Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Bloom and brains but still no pie

The Bloom magazine’s Local Artist Showcase was the focal point of my art week. Malcolm Abrams, the editor and publisher of Bloom, and his group put together an excellent event. I was especially pleased by how well promoted and attended the show was. We had the perfect convergence of events on Saturday. The weather was mild enough to get everyone out of the house, and the crowds were ready to see some fresh art after a long winter. Gosh, I haven’t gotten to chitty-chatty like that since the Unitarian Universalist show last year in December! I sure hope this becomes an annual event! I even found a lovely scarf from a Martinsville artist. By wearing it I think I managed to get two more sales for her after a city meeting last night.

Of course my other projects had to keep moving along. I had Tom Bertolacini, my photographer, come by to capture images of my recently completed weavings. I’m hoping to translate some of the images into a new set of note cards. I think my ‘Flowers for Mom’ piece and some of my bike-themed pieces are good choices.

I also spent part of the week finishing my Trashion/Refashion outfits. This year my son Jacob is participating too. He designed an outfit that I’m helping him put together. I don’t want to ruin the surprise with pictures, but after the images are submitted for jurying Thursday I’ll include them in my blog.

Last, my giant brain project is advancing. I found a bunch of Valentines Day decorations that were on sale (90% off) so I snapped them up and spray-painted the hearts black. I know that that sounds creepy – and it is. I also searched through my collection of found objects and pulled out some other appropriate objects to paint black, including an old watch and a doll. It’s moving a little slowly because I can only deal with the happy objects turned black for an hour or two each day. So much life is drained out of the objects when you paint them black, and that just isn’t who I am. To balance things out I spent some time working on butterflies for the euphoric side of the brain. They will be suspended over the enormous flower garden on the right side of the brain. I have until April seventh and I feel good about what I’ve gotten accomplished so far. It’s really nice working at Stone Belt because I get to interact with other artists. When I’m in my art studio I only have my own thoughts to keep me moving along. I’m very productive, but it isn’t as much fun as being surrounded by a group of supportive artist friends.

Let’s see, what else isn’t happening in my life that should, and very soon. I’m thinking pie! Aren’t there apples in the freezer, ready to go? Some of those really nice, big Mutsus from the fall Farmer’s market?


Until next week…

Martina Celerin

Sunday, February 19, 2012

More art, less brain and my third anniversary.

I buckled down this week and focused on studio art. This Saturday (February 25th) is Bloom magazine’s Local Artists Showcase at the Convention Center. The show will run from 11 am – 5 pm and I plan to have some brand new pieces to display. I laid down a layer of skin on my hand this week –my felted hand, that is - and called it complete. I added the dandelion bouquet and attached the hand to the background piece. As often happens, when I saw it all together I realized it needed a little something more. I wanted to convey the sense of the hand and dandelions breaking through a background of more traditional bouquet flowers, so I created and added a few more background flowers behind the hand. As I looked at the completed piece I decided that I knew its name: Flowers for Mom. I’m really pleased with how it turned out. I also worked on a nature piece that’s been coming together in my mind. It will include some summer birches by a lake, and probably bicycling to the lake to sit and watch the water. I’ve been weaving the background and crocheting leaf clumps out of the mohair boucle I dyed a couple of weeks ago. I wrapped some old shoelaces, string and cord with yarn to create the birch bark tree trunks. To create the smaller branches I’ve used some grey alpaca from Cathy Crosson. I’m close to finishing the bike piece, but I’m still waiting for it to tell me its name.

Of course my brain at Stone Belt is never far from my conscious thought these days. I visited to attach some spray painted letters to the dark side this week. WTIU, our local public television station, came to videotape the work in progress, so I put in an appearance when they filmed. This week the Louisville examiner is coming to town to do some interviews so interest in the project is starting to spread beyond Bloomington.

