Using Maps In Mixed Media

Not In Kansas -Susan Spencer

Maps are a popular addition to mixed media art these days. The practice of using maps came from the art of Joseph Cornell, one of the fathers of assemblage, particularly assemblages within boxes. Cornell produced art from the 30’s through the 60’s, and his use of maps has been brought forward with good reason. Maps have immediate viewer interest, we can relate to maps either through direct experience, or through nostalgia. Maps carry visual depth and can represent ideas like travel, adventure, and intrigue.

In ‘Not In Kansas’ I used two large areas of vintage maps to point to the idea of travel, particularly ocean travel. The boat, the fish, the headless bubbling characters, all add to that story, even Dorothy’s red slippers. All are floating on a sea of blue.

In the spirit of fun, and for the sake of incongruence, the child and clown drifted into the scene. The figures are in the boat, but really more like ‘represented to be in the boat.’ The images are from vintage photos that fit with the period references to Cornell, the maps, and Dorothy’s slippers. But to be honest I just like these two characters and I was glad to have found them a home in one of my collages.

I think this piece would be rather flat without the background maps. I’ve used them to help pull the piece together without overpowering the subject, and to represent that idea of travel to places unknown.

Been a Long Year

Time to get back in the studio. Michael and I are busy putting photos and text together for an upcoming book of assemblage artists. In looking towards text for the book, I started writing about why I choose assemblage and collage for my art. I’ll run some of it by here:

I have always been interested in surrealism in art. I like the idea of pulling images from our subconscious or dream states. The images are invariably a little ‘off.’ And I think assemblage and collage are great vehicles for expressing this unreal landscape. And I think that’s why people like pondering works of assemblage and collage.

When I exhibit my work viewers want to speak with me not about their living room color schemes, but about their own memories or perceptions surrounding a piece. It’s like we are communicating on a more visceral level.

I’ve created pieces that look like the bottom of their junk drawers, and pieces that remind them of something that they imagined. Working with discarded pieces or images from the past seems to elicit a certain introspection from the viewer. These are the conversations I look forward to when we can safely start getting together again. – Susan

Signal Stop – Michael Wilson

Are We Becoming Mainstream?

an idea takes flight

After the great open studio event we had last month, I was left wondering, “What made this year so successful?” I can’t say for sure, but here are a couple of ideas:

The 100th Monkey Effect- For those of you not around in the 60s and 70s,the theory was that after an idea circulated through a society of 100 monkeys, the idea jumped exponentially to other monkey societies.  I hope that assemblage art is becoming more recognized and accepted by the general public. I hope this is true, and that people are intrigued and want to see more.

Hard Work Pays Off– Social media works for the artist. We posted images of work to be on display for the event 2-3 times per week for about 5 weeks leading up to the event. We hammered the event shamelessly, and we invited in person. I know of a few people we personally invited who showed up because of that. Putting in the effort paid off. People came to see the art and the studios, not to eat the cookies.

A good book on hosting an open studio event is, ‘Open Your Studio’ by Melinda Cootsona. Melinda offers a lot of helpful advice in her book. You will have to taylor that advice for what will work best in your situation, but there is plenty there to work with.

What I Wished I Had Done-I was a little embarrassed going into the event that our website  wasn’t dialed in. It looked good, but I had no links for purchasing works on the site. And I saw that we had an amazing amount of traffic on our site that weekend. Opportunities missed? Visitors could have gotten an idea of our pricing before visiting, maybe seeing something there that peaked their interest…or could have contacted us later about a piece they saw, but needed to think about.

So, I put in a few hours and got it together. You can check out our website at www.weebly.com/wilson/spencerart  We were a little slow on that and apologize, but will not let it slip again!

FAQs at Our Gallery-How Do We Start?

After a very exciting 3-day open studio event, we would like to thank everyone who showed up offering friendship, support and purchases. Our biggest turnout ever!

