Category Archives: Mixed Media

Art Is A Real Nail-Biter: A Visual Interpretation & Psychological Exploration Of Awkward Quirks & Tendencies

At The Cat’s Pajamas, Jessica shares an art assignment:

For my art class we had to come up with a commentary to explore and create 12 pieces based around this written statement. I’ve been working on it since September and I’m really excited that it’s finally all done! It’s pretty neat seeing everything come together as a series. My commentary is: a visual interpretation and psychological exploration of awkward quirks and tendencies. They’re all mixed media, done by hand, using old books and magazines and all sorts of other materials I’ve found.

The series of awkward quirks and tendencies includes, titled by quirk or habit, Nail Biting, Hair Twirling, OCD and Grinding Teeth, which are shown below.

I find this all incredibly inspiring! Not just the assignment of art based upon written statements, but the idea of dealing with your quirk, compulsion, habit — or the fear of it. Just think of all the possibilities… Art therapy anyone can do! Cool concepts sure to start conversations when the artworks are on display.

And, as if that weren’t enough excitement, you can purchase prints of (most all of) these works too.

Super Girls: Life Size Female Action Figures

Super Girls is a collection of store mannequins hand painted and sprayed to look like comic book superheroes and villains. Because each life size art piece is made from a mannequin it is equal to an action figure in that it can be posed! Each art work is numbered.

An Interview With Ghosts In The Machines Creator Erika Iris Simmons

I so fell in love with the stunning art made from cassette tapes by Erika Iris Simmons that I just had to speak with her and learn more about her incredibly iconic works.

Erika Iris Simmons

Erika, I don’t like to ask a lady her age — especially right at the start! — but in this case I feel compelled to do so… Your works, especially the Ghosts In Machines, have a youthful pop culture quality, but the detail work is incredible, which lends me to believing you are older (at least in art years!) than I think. So, how old are you, when did you begin the Ghost In The Machine Series, and how long have you been working as an independent artist?

Thanks! No worries, I’m not shy, I’m 27 now but I started making this series in 2008, when I was 24 I think.

I was a waitress at Hard Rock Hotel in Orlando at the time, looking for interesting art projects. I didn’t have a lot of money to spend on art supplies so I went through all the junk drawers at home, tearing up anything I could find, dabbling in composite art. I was fascinated with optical illusions and wanted to make something really different. I think going to work everyday surrounded by music memorabilia definitely had an impact! haha

One day I thought to use the cassette tapes in my art – when I started messing with the ribbon it curled up and reminded me of Jimi Hendrix’s afro, so that was the first portrait I made.

Ghost in the Machine: Jimi Hendrix, Cassette Tape On Canvas

At the time I was reading some science books about the philosophy of the mind; that’s where the “ghost in the machine” theme came from. It was great to sit there while working on these, wondering about the meaning in the data on the tapes and how by simply rearranging the tape on the board I could make it look like a face. My goal was to not cut the tape or take any away, just arrange it.

I’ve been working as a full-time independent artist for two years now.

Have you had any formal training or study, an art degree?

No formal art training; I got a ton of art books out from the library, but mostly its just been trial and error.

The Ghost In The Machine pieces are how I first found you — the amaze me because they incorporate the spirit of the medium, the tape and film, and display the iconic images we see when we experience their performances. What inspired the works?

I never wanted to be an artist until I saw the work of Ken Knowlton. He makes incredible composite portraits. My favorite is his portrait of Einstein using nothing but black dice. It blew my mind and I thought I want to make something like that, something that would resonate with people. I just kept experimenting after that.

Ghost In Machine: Madonna

They are incredibly fluid and effortless looking, as if they just spilled out that way, but I suspect there’s a lot more to them than that. 😉 Can you tell us more about the work involved, how long it takes to make a piece — how many tapes, etc. are used?

I almost always just need a single cassette, unless the work is really big. You’d be surprised how long the tape is inside.