My big adventure this week was a trip to Indianapolis to be fingerprinted by the naturalization people. Jim came with me for moral support, applying a stern eye to the humorless guard on duty. The interaction with him would have gone better if I didn’t bring my Swiss army knife in my purse. Much like the airports, weapons are frowned upon in federal buildings. Jim ran it back to the car while I was admitted to wait. Even though we came an hour early they took me right away and I breezed through the process. It was all remarkably painless. They gave me a big brochure with information to study for the next stage of the process, the civics test - one hundred questions about American history, government and geography. At least once a day Tommie pulls it out and asks if I want to try the test. I think I started out at about seventy five percent accuracy (sixty percent is a pass). I do better every time I try and I still haven’t read the booklet! All I know is that there will be a big party when it’s all over (right Jim?)!

On a final note, this is the third anniversary of the blog. The first two visitors came by on February 17, 2009. Since then, the blog has had around seven thousand visits from 106 countries and all fifty states! Thanks to everyone for stopping by.

Until next week…

Martina Celerin

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Valentine’s Day: Pie, chocolate and brains

Yesterday morning was Valentine’s Day. I woke to the alarm and skipped off to my 6:30 a.m. Zumba class through an inch of fresh snow. When I came home I was in for a few surprises! Jim baked me a delightful pie using Mutsu apples. They were bought at the farmer’s market, sliced up and frozen away until now—a little bit of autumn in the winter. My boys made me Valentine’s Day cards too, with chocolate candies taped inside. They tell me I’m the best Mom ever! My day was off to a good start. After a day of art and housework I settled into the couch in front of a nice fire to warm my bones while I needle felted the final details on the hand that holds my bouquet of dandelions. Last week I described this in more detail, but basically the bouquet will stand out in front of a green background covered with colorful felted flowers. I finished the dandelions a few days ago and photographed them in a special vase from Kathey Gibson, a good friend from Kawkawlin, Michigan. I still need to add the layer of skin to the hand before I can assemble the parts, but I’m really pleased with the hand and how the piece is coming together.

I can’t talk about art these days without mentioning my giant fiberglass brain at Stone Belt. Last week I finished attaching all the flowers to the green side of the brain. I still need to create vines and butterflies to give that side of the piece more depth and movement. The green side is intended to showcase the eurphoric aspects of bipolarism. My understanding, and what I’m going for, is to create an information overload that goes beyond pretty valleys and images and creates an intense, palpable, almost overwhelming experience. I also started work on the dark side of depression and despair as I move the rest of the piece forward. I covered the left hemisphere with mottled sections using black felts. I started to attach a few black objects to the dark side as well, including broken watches and compasses (time stands still and direction is lost), empty liquor bottles, wine corks, and pill bottles painted black (alcohol and drug abuse). I’m working on creating more dark objects to include by spray painting roses, birds in cages (thanks Cappi!) and dark angels . I’m going to add a few words I’m creating from cardboard castoff letters (thanks IU Geology department!), also painted black. I’ll use helplessness, depression, darkness, anger, and anything else that contributes to the depths of despair. I also intend to include black electrical cords to add movement and balance the green vines on the euphoric side. I’ll make the dark side additions permanent using silicone adhesive, which seems to work best for the range of materials I want to use.

The brain project also brought me a few minutes of fame across the Midwest this week. The Bloomington Herald-Times newspaper came and took pictures of the brains. They interviewed Joe LaMantia and me to get a flavor for what’s going on, and the article was picked up by the Associated Press. I saw that the article made it to papers and TV websites in Indianapolis, Chicago (the Tribune!) and Louisville. It even made it to Terre Haute and Brazil (Indiana). My life is complete. The local public television affiliate, WTIU, is scheduled to visit Friday to get some footage for TV. We’ll have to see if my brain makes it onto the little screen.

Of course the rest of my art projects don’t rest, even as the brains expand. I’m trying to finish off a few pieces I’ve been working on for the Bloom artist showcase on February 25th. I even took on a new commission this week, due by early June, so life is full. I do take a little time out for myself (and Jim) these days. We went to the Sunday matinee performance of “The Boy in the Bathroom” at the Bloomington Playwright’s Project. Chad Rabinovitz and the cast put together another amazing and moving performance. We’re extremely fortunate to have him running the BPP, bringing together both the artistic and business aspects of the venture together into a successful and vibrant home for new plays. I’m sure we’ll be back sometime soon!

