Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Studio Renovation Update

I took a little time off from renovating the new studio to have some fun in Chicago. But now I'm back framing in closets and bathrooms and windows.

Here is the basement.  It is one of the only shots you will see of it because it is not much to look at. I find it funny that this small house had a 50 gallon water heater.

The closet and the bathroom are now two separate spaces. Closet on the right, bathroom on the left.

This is a hole in the wall for a new window. It is covered by a shower curtain to keep the rain out. 

Now it is not covered.

Now it has a new window in it.

I purchased three matching windows at Building Materials Outlet in Eagan, MN. Got a great deal on them! I'm a little behind schedule but am hoping to have it ready for a workshop or class before the holiday.  There will definitely be an open house in November. 

I am looking forward to having a warm, welcoming and dedicated space for teaching art classes.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Abracadabra and Its Gone!

I've been working hard removing materials from the new studio. It has been a lot of work, but I break it up into manageable parts.  When I work in the studio I bring a timer. I only allow myself 45 minutes to work each weekday, 2 hours on Saturdays and Sundays.  And I don't work there every day. I pace myself to make sure that the entire project doesn't consume my life and to make sure I don't hurt myself.  I am getting older and can't haul and demo like I used to.  So I limit myself. If my knee, or any other body part, is feeling funny I don't work. No point in building a studio to teach in if I'm hobbling around while teaching.

The only incident so far was twisting my knee in a hole in the yard. The yard was full of ruts and divets when I purchased it. I filled in most of them early on, but there was one I missed and it was full of leaves, so I didn't notice it.  I was a bit concerned at first when I stepped in it because I have a friend who had just had knee surgery. But I rested my knee and it hasn't bothered me for more than a month.

Here are the latest pictures:

Here, half of the flooring has been removed (closest to us). Why am I removing the flooring, you might ask? The floor had been cut up with several trap doors and temporary covers.  One large opening is to a stairway that goes to the basement (not in the picture, to the right). The other was the former chimney hole (seen in the photo). And I found another in the living room near the bathtub. The interior walls had also been installed at subfloor level and when I removed those there were gaps in the flooring where the walls had been.To patch all these holes would have been difficult and look shoddy.

Here is an image with all the flooring missing. You can now see the trap door by the tub along the far wall. Another reason to replace the flooring is that I will be installing in-floor heating. For that to happen, I need a good smooth surface.  The existing flooring was not adequate.

No need for a tub in an art studio - so it has to go. This was the hardest work so far. The tile walls were very stubborn and a sledgehammer was used repeatedly with traumatic force. Eventually, they succumbed. Originally, I was thinking of putting in a shower stall to replace the tub, but now I am going to put a closet there, instead. 

This image shows the tub completely gone, along with the bathroom door gone and some of the walls missing. The finished bathroom will consist of a toilet and a sink. I am trying to keep most of the existing tile work and will then match the tiles for the rest of the bathroom walls. We'll see how that goes.

I am happy because I have hit rock bottom when it comes to demoing the house. At this point I start to build up the different parts of the studio. It is definitely a corner turned when, at the end of the day, the studio is actually looking better and closer to finished instead of more of a mess. More to come...

Sunday, June 25, 2017

On and On...

I have been working on the new studio for the last couple of weeks. Here are some more photos:

I have been cutting down a lot of weed trees and buckthorn that has been growing along the fence line and around the house. This is less than half the original pile. It took four trips to the compost site... and there is still more to cut down. 

The inside is messy, but coming along. 

This is where the bathroom sink used to be. After doing renovations and repairs on four houses, I've gotten pretty good with a hammer and pry bar. 

 This used to be the kitchen. Well, it never was much of a kitchen, just a sink a a couple of cabinets.

And the end result, all of the debris fitting neatly in a 10 yard dumpster. 

Now to removing the tub and pulling up the flooring.

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Controversy at My Latest Exhibit

I know that people are very passionate about their food. Food is a very personal aspect of what we say about ourselves. That is why I paint about food. Edibility, my current exhibit at Reverie Cafe and Bar is a collection of paintings that talk about what we eat and why it is considered food or not food. This can be a simple pun on the word "nuts" to a more complex relationship between cooked food, uncooked food, objects we ingest that are not considered food, and objects that obviously are not food but relate to the food in the painting in some fashion. I figured a restaurant with a vegan menu is a great place to discuss the qualities of food and what we eat.