Every piece is different, but I usually start by drawing the basic outline, focusing on the facial details first. I go about filling in the design, either gluing the tape flat and cutting away when necessary, or folding and twisting the tape into the desired shapes. This can take weeks if its very detailed. Toward the end I try to let the tape fall into really natural shapes and “capture” that movement with dots of glue. Finally, I use epoxy to permanently mount the case.

Of the works I’ve seen, you seem to use or recycle other items to create your works of art. Do you consider these altered art works? How do you feel about that term?

I call these cassette tape or film sculptures, but the term altered art works too. It falls into a lot of categories, I think. I often hear people call them “installations.” I don’t know why.

Your Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast At Tiffany’s piece is probably my favorite, so far! I love the use of 8mm film, right down to the reel!

Audrey Hepburn Work In Progress...

Audrey Hepburn Ghost In Machine, 8mm Film

Erika Iris Simmons Artwork In Progress

Working With Film To Make Ghost In Machine

"Reel" Breakfast At Tiffany's Hair

Shadow Details

Audrey Hepburn Ghost In Machine

The Graceful Ghost In The Machine

I read at your blog that the Breakfast At Tiffany’s work was the result of a woman who approached you about doing a series of collection of Audrey Hepburn pieces… Does that mean you do custom or commissioned works?

Thanks! I’ve actually made my living for the last few years making custom pieces for people; I still do sometimes, but not as my bread-and-butter like I used to.

Does doing works that way, at the direction of others, frustrate you in any way as an artist?

Yes, every single time! haha. There is no way of avoiding the pressure of “performance.” I am not a performer and I’ve found that my work is much better when it comes from the heart and not from a need to pay rent. I find myself questioning every action. Instead, I just take the commissions that I feel a spark for. I used to have a “custom work” page on my website, but I don’t solicit those offers anymore. A lot more time for experimenting.

How much do you charge for such works? And, as you currently have no originals for sale, only prints at Etsy, how much do original works cost?

Honestly every piece is different. I sell some for hundreds, some for many thousands, so its a hard question to answer… An average Ghost in the Machine piece is about $2500. The only prints I sell are letter size and A2. But the size of the originals range from 12 by 16, up to 40 by 60 inches, so there is a wide range.

Your other works, that I’ve seen at Flickr mainly, are also composite or altered works. Do you feel that will likely remain a part of your style, or do you feel that you’ll need to move on in a completely different direction at some point in time?

I don’t really define what I do by the medium. I feel like the running theme in my head is finding a story within a single object. Recursion and nested concepts are what fascinate me, so whether I’m painting or writing or doing any other creative activity I think this theme will remain.

Portrait of former Dodger's pitcher Fernando Valenzuela, made from an authentic major-league baseball, "grass stains and all."

When you are best known for a series, or when someone spots an older series, like Ghosts In Machines, how do you as an artist feel when you move onto another series, project or style of work?

It doesn’t bother me that I will probably never “out-do” the success of this series because I know the biggest thrill is the idea and execution rather than what other people think. The images will one day be played like that song on the radio that you’ve heard fifty times too many, but I will always remember what it felt like to hold something like that in my hands before the glue was even dry, having never sold a piece of artwork, knowing that I made something special.

Its nice that people are still interested though, I do appreciate it.

Bob Dylan by Erika Iris Simmons for AARP

At The Ungulate, we hear a lot about how “success” is at least partly defined as making a living in art; yet we also hear from artists who feel great frustration in the commercial aspects of that sort of success. Aside from not soliciting custom works as much as you once did, how do you plan to address or balance these issues for yourself as an artist?

I’ve never been interested in money – I threaten to quit art and go back to waiting tables any day! ha. But seriously, making art for a living is by far harder than I expected, and I feel I’m one of the lucky ones to have so much support and exposure. But some months I still barely scrape by. Don’t get me wrong; when it rains it pours. But its hard counting on the weatherman. In lieu of commissions I’m working with a stationary company for a little rolling income. The ‘m’ word: Merchandising. We’re still putting the website together – I don’t know a date it will be live…

But you’ll let us know, right?