Until next week…

Martina Celerin

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Dyeing and drying green…

It has been a very green week. Most people do spring cleaning when the weather gets nice—I do my annual green dyeing fest. It usually gives me enough green yarn to carry me through a year of verdant art. I pulled out my dye pots from Grandpa (thanks!) and filled them with greens I like. After the dyeing I drained the green yarns and spread them over a chair in the veranda. It looks very soft and inviting to sit in. When the weather turned cooler I moved everything downstairs to hang and dry more completely.

Speaking of turning things green, I spent a little quality time with my brain. If you aren’t up to speed on this project, I’m embellishing one of the 22 brains in Bloomington’s ‘Brain Extravaganza!’ It’s the brainchild of Jill Bolte-Taylor, pun intended. I met my brain at Stonebelt this week among a bunch of other brains. Mine is gong to represent my interpretation of bipolarism. The right hemisphere is now a lawn of green felt to be covered in flowers I created, and the theme is a floral euphoria. I spent a big block of time, at least when I wasn’t chatting with my friend Bonnie Gordon-Lucas working nearby, attaching felt to the right hemisphere of the brain. I’ve been collecting felt scraps for years, knowing I’d have a use for them someday, and now I do! I used up every last green scrap I had. I tested several glues along the way to see what works best to adhere the coarse resin brain surface to felt and discovered that good old white glue was the best. The good news, and bad news, is that I went through my entire collection of leftover white glue bottles. I started the project with two two-gallon bags full of partially used bottles of white glue; now I’m completely out. My husband thinks I’m going to stand outside the elementary school after classes and mug kids to get more. Have I said I’m big on reclaiming and recycling? The problem is that I don’t have enough glue to finish the dark side of my brain, so I see a trip to Pygmalion’s soon to pick up another gallon or so. If you can’t use recycled materials, buy them locally I say.

My own brain got to re-thinking my ‘Hilly Hundred’ piece this week. I decided that the green background I made isn’t persuasive enough to evoke the hilliness I want for the twelve bike wheels I just created. I need to play with some design ideas to make it more dimensional. I decided that the background I made would be perfect for a project I mentally composed about a year and a half ago. Of course I got sidetracked before completion, but now I’m back on the job. The vision is to have a hand holding a bouquet of dandelions above a diverse background of more traditional garden flowers. It speaks to the idea that things don’t need to be commercial or prized by society to have great value to a person. People think of dandelions as mundane weeds, but they provide the first real explosion of colors for the world in spring, whether you planted them or not. When my boys were little they would pick dandelions for me, which they saw as pretty. They just wanted to share flowers with me because they knew they made me happy. I still cherish the little yellow splashes of spring.

Art making never seems to completely fill my week. Thursday evening was the big grand re-opening of the Bloomington Playwright’s Project. Chad and Gabe and a whole bunch of volunteers have done an amazing job converting the theater from a dingy gray space into a warm inviting living room. It’s an accessible and inviting place to be. Part of the ceremony was the official unveiling of two art pieces that were intended to capture the spirit of the BPP and to be part of a permanent collection. Oliver Winery underwrote the commissions for two pieces (thanks Oliver!). Joel Washington, a terrific Bloomington artist, did one and the other was one of mine. I was delighted and honored to be included in the project and the re-opening ceremony. I’m very grateful to Chad for re-establishing the BPP as a Bloomington landmark and artistic treasure. His vision and energy were just what the place needed and demands.

And if that wasn’t enough for one week, on Friday night we were all off to Wonderlab for the aluminum pouring event. About a month ago my boys and I picked up sand molds and long nails for carving designs. The boys set to work almost immediately, scratching designs into the artificial sandstone medium. I put off my design until the day before the pour because I couldn’t decide on a subject. During my dyeing spree I went out into the veranda and the sun was shining, so I knew what I had to do! We watched them pour molten aluminum into the molds and buff the cooled products. While we waited, we had a nice macaroni and cheese dinner upstairs, care of Bloomingfoods, and did a little running around inside. The pieces turned out beautifully, and everyone involved was excited to participate in the process of creating the aluminum casts. It was a week of delightful experiences all around.

Until next week…

Martina Celerin