One of the paintings is of a couple of rainbow trout on a plate, titled Rainbow Trout

Rainbow Trout

Other paintings, like the one below, include eggshells.

Sinkside Compost #3

One patron complained about the paintings in this manner: "I find some of the art offensive as a vegan, I do not want to eat somewhere that has pictures of fish on a plate, or egg shells, or any dead animal flesh, no matter what the reason, it's unpleasant to look at while eating, especially at a vegan restaurant. I will not be in until the art is taken down." 

Another had this complaint: "Thank you for taking down the fish, but many of your vegan supporters will likely not visit Reverie until the artwork is vegan (no eggshells)."

Another patron had this comment: "The important message is that animals should not be considered food in order to sustain life since that's in fact taking life away, which this artwork does not seem to convey."

I went out of town on vacation for ten days the day after hanging the show and was not immediately aware of the situation.  One of the owners removed the trout painting while defending the overall statement I am making with my art.  I appreciate that gesture, especially without being able to consult with me.

You Are Smart About These Things
Most people who visit Reverie Cafe and Bar are not vegans. I'm sure all the staff and ownership are not vegan. Some patrons don't care about the sourcing of the food and the work done to make sure the menu is vegan. Some just like the location and the taste and the music. But, the owners are passionate about food and have chosen to express that through this restaurant. They do a good job of it. They are also good business people who know a profitable niche when they see one. They also are not judgemental toward any patron because of their chosen diet. Vegans, like the owners and myself, are also passionate about food and its impact on the environment. They understand the negative impact of food choices and work hard to align their practice with their beliefs. If you are a vegan, congratulations, you are not consuming food blindly or willing to kill animals in order to survive.

We Are Merchants of Death
Yes, we do take away an animal's life when we eat it.  We also take away a plant's life when we eat it. When we die, and sometimes before, microscopic animals (or larger) eat us. There is life everywhere. There is death everywhere.  Simply because someone is a vegan, that does not mean they inflict less death - you just eat fewer mammals, birds and fish. If you want to suggest that plants are not as sentient as animals, I would protest that plants are sentient - we simply do not understand plant life as well as we do animal life. More studies are coming out about the sentient nature of plants. Sometimes vegans use their chosen lifestyle to deny the amount of death they are creating. I get that. I don't want to acknowledge the amount of death I create. Every time I drive my car I am adding to the global hell-hole that we are creating.  Every time I pull a weed, kill a weed tree in my yard, or trap a mouse in my house I am denying the power that is Life.  Every time I create or use anything - the mere act of translating raw materials into useful objects - is killing something. We are all merchants of death, even vegans. We cannot run from the death we create.

The Arctic Apple
Is the lack of animal products the only concern of vegans?  The painting Arctic Apple is hanging along the roadside wall of the restaurant. The Arctic Apple is the first FDA approved GMO apple for sale.  I find that painting more insidious and revolting than Rainbow Trout. The insidious part is that we cannot tell, visually, the difference between a GMO apple or a non-GMO apple. People are consuming these apples without knowing they are GMO.  These apples do not brown, so they are often used in situations where sliced apples have to be on display for extended periods of time. More research is coming out about the negative effects of GMO food. But again, you can't tell its a painting of a GMO food product by how it looks, so it doesn't receive complaints. 

Should Art About the Hard Issues of Food be on Display at a Vegan Restaurant?
That ultimately is the question.  Many of these works will be on display at Banfill-Locke Art Center in September where no one will complain about the rainbow trout or the egg shells. Although I hope many do, I doubt most people who visit Reverie dwell on the art work and its deeper meaning. In fact, the people who did complain about the paintings didn't bother to read the Artist's Statement that is posted on the same wall as the offensive pieces. They went to my website to find my statement about this body of work (thanks for visiting my website - I hope you looked at my botanical and landscape paintings and read the illustrated short stories in The Book of Bartholomew many of which are about a young man and his friends trying to figure out their own relationship with food). 