Of course!

Until then, we can still marvel at the other works by Ericka Iris Simmons, and enjoy spotting them all sorts of places, like the Bob Dylan piece for the AARP.

Drawing People on your Fingers

Lately I keep finding these photos of characters people have drawn on their fingers. They are cute, some are even very clever.

I posted  two on my personal blog, Finger People and Finger Dancers.

I’m going to take this idea with me next time I visit my nieces. They will have a lot of fun, glad to have an excuse to draw on themselves. We will get out all the coloured markers, the construction paper too. I can make hats for them to cover the tip of each finger they draw a face on.

Here are some more. Mainly links to groups on Flickr where people have posted their own creations.

 

The New Sand Art

Pinup artist Charlene Lanzel has moved onto something new: Sand Art.

Charlene Lanzel’s Sand Artâ„¢ also known as sand animation, is beautiful to look at, but lasts only temporarily. Perhaps what makes this art form so appealing, aside from its beauty, is its fragility.

Sand art is the most compelling new art form to come around in decades. A new trend in art, sand art is a form of live sand painting which evolved from earlier sand animation films. Sand art is dynamic and requires the artist’s presence to happen.

…Charlene Lanzel’s sand art is done live onstage, where people can see the artist doing the performance in total darkness. A video camera is positioned over the glass table upon which the artist creates sand magic. Sand scattered on a light box is formed and reformed into ever changing shapes and images that tell visually powerful stories. Charlene creates these fluid illustrations for large audiences, with an overhead camera instantaneously projecting onto a large screen for the audience to see. It is a practice which uses the visual and aesthetic properties of sand to create a live animated image. Sand is a fluid material and its grains settle by chance, creating living images made of a single texture. This sand art makes life and time flow by, right in front of your eyes.

Charlene Lanzel’s sand art performance is rehearsed and choreographed to specially chosen live or recorded music, enhancing the mood.

And she’s got a Valentine for you:

My Strange Love of Jewelry

I have a strange relationship to jewelry. I really like it but I don’t actually wear it. I collect some, but I don’t have it displayed. My jewelry box is located on the top shelf of my messy closet. Right now I would have to move other things out of the way to be able to reach it and bring it down to see.

It’s ironic that I really do like jewelry. No one would guess of anyone who knows me. Maybe it has something to do with my self image, my weight and the way I feel about that. I don’t enjoy dressing up the way I used to. My idea of jewels I would actually wear are limited to things I can pin on my clothes rather than things I can wrap around my neck or wrists or have close to my face in any way.

I like to look at jewelry online. I look and window shop until I find something I love and then I keep the image of it and store it away on my computer hard drive. I have even begun a blog which lets me look at jewelry and post it for others who might actually have the money and self image to buy it (and then wear it!). I call the blog Divorce Darling. The name came from thinking of those glamorous ladies like the Gabor sisters, Mae West and the others who were known to go through men and divorces with flair, elegance and a good laugh at it all. So darling, that’s my story.

I’ve been finding a few jewelry designers as I look at jewelry online. There is some really nice work and some really average stuff. I noticed that a lot of the jewelry made for Etsy stores is all very much alike each other. They must all get the same kind of supplies and then are limited in what they can create different from each other. I’ve learned that you need to go farther than Etsy to find something really unique, glamorous and gorgeous. I don’t know which is the best I have found so far. Besides, everyone has their own taste and style so my favourite might leave someone else wondering what I liked about it so much. That’s how it goes.

Have you tried making jewelry? There are so many ways you can make a necklace: macrame, beading, just stringing something from a strip of leather turns it into a necklace. Necklaces are simple in that way. Chances are every woman has made a necklace at some point in her life. If I ever pull out my jewelry box I have several necklaces I have made over the years. I should give them to my nieces, someday, not quite yet… I’m hanging onto them for myself awhile still.

The Keratin Creatures Of Rachel Betty Case

Watching Oddities, I fell in love with the “human ivory” artwork of Rachel Betty Case.

