Monday, October 29, 2007

Done...? (Happy B-Day Lightboy)

The exhibit opened on Saturday. Everything went well except for some glitches in the dvd authoring that I still have to fix up. My family came to view the installation and celebrate some October birthdays. They were all pleased and impressed with the installation.
This week I have a couple of gallery talks and the reception on Thursday.

Here are some in progress installation shots. More to come later.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


October 25, 2007

Three wise people came to visit yesterday. They brought gifts. My parents and aunt arrived in the morning with some elements for the ofrenda, paper flowers, pictures, and some needlework. Mostly they came to show support. I love those people.

Since a few of my great grandparents were beekeepers it is only fitting that I have…hives. I tend to break out when under stress it seems. This happened before when I was in Austin trying to create a full edition of prints in five days at Coronado Studio. I’m breathing through it all trying to remain calm drinking my nettle and peppermint teas.

This morning I checked on the drying progress of the ink on the coffin panels/print blocks. They still feel a bit tacky but I am going to have to go ahead and start gluing them together. The prints are dry enough to start handling and hanging. I’ve discovered another flaw in my grand plan: the wall on which the long string of prints is to hang has a fire exit door in it. Now I thought I had measured right and the prints would end at the doorframe. However, I had forgotten that I wanted to bookend the piece with the same image on each end to emphasize the continuous/ouroboros nature of the print. This means the last 14” section would hang over the door seam and therefore be in peril of being ripped through if someone used the door. So, on to plan B, which is to leave the last section at the extreme left loose to stick to the door and start the rest at the doorjamb.

So on I go to retrieve and hang prints and to piece together my wet wood.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


October 24, 2007 (Happy Birthday to my lovely L)

I’m running on 3 hours sleep this morning. It was a late night in the ND print lab. Thanks to Jean for allowing me to use the lab while classes are on break. Extra special thanks to Steve F. for coming in to help me pull the 54” long prints. I don’t know how I would have done those alone.

Best thing about printing for ten hours: having the prints and having another check mark on my list of things to do. Also, it was great to have another person there, especially a knowledgeable printmaker. It was doubly great because Steve is a musician and music lover as well. We had running commentary and conversation over the “classic” rock station music coming in on the lab’s busted radio.
Worst thing about printing for ten hours: knowing that I had to live with the best I could get from that night’s printing with the impending deadline.
Very worst thing about printing ten hours: not having my own music or a cd player to listen to. I cannot work without music. I had brought along a cache of cds because I remembered the lab had a cd player. When I got there I got the news that the cd player had been stolen. My only alternative was a "classic" rock station that came in on the decrepid radio in the corner. I hate radio and “classic” rock stations especially…ugh! At least I could tell how many hours were going by as each cycle of, the same bands but different "hits," came around.

The prints look pretty good in the pthalo green ink. The blocks/coffin panels look amazing in the green. The earth dragon sarcophagus is going to look amazing. Next step is to wait for the ink to dry enough for me to put the pieces together and install the coffin. The prints need to dry as well so that I can scab them together to make up the dragon’s body.

Pics coming when I have some time to get some.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Four more...

October 23, 2007

Yesterday was a blur or running around, checking lists, making new lists, making a plan, changing a plan…

The gallery install is going slow as I need a few things that will be last minute. Pictures are printed, video monitor is installed, altar base is installed and draped, coffin base and servilleta is installed, and Mr. Bones is in the house.

Video elements are feeling much better thanks to some valuable insight from the video guru, Krista. I should be able to make the last adjustments and burn today. Whew!

The coffin panels await their fate on the press. I am still waiting for my ink and paper (nothing like waiting until the last minute, eh?) I should have the stuff today via my very expensive next day air order. My buddy Steve F. has agreed to help me pull some prints at ND’s print lab. Psyching up my rolling arms for what’s to come. I had thought of staining and sealing the panels before printing. The idea is to leave the panels inked up after printing so that the recessed cuts stand out against the darker ink. The sealer would be a safeguard against that idea not working out and I having to clean the panels down. Last night I nixed the idea for fear that the stain or sealer would cause lifting in the wood grain and therefore blurry lines in the print. I’ll experiment with that idea when the sword isn’t hanging over my head. So it’s on without the safeguard. Live dangerously someone said (I know it wasn’t me…)

Things that can go wrong…will go wrong. My lovely L has been on sugar skull making duty (I told you Dia de los Muertos is a family affair). They look awesome all decked out in frosting designs and color foil. I wrote the names of my deceased relatives, one each, on the skulls and set them out overnight to dry. Yesterday morning we discovered some rascal had been making a taste test out of the bunch while we slept. The little bugger didn’t just confine his rodent feast to one skull he tried about 5 of them. He must have like one better than the rest because the chin was almost completely gone! So it was back to the sugar bowl for L last night.

This morning our little taste tester got his just desserts at the end of my broom. Maybe I should make him a skull too.

