Rachel Welling, Viewfinder, and Chance

(For more information about the “Viewfinder Project” click here.)
I met Rachel Welling in 2003 at the Vermont Studio Center’s artists’ residency program. Rachel is a native of Indiana and at the time was finishing college at Indiana University in Bloomington. While in Vermont, Rachel was struggling to both use the traditional skills in painting she had gained at Indiana University while also breaking free from some of the rules of observation. She was aiming for representations that had more of a metaphorical impact. Later, she attended the M.F.A. program at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. While there, I once met up with her for a studio visit.

Painting by Rachel Welling, Size: 6″ x 4 1/4″

What I find most interesting about the “Viewfinder” that Rachel Welling sent me (the painting seen above) is how it emphasizes chance. I am specifically directed to the dice in the picture. What I find compelling about the dice is that they seem to present a paradox. They represent chance yet they are the most grounded and exacting information in the painting. The figure an the surroundings have a gestural unfinished quality. However, because of their detail, the tiny dice stand out with a sense of permanence that is not realized elsewhere in the picture.

Another element I am attracted to is the mysterious circular outline in the upper right part of the picture. It reminds me of the stain from a coffee cup and seems to reaffirm the notion that anything can happen.

Emphasizing the role of chance may have a heightened sense of relevance to artists who have less than stable financial situations. For some artists chance and art making may remain more of a constant than relationships, paychecks, and living arrangements. Although permanence is an ideal, chance may seem more predictable than other factors in an artist’s life. One never knows when or if the the “big break” will come or when or if the “other shoe will drop”. In the mean time the artist keeps working and keeps rolling the dice.
A detail of Rachel Welling’s Painting

Below is another painting by Welling; it also seems to be fraught with fluctuation and variability. This piece seems to be like a compressed play where the various acts have been superimposed and arranged together. Rachel currently lives and works in Chicago. For more images visit Rachel Welling’s website.

From the Desperate City, 22 inches by 30, (Media: Ink, Acetone Transfer and collage) 2010

Joshua Mosley’s Mirror, Mirror and Geoffrey Beadle’s Puzzler

(For more information about the “Viewfinder Project” click here.)

I met Joshua Mosley at an opening at the Fleisher Art Memorial in 2005. Since then, I have not seen him often but have kept in contact (Mosley is a Professor of Animation at the University of Pennsylvania). I sent him a request to contribute to the “Viewfinder Project” and received a prompt response and result. At first I didn’t know what to think because he had scanned and flipped the image I had made. I received a mirror image printed on the back of the “Viewfinder” card I had sent him. It felt as if he had sent the print back to stare at me in the way one looks at a mirror.

Overtime Mosley’s adaptation has grown on me. The colors from the inkjet printer used are a little softer and have settled in the paper in a way that my oil based ink did not. As far as I can tell, Mosley’s version was printed directly on the original paper I sent. This meaning that a bleed print would be near impossible (digital printers are not equipped to print over the edges of paper). Hence, he had made an image slightly smaller with a minimal border. These differences became unnoticeable once I scanned Mosley’s image and posted it below. Unless one wants to make an appointment to see the original, viewers will have to trust it’s authenticity. Perhaps being one step removed can reveal limitations similar to those found when one looks in the mirror? However, There are times when we have to trust even when we can’t fathom the reflection.

Digital Print (A Flip of Kip’s Print) by Joshua Mosley

Originally I thought Geoff Beadle’s viewfinder involved mirrors but now I am not so sure. Geoff is a painter and professor at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania who makes revealing self portraits. He is aided by mirrors and sometimes uses mirrors coupled with a photographic views. These paintings are about intently and fearlessly observing even when the view is not always flattering. However, a mastery of materials and technique present a paradox where a grittier more complex conception of beauty is possible. I found his viewfinder compelling because it is literal like Mosley’s digital print yet it also is transformative. Try as I may, I am uncertain whether light is emanating from an object being framed or whether it is some how a reflection shining off the viewfinder being held. I get the feeling that Beadle is in the photograph and is illusively revealing another self portrait. Here he is directly revealing the the tricks of his trade, namely, through camera work, the viewfinder (like that being held), as well as through lighting and reflection.

Photograph by Geoffrey Beadle

Painting by Geoffrey Beadle

Viewfinder Continued: A Collage By Katie Parry

(For more information about the “Viewfinder Project” click here.)

Several of the artists involved in the “Viewfinder Project”, including Katie Parry, transformed the initial “Viewfinder” print in sculptural ways. Parry built outward glueing new materials to the back of the print. Below is a view of the print after Parry had worked on it.

Relief print by Kip Deeds, collage by Katie Parry
On the other side of the card Katie continued to collage and made a drawing. She wrote me a descriptive note about how she arrived at the image. Initially, she imagined personalities for the figures depicted. Parry’s free association was a catalyst that ultimately led toward her own narrative thread. In many ways, Katie’s delicately constructed collage and drawing are a contrast to the more contained graphic content of the print. Parry’s written description of her drawing is almost as stirring as the artwork she made.