“Human ivory” is what Case calls human fingernails, toenails, and pet nail clippings. I can appreciate her desire to want to prettify such mundane things, but when I hear “ivory” I think of carving and what Case does is extremely intricate assembly work, layering and sculpting our discarded keratin pieces into fantastic little creatures…

On the episode of Oddities where Case appeared, store staff member Ryan was creep-ed out by the works. (I find it strange, since he plays with skeletons; but maybe it’s just a girl thing, not to freak over nail clippings, what with our love of mani-pedis and all?) Apparently Ryan’s not the only one loathe to touch the artist’s work though because Case began encasing her tiny keratin sculptures in resin; much like those retro Lucite bug rings and such.

On the show, Case said each resin piece takes about a week to make.  Given how long resin can take to set, it makes me wonder how long it takes her to assemble each keratin critter?

Once I visited the artist’s website, I was particularly smitten with her placing the Human Ivory works inside altered art books.

Fascinatingly beautiful.

ISewCute Certainly Is (The Interview!)

Sometimes, when I’m interviewing someone, I’ll make them do all the work and ask them to define their work.  For the absolutely adorable artisan behind the equally charming isewcute, I asked her to define her work in just three words. I knew it would be hard, perhaps it was even unfair, but then I knew we’d have the rest of this interview to add plenty more words. So this is where we start…

Your jewelry – how would you describe it in 3 words? (Toughie, huh!)

Wicked tough! I suppose this will do: customizable, artisan-crafted, whimsical.

I see you had to cheat with a hyphen! lol I personally would have used “glittery” — but then that’s because I have a love/hate relationship with glitter. …As a girl, I’m a sucker for glitter; but as a mom, who finds that stuff more insidious than Easter grass and tinsel, I groan at the sight of it. But your stuff traps the glitter — forever shimmering, but never escaping! Which is a stroke of gleaming awesomeness.


Umm, that’s not a question… How’s this: Would your artisan superhero name include the word ‘glitter’?

You’d be safe with a finished piece… no glitter escapes!  Glitter is always a good thing — I just got done glittering my craft table last week & love how it turned out & submitted it to ikeahacker’s blog.

Yeah, my superhero name would have to include glitter on some level!

Have you ever thought of yourself as a superhero? Of your jewelry as being talismans against doom and gloom? Because I find most of them so sweet and full of kitschy goodness that whoever wears them can’t be anything but happy!

I’ve never considered myself a superhero. Not since saving a couple of elderly folks from a burning building — at 4 months old.  The house caught fire & I cried because of the smoke & woke everyone up & we all got out alright. True story!

I’m hoping my jewelry brings happiness to all who wear it.  Especially the real four leaf clover jewelry I make.  More than anything, I hope my little creations are loved & cherished. They don’t want to be hidden away in a drawer or jewelry box; they want to make the scene!

What inspires your designs?

My refusal to grow up completely & stay in touch with my inner child, my own children through which I’m reliving my childhood… An insatiable love of sparkly things… Show me something shiny & I’ll lose my train of thought. Cartoons, pinups, music, pop culture all have a hand in inspiring me along the way.

What are your most popular designs or themes?

As we discussed with the embroidery it’s the custom order type of work that’s most popular now. The possibilities are endless!

I have been making personalizeable name necklaces…hearts, and rectangles full of sprinkles, glitter, and beads spelling out names of BFF’s & boyfriends.

Also, my four leaf clover jewelry has been selling real well because there is no shop on Etsy like asluckwouldhaveit.

I find the clovers myself, with the help of my children, dry the clovers for a couple weeks, & then they’re all ready to become treasures to cherish. Nature makes the clovers & I do the rest.

FYI, if anyone friends me on Facebook through the month of November, they’ll be entered to win a four leaf clover heart pendant!

Have you ever made something you were certain would “fly off the shelves” but wasn’t well received?

Oh sure! I made a soldered glass pendant with a funny quote (or so I thought), but apparently nobody got my humor.

(I’m dying to see that!)

How would you describe your customer?