Monday, October 22, 2007

5 and counting...

October 22, 2007

I spent the weekend at the studio finishing off the carving on the blocks/coffin sides. Boy is my elbow sore!

Saturday morning, I received a good omen, on the wings of a surprise visitor. As I was unlocking the street side door leading up to the studio the Lightboy spotted a giant moth on the wall. I figured it was trying to warm itself up in the morning sun before attempting flight. It had a great mottled look that helped it blend into the brick wall. When it flexed we discovered bright pink accents hiding beneath its wings. We walked it onto our fingers and brought it upstairs to introduce it to the butterfly woman. Later in the day we took it back down to where we found it. We were surprised to see it still clinging to the wall of the building many hours later.

The rest of the day was spent finishing up the emerging man panel and starting in on the other 54” long panel. As I worked I realized that some more transitional marks were needed to unify the over all image once all the panels are viewed together. I lay out the wood on the floor, end to end, to get a feel for it all and made some adjustments.

The Lovely L and miracle boy came by in the afternoon. Laurie pounded out the papel picado (cut tissue paper) images from a template I had printed out. The result looks fantastic! I can’t wait to see them all strung together and hanging.

I worked late into the night trying to get as much done as possible.

Sunday morning the Lightboy and I headed to the studio once again. I was determined to finish the rest of the side panels off. (The coffin lid is going to have to wait. That thing is going to be a beast.) I made good time with some breaks here in there to give my aching elbow and sore palm a rest. Lightboy leant a hand by dremmeling some texture into some areas of the big panel while I started the last, and smallest, panel. The last panel I had to work on is the tree of life portion that will go at the foot of the coffin. The rest of the day was spent cleaning that up and carving away late into the night. Aside from a couple of small portions, the coffin panels are ready to print. Now that will be another story…

Friday, October 19, 2007

and miles to go before I sleep...

October 19, 2007

Good news today. Apparently, I will be mentioned in the December issue of Spin magazine in conjunction with a Maynard James Keenan interview. Maynard has been my biggest patron of the arts. He owns quite a few of my paintings and prints as well as my wife’s work. The article apparently mentions my painting “Caduceus” and it’s relation to Maynard’s vineyard name.

In other news…

I received an email from my high school art teacher and friend, Sue. She is enjoying her retirement by traveling and building up some inspiration to get to painting. Go Sue! I wish you a happy, inspirational, and safe journey.

Last night I worked on some of the pictures that will be part of the altar at home. I watched my boys play in the yard collecting bugs and climbing trees before putting them to bed. My boys and I listened to the crazy storm front that blew through the area causing much mayhem and damage. I thought it would be a good night away from the studio to catch up on my sleep and rest. I think I awoke more tired than the nights I’ve been working late and my mind was racing with a list of things to do from the moment my eyes opened.

The gallery is painted! The layout is being finalized and I should be able to bring in some of the elements on Monday.

Carving to go
Printing to go
Final video tweeking and burning to go…
...and miles to go before...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Getting there

October 18, 2007

This morning I’m running on auto pilot…and still haven’t had my coffee.

I did more carving last night. I’m working on the companion piece to the Butterfly woman and there is still one element that is missing. Usually when working on a piece there is a point, either at the sketch stage or during the process, when all the elements fall together and the image just zings. The emerging man hasn’t reached that point but I trust that he will get there.

The gallery painting went well. I decided to paint another wall with a bright complimentary orange to play off the Mayan blue green. I had left the door on the left hand side the original grey but late in the day I decided to paint it over as well. That should be the last thing before I start bringing in the other elements to set up. The coffin and prints will be the last in the door and on the wall.

The video test was burned yesterday and today I will set up the monitor and see how it runs.

Things are coming along.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

painting, cutting, panting...

Yesterday I got one of the colors for the gallery walls. It’s a nice “Mayan” aqua green. Two opposing walls will have that color and the third wall will have a red orange feel. Since exhibition installation is part of my day job I also have the privilege of painting the walls myself…
Yesterday I got closer to a final edit on the family conversation/history video. Rather than project, as I once had planned, I’m going to have the dvd run on a monitor above the altar. This cleans up much of the space that would have been needed for the projector mount, dvd player and sound system.
It was another late night at the studio after a run around the lawn and tree climbing with my boyos. I have most of three blocks carved with three to go …Oh! And the lid to the coffin…yikes! Make that more like 5. Last night the Woman lit by Butterflies (sorry Jim Harrison) came along quite nicely. If the print looks half as good as the wood block she’s gonna be a beauty.

I’ll post some pics when I get a chance to breathe.

Monday, October 15, 2007


I gave up trying to sharpen my v-tool back to a usable shape and ordered another one on line. My new Flexcut tool came on Friday. I spent the weekend at the studio cutting away at one of the 54” sides. 16+ hours on just one block! I have 4 more to go. One more 54" and the rest significantly smaller. This is taking longer than I thought, however, what I do have cut looks really, really good. I can’t wait to get to the rest of the blocks. I need to be printing by the end of the week. Installation begins on the 22nd and the exhibit opens on the 28th.