I do not look at food from the lens of a vegan.  If that is the only lens through which you wish to view art at a vegan restaurant, then I am not your artist. Although, I can safely say that many of the egg shells are from free-range and organic chickens raised by a co-worker in her yard.  I do not support or condone the mistreatment of animals and feel that the taking of a life in order for my survival should be acknowledged and not taken for granted - that goes for animals as well as plants. Although I come from a different perspective than a vegan, I am not unaware or precocious about the issues around food. I certainly am not an artist looking for controversy. Compared to the recent Walker dust-up, this ranks about a .001 on a scale of 10.  But I do have a valid and timely message about food to share. If you, as a viewer, are not able to see deeper into the work beyond your veganism, there is little I can do about it. If you are not able to appreciate the pieces that you do not find offensive, again, there is little I can do about it.  Although, I would hope that you are a grounded enough of a person to consider the entire body of work presented instead of being blinded by just a piece or two. In the end, I have a sensibility to share. I do not expect each viewer to share or even appreciate the sensibility that I am sharing. I hope that there are many who do and am happy to engage in discussion with them through my words and my art. I will be at Reverie Cafe and Bar on June 22 from 5pm - 8pm and again on July 25 if people would like to talk about the art and the issues it raises. 

After consulting with me, as a business decision, Reverie has determined to take down the offending pieces. I am fine with that. They are not an art gallery but a restaurant, they must do what they feel is best for their business.

I have learned much through these complaints and value this situation. Should this art be hanging in a vegan restaurant? I say yes. Others say no.  If I had walked out of every coffee shop that hung art that offended me I would be independently wealthy instead of ten pounds overweight.  Reverie Cafe and Bar is a good restaurant with a good staff and I think people should keep supporting it, no matter their thoughts on the art. But, that is for others to decide for themselves.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Jack In The Pulpit Studio- Deux: And It Begins

The move has begun!  I have occupied 1022 Burgess for a month now.  The renovations are beginning, but before I share any of that its time to show some "before" pictures. Above is a view from the sidewalk in front of the house. This photo is actually from a couple years ago and the tree growing right next to the house has gotten much bigger and will be coming down to make way for a front porch.

These are all "before" pictures - as in before the construction.  But I will let you know that these were taken after cleaning the house. There was a lot of debris: garbage on the floor, dishes in the sink, and even a full medicine cabinet.

This is a view of the bathroom door from the living room.  Mind you, the house is only 19 feet by 18 feet, so none of these rooms are of much size. The shelving on the right actually houses the end of the bathtub that extends a foot into the living room. The bathroom is so small I couldn't take a picture from inside of it.

The ladder-steps lead to a loft space. You cannot stand up in the loft and it is about big enough for a queen size mattress. The desk was left behind.  Does anyone need a desk?

This is the kitchen. To the left is the back door. It is so small you can't fit a normal appliance, much less two or three.

Here you start getting a view of one of the interesting parts of the house.  The lofted ceiling is covered with tongue in groove boards.  It gives the lofted space a nice homey feeling. I will be opening up the space (i.e. removing walls) so the ceiling is more prominent. 

The back yard where a giant oak tree was cut down last year. You can see the stump to the left.  Lots of weed trees in and around the sheds. No gardens - that will be changing very soon!

Front steps are a bit wonky because some trees grew up under the railing and heaved them to the left. Trees are gone.  Next: remove the roots and straighten out the steps again.

Here are some more weed trees out the back door. All that green is buckthorn seedlings! Yikes! I better get in there. And what abandoned house wouldn't be complete without a stray dog. Oh, wait, that's my sweet Delilah. Pile of bricks in the background will hopefully have enough good ones to create a brick walkway to the front door.

As I make progress there will be updates here at Jack-in-the-Pulpit Art Studio, at my blog and on the Facebook Page. Join the fun!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Let 'Em In

I like to listen to music when I am painting.  Lately, I have been enjoying listening to the best of the Beatles after they were done being the Beatles. I have compiled the four "Best of..." cd's of John, Paul, George and Ringo. These four musicians really are amazing. Amazing as individuals, but what strikes me is the consistency of message from the years of being the Beatles. There is the usual stereotyping that John has the heavy political message, Paul sings about love, George is spiritual and Ringo is, well,... just Ringo. But that is not the case when you listen to their music. Even after breaking up, the four of them continued singing about love, community, togetherness, forgiveness, and the positive possibility of what could be.

Yes, I am aging.  I am in my fifties and am a Beatles fan. I am of my era, and I am at a stage in life where I am questioning my experience so far. There is much talk about the Woodstock generation (a little older than me) and a general sense that they "sold out" -  gave up on their idealism as they aged. Some say they did even more, that they undermined their own revolution.