I tried to listen to the questions we were asked while speaking about our studio work, and thought it would be fun to address them here in the blog. I already wrote about the number one question: “where do we get all this stuff?” in an earlier blog, An Avalanche of Stuff…

Another popular question is, “How do you start a piece?”  The short answer is “many ways…”, but here I will address three main ways we might start a work:

  • Lay In The Background. This is a favorite of mine for wall work. For the beginner, too, you can avoid the pitfalls of creating cliches like bleeding baby-dolls, and robot after robot. (okay, don’t get mad, just saying it’s been done…) When you lay in a background you are giving the piece a chance to speak up. Once laid in, the background often starts to set the mood, and from there, roughly dictates the theme. In the piece below, I wanted the feeling of an old library. The original paper was pretty bright, so I toned it waaaay down with washes. Then, it reminded me of my great uncle’s library, his profession and travels:

entomologist

  • Use One Major Piece and Build A Story Around It. Here, you must stay cognizant of your focal point. Extra pieces will come and go until it feels right and it will be cohesive if you watched and listened to the art as you worked. I have a friend who keeps all the pieces of the same time historically.  His art stays cohesive and comfortable that way.  In the example below you can easily recognize the focal point, and I tried to give a ‘Punch and Judy” feel to the piece:

in the can

  • Find Two Pieces That Want To Work Together.  This is my favorite way to start a 3-D or sculptural piece. The two pieces are often nonsense together, but they need to be comfortable together and make some sort of weird sense. In the piece below, Michael has put together a camera that sits on an old tripod. Interestingly, none of the pieces in this work are from cameras!

Dada Clock

I hope readers can get insight to how we work here, and assemblage beginners can get ideas for getting started. Many of our works can be found on our website: www.wilsonspencerart.weebly.com or on the Etsy site www.etsy.com/shop/thebeatgallery and www.etsy.com/shop/thebeatgalleryannex

Again, thanks to all our wonderful friends, old and new, for the successful open studio event last weekend!

 

Open Studio Over Memorial Day

root swellNow on to the busy spring….there is nothing like an open studio event to get the place cleaned up! Michael is weed whipping the driveway, and I am trying to decide what cookies to bake for the upcoming weekend…

New for us this year is an outdoor display of Susan’s popular watercolors in the front garden. So it’s time to clean the fountain, and put water hyacinth in the fish pond….the red-hot pokers are blooming, and the dogs haven’t dug up the strawberries… yet!

We are also adding a pal to our open studios up here: Nadia Berrigan will be showing her photography up here. Yay for art friends!

Anderson Valley Open Studios, May 26-28, hope you can make it up the hill and have a visit, we are looking forward to it!

 

Studio Sneak Peak

studio 1

studio2

A huge big thank-you to all our friends who attended our opening at Mendocino Art Center last weekend. We had such a great time, and the center appreciates all of our support. Makes us pause and count our blessings…

And with the beginning of the week (right after slacker art group, which was phenomenal as usual,) I was ready to plow into preparations for the open studio event up here over Memorial Day weekend. The studio was in disarray, and still not as functional as it could be, so I dug into my side of the room.

With my new-found passion for having several work stations going at once, I did a little rearranging and total de-thugging. I now have four(!) work stations where I can assemble, paint, and explore to my heart’s content.

The top photo shows where I can work on the laptop, my “explore” corner (currently art journals), my new watercolor desk, and a new assemblage area. The corner comfy chair has a small table for laptop where I can ‘you-tube’ away with inspirational techniques or hook into some music. I have reached studio Nirvana….

For a more in-depth tour of my pride and joy, come visit Anderson Valley Open Studio Tours, Memorial Day weekend, May 26-28. We will be open from 11-5 each day.

Also coming up is the opening for the Influence and Inspiration Project exhibit, a collaboration between Alexis Moyer and myself at Edgewater Gallery in Fort Bragg, Friday May 4th, with the show continuing through the month of May. We still have a couple of spots open for the Influence and Inspiration workshop on May 5th at Edgewater, so let us know if you are interested in attending, at www.myartmuse.net

 

The Assemblage Art Of Dreams

Mrs. Sayers

In the last post I mentioned that this piece has a story behind it…well I better get to telling it because it is not often that I work on a piece like this, and the piece is gaining attention, I think, because of the story:

Mrs. Sayer’s Magic Cats

When I was just out of high school I had a very vivid dream. It has stayed with me over 40+ years.