Playful & someone who likes to stand out & express themselves… Marching to their own music.

I’m pretty sure they’re skipping, not marching. And I like it more that way. But then I’m pretty biased; I’m an isewcute customer.

For more on isewcute, see my other interview — and check out the artist at her own blogs: I Sew Cute and As Luck Would Have It.

Can You Remember My Dream?

In Can You Remember My Dream?, by artist Julia Hepburn, lanterns of diorama dreams surround a nested bed.

Hepburn’s work was exhibited as Come Up To My Room, the annual alternative design event held at Toronto’s Gladstone Hotel.

See Also:

The artist’s own blog is Collection Hepburn.

An interview with the artist about the installation.

Lovely, Fancy Birdhouses

When birdhouses started coming out as a yard ornament of style I was glad. Until I realized many of them were not meant to actually be used by birds. The fancier houses with pretty colours and accessories will keep the birds away. Birds don’t trust birdhouses with a lot of extra trimmings and odd smells.

Wooden houses are best as the wood is able to breathe. However the wood inside the birdhouse should not be chemically treated as this could harm the birds. Make sure any birdhouse you use has ventilation to let in air and light and yet not so many access holes that predators can get in. Also, a birdhouse needs enough space inside for the growing family along with their nest. Different types of birds have different requirements for space and colours which attract them. Building (or even buying) a practical birdhouse is an art.

The North American native people are credited with starting birdhouses in North America. They created birdhouses out of gourds for martins to protect their drying meat and corn crops. They attracted the birds to be scarecrows.

This Flickr group for Old Birdhouses is my favourite link of those I found for birdhouses. I already love seeing and exploring old buildings, I never thought to look for a group about old birdhouses. I’ve seen a few during my explorations. Although, a farm or other property can be a abandoned, the birdhouses are more likely to be in use by birds when there are seldom any people around. So I can’t really think of birdhouses as abandoned, just aged and weathered.

For the bird lovers:

For the arts and crafts lovers:

Wild Birds Forever has a pretty cool bird feeder. It’s not a birdhouse but I love the idea of leaving fruit out for the birds in this way. Much simpler than a lot of feeders I have seen and very easy to keep it clean and restocked.

John Waters Says, “Contemporary Art Hates You …And Your Family Too”

I subscribe to Modern Painters, but just now got around to reading the September ’09 issue — despite the fabulous John Waters on the cover.

Mr. Waters need not take it personally; I just have a plethora of magazines to get through, and if they aren’t in the magazine rack in the bathroom, well, it just takes that much longer.

Such reading habits, and the fact that my family refer to the bathroom as “the library,” won’t upset Waters either. If you don’t know that, you don’t know Waters. And you certainly haven’t read the magazine feature, which discusses his contemporary art collection, including:

Over the toilet in the bathroom is a Mike Kelley piece that “really pisses people off,” but Waters asks me not to say why, since he writes about it in his book. Also in the bathroom are a funny “Queer Batman” watercolor by Mark Chamberlain and “a Brigid Berlin tit painting; she painted with her tits.”

In Baltimore, he says, “I have the Michael Jackson print by Gary Hume looking through a glory hole right in my hall, which is really scary. Plus, you can see it in the mirror, which is even worse.”

But more interesting, to me, than the art John Waters collects is the art John Waters makes.

Waters calls his art conceptual and says it’s about writing and editing. “Hardly am I Ansel Adams. Or sitting around with a pottery wheel, like in Ghost. The craft is not the issue here. The idea is. And the presentation.”

And I love the ideas and the presentation. Like this piece, part of his Rear Projection series which combines parts of four film-title stills to spell out: contemporary art hates you.

The work’s title amusing title is …And Your Family Too.

In the article, Lawrence Levi describes Waters’ work this way: “Much of his work pokes fun at the art and film worlds he inhabits, allowing him to be at once an insider and a heckler.”

