Sunday, March 25, 2012

The brain project comes to a head…

I was completely immersed in my Brain project this week. The good news is that I can see the end approaching! Early in the week I attached all of the butterflies on to the brain and secured the vines. With help from Joe LaMantia, I created an elaborate mechanism to anchor the vine’s main stem through a hole I drilled in the brain. Connection points for the branches and the brain were made with hot glue, and the overall structure is very robust and almost ready for travel and display. My work on the euphoric side gave me the mental fix I needed to move over to the dark side. I have been working on creating three lithium citrate structures to suspend over the depressive side, much like the butterflies float over the euphoric side. I got some excellent support from the Poynter Sheet Metal Center to bend metal rods to create the citric acid molecule. I can’t say enough about how helpful and constructive they have been in helping me on the project. I discussed my metalworking needs with them before I left for Michigan, and when I returned to Stone Belt on Monday the structure sat gleaming on my workbench. It was like Spring Break Santa made a delivery. I was envisioning using tennis balls as some of the atoms in the structure, which was another suggestion from Joe. Between my own supplies, and scouring Opportunity House, I managed to find all but a few of the balls I needed. In fact, the majority of my Brain is made with reclaimed and recycled materials, a fact that I feel very good about. I had been humming and hawing over how to paint the tennis balls white, and I ultimately decided to drill a hole in them and insert a brazing rod from Grandpa’s welding supplies. I used a two-part epoxy to glue the metal rod to the ball, then I dipped the balls in some old sealing paint that we had in storage. I took two coats, but even the blue balls looked white. I needed red paint for the Lithium, which burns red in a flame, so I went to Kleindorfer’s hardware. I figure that’s as close to reclaimed and recycled as you can get if you have to buy new stuff in Bloomington. I was trying to decide between Massey Ferguson Red and Pioneer Red (you’ve got to love the old red tractor colors!). After they were coated with pain, I let them dry like chocolate dipped lollipops on the veranda. When they were dry I spent a few days wrapping yarn around the brazing rod and the carbon backbone to get the color and feel I wanted, and now all three structures are attached. I just love the symmetry that is created between the floating lithium citrate structures on the dark side and the growing vines and floating butterflies on the green side. Many thanks to Robin Ripley, another Brain artist, for so many of the great pics!!

One of the great bits of fun at the end of my week was the Bloom Magazine photo shoot at Stone Belt on Friday. I was delighted to see Steve the photographer again, who did my photo shoot in the last issue of Bloom. He staged the brains to create the compositions he wanted for pictures. The three fiber artists were clustered together, but comically he wanted us to pick up paintbrushes and pretend to be discussing paint colours for the brains! That bit of silliness got us all going on a beautiful, sunny Friday afternoon. The atmosphere bordered on giddy as we all laughed and talked, to the point where we were reprimanded for not staying on task. Everyone just had a good time. I shot a short movie of people milling about to give you a sense of what it was like. It reminded me of my days as a grad student when we’d all go to the Grad Club on Friday afternoons after an intense week of research to laugh, have a beer and just chill.

I promised last time to provide information about the brain project as it moves forward. I learned that all twenty-two brains will be together for one time only in the White Auditorium at Bloomington South High School on the 28th of April. More details will follow, but I can’t wait to see all the pieces together. It’s just an amazing project. I had a chance to chat with Jill Bolte-Taylor, the person who conceived and organized the project, and we both marveled at the diversity of the brains. They’re all identical in size, but they’re as distinctive as the artist that created each one. The overall effect is otherworldly. I was also very pleased to see Malcolm Abrams, the editor of Bloom, enthusiastically participate in the shoot.

My other big project from the week involved the Girl Scouts. I had a dozen girls from a local troupe, plus a few siblings and a half-dozen parents or so, all jam-packed in my kitchen. The event had a lot of energy and it was such fun. It felt great (no pun intended) to be able to introduce them to a completely different medium that none of them had played with before. They made wet felted balls to begin with and transitioned into other shapes. They just ran with the idea, making cats and other creatures. I got my bead collection out along with some silk thread so they could embellish their creations. Along the way I had them dyeing with Kool-Aid. They were amazed by how effectively the wool exhausts the color in the dye pot. There was some concern about the dyes transferring to clothes, but once it’s in the wool it isn’t going anywhere. At the end of the day everyone went home happy with a bag of merino noils to make more art. It took a while, but when things got quiet again my two boys slowly emerged from some corner of the house where they were hiding and things returned to normal.

Until next week…

Martina Celerin

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