I dreamed I was walking down a country road late at night. This road had no sidewalk, just a drainage ditch full of grasses that marked the edge of the road. I kept hearing this noise, “vvvvvvuuuup zing, vvvvvvvuuuuup zing….” I wondered what the noise was and turned to look. It was an amazing sight! Hidden along the road in the ditches were cats. And from the ditches running up into the sky were wires. Wires from the ditches disappearing into the night sky and every once in a while a cat went zipping up the wire, “vvvvvuuup zing!” as they rode the wire up to the moon.

It was a great dream, odd for sure, but not upsetting, just very odd and vivid.

I got one of my first jobs a few months later at a rest home. It was run by wonderful people who cared for their staff and clients. I worked on the cleaning crew during the day. The job was hard work, but not traumatic in that the residents were pretty together and some well-off. Mrs. Sayers apparently had plenty of money,  she lived in a private room surrounded by her own furnishings, big heavy drapes at the windows, it was more like entering someone’s parlor, than an institutionalized room. And Mrs. Sayers was eccentric to the nines! I loved that. Her comments were often head-shakers and always brought us to laughter.

One morning I went in to start cleaning her room. She was sitting in her big leather chair, grumbling. “Good morning, Mrs. Sayers, how are you, today?” my usual greeting. She looked at me and said, “I didn’t sleep a wink, last night, for all the noise…” Really? what was all the noise about, I asked. “Those cats!” she exclaimed. What cats? There are no cats here…I said as the hair started raising on my neck….

“All those cats! It was a full moon, you know, and they ride wires to the moon when it is full…the ditches were full of them! The noise went on all night!”

I’ve heard that in the late teen years young women can have a certain small clairvoyance. This was an instance that finally came out into an art piece…..those magic cats!

 

Still Buzzing Around…

This week finds us editing pieces for the Mendocino show. Trying to find a cohesive representation of what we are currently doing is always challenging. Especially when we are constantly using differing materials on our surfaces. I often sneak around this problem by using similar frames.

But that brings up the point of frames, we don’t like using new frames. We like real wood, even if it a bit “used.” A frame can be cleaned up and given a new life. But that brings up another point. Those of us who prefer used, good quality frames, are you finding that these frames are skyrocketing in price? That was the case for us last year. Then earlier this week we went frame hunting and had better luck. Are the prices dropping, or did we just hit a good day? Anyway, it seems to be working out….

Below, I have used a great old frame. Re-painting and collaging have given it a new home. It’s one of the most ‘transformed’ frames I have done. It would be interesting to see what other artists are doing with their frames. Maybe in the ‘comments’ section of this post….?

Find us at the opening of the Mendocino Art Center’s opening next month, April 14, 5pm-8pm. The show runs April 4-29. We will be in Gallery 10.

‘A Universal Mind’ -Susan Spencer

susanmac3

Getting Ready For A Show

michael mac 2

Add It Up-Michael Wilson

This week finds us buzzing around the studio. We are getting ready for a solo show at The Mendocino Art Center in April. I must say the wonderful support the center has given The Beat Gallery has been great incentive for our studio to keep pushing forward in a media that employs common objects in an uncommon art form.

As artists, we often live in a vacuum of our imaginations and our work environment. We are solely responsible for the product of our efforts, and that’s good news and bad. But beyond the walls of the studio we need to take pause and recognize that a whole world out there is cheering us on, wishing us success  for putting ourselves out there.

More later on the particulars of the show…

New Series by Susan

raw

‘Raw’ by Susan

Finally! The large piece that has been taking up my workbench for the past 5 weeks is hanging in the downstairs gallery.

This was a large piece for me, measuring 36″ x 24″. And the subject matter was a bit on the rough side…but once it got going it took on the “life of it’s own” that happens in assemblage. It was definitely a growth piece and I am looking forward to composing two smaller pieces in the same style for showing this spring.

It looks a bit out of alignment in this photo, but, that is the photographer’s fault!

Growing as an artist lately has been the direct result of working with my art pal Alexis on our Influence and Inspiration Project. You can see what we are doing by stopping by that blog: www.theinfluenceandinspirationproject.wordpress.com

 

Yay! Happy Monday!