And if you think Levi or I are reading into the art, here’s what the artist himself has to say about it:

The art world “is a secret club,” Waters says. “It is a language; you have to learn everything. You have to learn how to dress, you have to learn how to see it, you have to learn how to talk about it, you have to learn how to read about it. All of it is impenetrable to a newcomer, and it was to me too.”

So let the art of John Waters speak to you, your insecurity over the intimidating impenetrability of the art world — go ahead and laugh, even. But don’t forget to just open your eyes too:

In his 1998 film Pecker, when the laundromat worker played by Christina Ricci tells her photographer boyfriend, played by Edward Furlong, “I don’t understand any of that art crap,” he replies sincerely, “You could if you just open your eyes.” But as his feelings about impenetrability suggest, Waters has no problem with elitism.

PS The book mentioned — which will contain the story of a Mike Kelley artwork above the toilet that “really pisses people off” — is Role Models; it’s to be published in May, 2010.

PPS I’d just like to say, that when discussing anything John Waters, you’re bound to mention bathroom artwork that piss-es people off, as well as “glory holes,” penetration issues, and the word “pecker.”  And I loved it.

Art Dolls

This photo comes from GreenMarie on Flickr.

This photo comes from GreenMarie on Flickr.

Taken literally, an art doll could be a pile of rocks with some kind of face created on it. Art dolls can be far more unique and extraordinary than the traditional dolls we (most of us) grew up with. Some of them are just as cute, sweet and adorable as our wonderful cuddly Raggedy Ann dolls. (My Mother made my Raggedy Ann and others, but I still have Ann).  Some of them take pride in being ugly and yet in some odd way they are still lovable, if you give them a chance.  Then, there are some gruesome dolls, the kind of doll that may give a child nightmares. Just imagine waking up with one of those on the pillow next to you.

Art dolls can be made out of anything: fabric, paper, clay, etc. There are standards for being human in basic structure. They may be missing an eye or have a misshapen face, but there is still a face of some kind.

I admit to having a soft spot for the cloth dolls, like my old Raggedy Ann with the grey hair my Mother gave her. Now and then when I’m shopping at a thrift store I pick out a new outfit for old Ann. I find something in great shape still and yet not something anyone is likely to buy for a child to wear. After all, Ann is still just a doll. But, lucky for her, her clothes always fit and last forever since she never gets them stained and they only seem to need a little brushing off now and then.

If you were making an art doll what kind would you create?

Art Doll Groups:

Does anyone know of more international or regional groups outside of North America? I tried to find them but no luck.

Photos, galleries and ideas for making some art dolls of your own:

The image used with this post comes from Green Marie.

Tamar Stone On Inspiration

I can’t get enough of artist Tamar Stone — her corset and bed books inspire me so much!

societies-corset-book-by-tamar-stone

a-very-safe-place-artist-bokk-by-tamar-stone

With all these projects and interests, I knew she’d collect lots of stuff, but I wanted to know more about what the artist draws from…

studio-desk-wall-artist-tamar-stoneI collect a lot of books, images etc. However, because of limited space and finances, I also go to the NY Public Library to do research with their really old books. Before you could find things on-line, I used to go to the library to do a lot of patent research (something I learned while being a para-legal) — and learning how to read a patent’s family history — to get you to other resources.

With the internet, so much stuff is online — but a lot of it is low-res, which I can’t really use, and also you have to make sure the images are in the public domain (due to copyright issues).

As with my latch-hook rug, works are inspired by my travels.

One of my hobbies is “Polaroiding dolls on the road,” which I’ve turned into paper books from Polaroids. I also have a series of bathrooms/outhouses along the road… And meals on the road… But I haven’t had the money to turn those into books (all the scanning of those is just so time consuming, and I rather just keep moving ahead with the sewing projects).

dolls-on-the-road-v2-tamar-stone

You can get copies of Tamar Stone’s books at PrintedMatter.org: Dolls on the Road: The Barbie and Ken Series. Vol. 1, Dolls on the Road: Baby Dolls and Others. Vol. 2. And you can visit Tamar Stone’s website to keep up-to-date on the artist and her projects.