I forgot how hard it is to draw on the spot. I really wanted to draw but felt rushed.  I really enjoyed the old anatomical specimens and surgical tools and wish there were more.  I loved the old iron lung and old prescription bottles. I paid particular attention to the labels. Interesting what they claimed could be cured.  Also, my favorite was label that showed head on one side anatomy on the other. My favorite specimen display was the one of the gallstones and bone calcifications. I have been collecting images/ideas for a series of anatomical pieces that look like other things, (that we see everyday)  that I started when I went to the Milwaukee Public Museum with Jamie last spring. Going to start materializing this idea in the coming month I think.

Liked the statues of famous medical scholars especially Vesalius. His statue had crazy symbolism He was holding skull but also had bones/ribcage at his feet. On this chest was a really cool organic engraving.
Missed the street anatomy exhibit.  But there is a link to the site http://streetanatomy.com/ 

Guess I'm going to make it a point to road trip to mutter museum in Philly :) http://www.collphyphil.org/Site/mutter_museum.html 

Both the medical college and surgical museum take submissions for artwork to be displayed. Add that to the list of things to do. :)

Spring break is in 1 week and I am so excited to lock myself in my studio for a week of uninterrupted work. I hope that this extended period of time to work will get things moving so that I can get on a more regular schedule for the rest of the semester. 

Last thing I found these really cool websites in relation to medial museums