Letter from Katie Parry
Parry writes, “I would like there to be a way to hold onto things that have no shape, slippery, weightless things that stir our hearts like wind. What if you could fill a balloon with a song, send it up into the air, and let it travel to a faraway place? What if a person in that far away place could release the song as easily as opening an envelope?”
Collage and Drawing by Katie Parry
It seems Katie Parry’s view is expansive. Her process involved wandering, wondering, building outward, and thoughtfully communicating. Parry’s letter seems an extension of the drawing. One view leads to another, then action, and then dialogue.

Viewfinder And A Painting By Anda Dubinskis

One task that stands out in my mind from high school art class and later college drawing class was making a viewfinder. We were assigned to cut a square out of the center of a piece of matboard. Thus, making a device to help one compose pictures. By using this window to frame a view one can get a sense of what should fit in a drawing and what should be left out (students are suppose to consider the edges of their pictures and the use of positive and negative space to their advantage).

I don’t remember using the device much and I don’t recall thinking it was very practical because there was no way to hit the pause button when one found a useful view. However, the idea behind the viewfinder did stick in my mind and it did make me aware of how vision involves constant movement and is unframed until we ascribe meaning to it.

Years later I wondered about other ways to find views, and I subsequently made a print that became a catalyst for finding views (see below). I mailed the print to artist friends for the purpose of collecting perspectives that could then be re-examined. I gave each artist a sample print and an extra copy. On the back of the extra copy the artist applied a view and returned the completed work to me.
Relief Print by Kip Deeds (Size: 6″ x 4 1/4″)
After receiving the cards back, I now have a collective view and examples of different ways people are viewers. Every other week I will post a result. Some artists spent hours laboring on there little card, others responded quickly, and some were never returned (this is also a kind of view). I am not disappointed about the printed viewfinders that went missing. After all, I am blessed to have two eyes and wonderful results on both rectangles and in other forms.

One of the first “views” that was returned to me in the mail was a painting by Anda Dubinskis. Anda exhibits work at Fleisher Ollman Gallery in Philadelphia and is the drawing coordinator at Drexel University.
Painting by Anda Dubinskis (Size: 4 1/4″ x 6″)
I was amazed by the image that had been returned to me. Not only does the painting have the wonderful movement of a sketch but the image seems rich in story. The figure, dressed better than that of a typical woodsman, appears swinging an ax. It is uncertain what the figure is striking at. The tree is curious because it is behind her. It is also painted in a manner that allows one to see through it (as if the tree is an illusion). All of these factors lead to a mysterious depiction and I can not help but feel empathy for this displaced character and what seems to be unresolved action.

A New Press and A Hunter Finds Her Target

I finally had a chance to go to Philadelphia (December 18th) and to see some artwork and socialize. I visited Rebekah Templeton Gallery and then went to the grand opening of the Second State Press. Jackie Hoving’s exhibit Crypsis was on view at Rebekah Templeton. The exhibit featured two large collaged wall pieces, several smaller collage works (in both the gallery and the back room), and a video on a pint-sized screen. With regard to the large work, one collage referred to gaps in the content of the other. Below is one wall of the gallery and the following image shows the adjacent wall.

Jackie Hoving, Hunter in Forest, paper, spray paint, acrylic, ink, 2010, 108 x 224.25 inches

Jackie Hoving, Forest in Hunter, paper, spray paint, acrylic, ink, 2010, 108 x 175 inches

Hunting themes dominate Hoving’s work whereby she uses camouflage and references finding one’s target. I feel most art making involves hunting for images, content, meaning, or a look. However, the artist’s inspiration very rarely purposefully hides. Although art usually does not involve hunting for the kill, I still find art more illusive and for the most part more valuable than the hunters pelt. What is most compelling about this work is the effort to find a view amidst difficult circumstances whether that is about finding a target in a dense forest or about the ethical or cultural issues relating to a hunting culture. In a day and age when hunting is rarely a necessity for food and clothing, this exhibit shows how close hunting is related to ritual as well as to a fashion that is political, visual, and social. For more images and information visit the Rebekah Templeton website.

After leaving the gallery, I headed over to the Crane Arts Building to the opening of the Second State Press. This is a new nonprofit print center that allows artists to rent time in order to use the presses. The rates are rather modest if one has specific printing needs.

Above is an image of one of the lithographic presses. The picture was taken after the opening festivities. To me the press looks lonely, as if it is waiting for an artist to come along. I bought sixteen hours of press time. So, Mr. Lithopress I will see you this spring.

(This is the last post of 2010 and in many ways the hunting theme foreshadows my next post about viewfinders. I hope you will come back in January. Until then, happy new year.)