I had iTunes playing a music shuffle while I cut and I kept catching myself laughing at the synchronicities happening between what I was cutting and the lyrics to various songs. It made it all feel right.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

First post with catshup

This is the first attempt at my own blog page. I’ve had a blog running on my myspace page but just realized that older posts get wiped out. So, this first post will be a recap of some of the posts that I’ve put up over there in an effort to keep them around longer.

The current project I’m working on is called “Cuentos y Memoria” (stories and memory). It is a Dia de los Muertos installation at the Snite Museum of Art at the University of Notre Dame. The exhibit will run from October 28 – December 16, 2007. For this particular offrenda (altar/offering) I will be creating a traditional altar with some contemporary elements to honor those members of my family that have passed on.

So, working backward…

October 10, 2007

Last night's cutting session ground to a halt. Somehow I wore down my favorite "v" cutting tool in an unbalanced fashion. Where once it cut like a hot knife through butter, now, it cuts like a ...well, it's ripping more than cutting. So I have to grind it down and build a clean bevel on it once again to get it where I need it.

I guess it was bound to happen. I've had these tools for a few years now and have only had to strap them to keep a good edge on for cutting. I hope I haven't totally f'd it all up.


October 9, 2007 (happy birthday John)

The sliver of a moon plus a super bright Venus, Saturn and Regulus made me stand like a stunned ox in the middle of the road this morning. Beautiful.

Two weeks to go before I have to install the Day of the Dead ofrenda. I'm still carving the 6 blocks of wood that will make up one 14' long image when pieced together...and boy are my fingers sore! The decision having to be made: do I save time and go for a linear and broad flat spaces approach to defining the images or do I do more of how I usually handle my woodcut print mark making? I'll have to decide quick and get on it.

The video...I'm going to have to go with what I have and hope it all makes sense with the editing. It's only meant as a slice of a running documentation but I really want it to look good. The stories and recollections being electronically regurgitated will take the place of the conversations that traditionally occur at the gravesides. Of course, I still need to translate some the spanish and add subtitles for the mono-lingually impaired.

Things that have dawned on me by doing this project:_
-People want to help...let them._
-It's a family thing._
-My parent's married at such an early age that their siblings and their spouses really did absorb one another as a second family. For instance, my dad knows much more about my uncle T (my mom's sister's husband) than he does about his own brothers, mostly because he spent his life from age 17 on working and living next to him.

September 17, 2007

I got to record three more family members and their recollections this weekend. I'm not a very extroverted person so it is difficult for me to be "out there" and get someone else to open up. However the common bond of family and my excitement for how this project is evolving makes it easier.

Recorded this week - two brothers, mis primos, talking about their beloved father who's resourcefulness, story telling, and zest for life is missed on the eleventh anniversary of his death. My uncle, recounting his travels to the States, talked, tentatively at first, about his siblings that have passed, his father's hard work and the effect of his mother's last embrace and kiss.

I know it is hard for people to talk but I'm grateful that they are willing to expose themselves and do it. Of course all this can't help but cause a change in how I'm looking at things. Right now I'm just glad I can listen and that I might somehow be able to pass the story along.

September 11, 2007

The elements for Cuentos Y Memoria (Stories and Memory) the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) installation I will be creating at the Snite Museum of Art are coming together. I've got about 4 1/2 weeks before the actual installing is supposed to begin. I've planned to make the installation a combo of traditional and contemporary elements. The installation is planned to fill a small gallery rather than just the traditional ofrenda (altar) that usually takes up the corner or one wall of a room.

The gathering part has been going on for some time now. I'm really glad that the whole process has evolved, as it would be for a home ofrenda, into a family and friends collaboration. My Mom has been making the table coverings required for the ofrenda. My sisters are helping me out with the flower arrangements and offering elements. Various people are lending me their photos and my elder family members are making time to give me their stories on tape.

Video is an unfamiliar media for me that needs to be worked on in addition to various 2-D and 3-D elements being gathered and later assembled. My nephew, Adam, and my friend, Krista, have been walking me through some basics to get me started with the video element I'm incorporating. Now, I have no illusions about being a videographer so this will have to be a pretty basic point and shoot exercise. The big work will be in editing down all the great stuff I'm getting from my relatives into a coherent shorter block that can be looped and projected in the space.

Some of the stuff still to come are the prints, papel picado (cut paper), sugar skulls, and more…

August 27, 2007

This weekend I began collecting video stories from my parents and family for the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) exhibit I'm installing in October.

It was interesting to hear my parents recount memories of family members that have passed and their histories. I'm going to have more information than I'll know what to do with. Besides getting the material I need for the installation my priority is to get some of these stories recorded before they are lost. First steps...