I'm not sure my generation had ideals. We came of age in the disco/cocaine sniffing/clubbing days of the late seventies and early eighties - not that I or most people in the country had that experience.  That apparently was what was happening in all the cultural hotspots on the coasts. Not a world full of ideals - hedonism was the theme of the day. At the time, I was too shy and fearful of life to notice what it all really meant. But I do know that our culture has not had spokespeople like the Beatles since their loss. When I hear current cultural stars talking with a communal perspective it seems canned, groomed to be acceptable instead of being an antithesis to the larger culture (I will acknowledge Ani DeFranco here as being way cool). They are not in-your-face with their entire being. The Beatles started as nice boys wearing suits and singing about love. Eventually, they became these guys who grew their hair long, wore outrageous clothing, talked tongue in cheek about their fame, sang about a backward social order and insisted on having their experience on their own terms. To see them, you could tell they were an antithesis to the larger culture. But this was the pre-glam era, it was a little easier to be noticed for wearing outrageous clothing.

I think about meaning, as an artist. Am I simply making paintings for an audience or am I painting in a manner that reflects and encourages our society? I was given advice many years ago by a painting instructor: landscapes sell. Of course, I refused to paint landscapes. Instead I painted about mass-murderers, riots and missing body parts - in the guise of landscapes. Nothing sold. Hmm.

Then I painted about oppression and the holiness of life. Nothing sold.
Then I talked about "The Land" by making artwork with objects from nature. Nothing sold.
Then I started painting botanicals.  I sold a handful and then nothing.
Then I started painting about food. Nothing sold.
Recently, I've been painting landscapes.  They've been selling. Who knew?

I do not worry if I am "selling out" for making landscapes.  I am painting about the experience I have in nature, in particular in Northern Minnesota. To me, it is related to love.  It is something that touches my soul, like a waking dream - Ah! böwakawa poussé, poussé. More than anywhere else, the North is where I have sat back and thought there is no where else in the world I would rather be. There is no time, days are meaningless. Anger is futile - it solves nothing! Love is all around. Not romantic love, although sometimes that is there, but love of all that is. Perhaps it is more aptly described as oneness. There is no contention, no division, no competition. Problems simply become annoyances, annoyances become a puzzle to solve or a fleeting moment to be ignored. Healing outweighs hurt. A broken heart gets to beat uninterrupted. The past is not released, but becomes the foundation on which all the good of the day grows. Breathing, itself, becomes a meditation.

My quest is to hold this perspective in my mind when I am in the City, when I am in the midst of my daily life. My vehicle is my art and the contemplation associated with this task. The Beatles help me hold this perspective with their music and with who they were. The following are excerpts from some of their songs I find particularly helpful. A year long meditation could be done on the first line of John's lyrics below. How would it change your life to come to truly know that "love is the answer and you know that for sure?"

John Lennon - Mind Games
"Love is the answer and you know that for sure.
Yes, is the answer, and you know that for sure.
Yes, is surrender, you gotta let it go."

Ringo Starr - Fading In and Fading Out
"Tell me, why we're here?
All we really need is love
And when I disappear
I pray that I have left enough

Fading in, fading out, isn't that what life's about?
First you're here, then you're gone
Still the world goes on and on."

George Harrison - Isn't It a Pity
Isn't it a pity
Now, isn't it a shame
How we break each other's hearts
And cause each other pain
How we take each other's love
Without thinking anymore
Forgetting to give back
Isn't it a pity

Some things take so long
But how do I explain
When not too many people
Can see we're all the same
And because of all their tears
Their eyes can't hope to see
The beauty that surrounds them
Isn't it a pity

Paul McCartney - Let 'Em In
"Someone's knockin' at the door
Somebody's ringin' the bell
Do me a favor
Open the door and let 'em in."

Monday, May 1, 2017

What's Cooking in the Studio - April 2017

Since the last Cooking entry, I have completed another painting in my Sinkside Compost Series. I have a container next to my sink for food scraps. I have been making paintings on panels of this container.  This one includes asparagus stems with a blue rubberband around them, egg shells and a very dark banana peel that is hard to detect (left side of painting).

I have been trying to find just the right onion rings for a painting as a companion piece for [Cigs, Twigs and Fries]( I finally found them at a place in Saint Paul that we call [The Nook]( I can't tell you how they taste, as I didn't try them.  But they have just the right visual texture and size for what I envisioned. The painting includes onion rings, uncooked spaghetti noodles and compasses.

The compasses belonged to my father and are part of a set he had from an engineering drafting class he took at the University of Minnesota around 1950. I like that these are part of the painting as my dad was always up for going out to eat. We often ordered onion rings. The painting is 30" x 40" and will be in the upcoming exhibit at Banfille-Locke Art Center.