Saturday, December 29, 2012

Postcards, Treasures, and Art from the Heart

I've been doing artwork.  I had the opportunity this month to participate in several gallery shows here in Truth or Consequences.  

One was an annual Postcard Show at the Happy Belly Deli.  Last year, I just missed this one because I decided to go spend the winter in Arizona, and I was busy packing and getting ready to leave when the artwork was needed.  So I was really pleased to participate this year.  All of the work had to be 4 x 6 inches, in any media just so long as it could be attached to a wall fairly easily. I did the four doodly mandalas shown above.  

I got interesting feedback from several friends--one asked me if I used to be one of those nerdy artsy girls in high school who doodled on all of her notebooks.  "Why, yes, I was."  

Another friend, Brian Many Wheels, suggested maybe I'd done too much peyote in my youth.  "Well, no, I never tried that, perhaps I would've devoted more of my life to art sooner if I had?"  Then I reminded him of his earlier observation:  "I really like your art, Sue, but I wouldn't want to be inside your head."  Ha!  Brian bought the green postcard and has it in his Chinooky van for his current travels.

About the same time the postcards were due at the Deli, the "Treasures of Truth or Consequences" show was hung at Grapes, a nice big gallery on Main Street.  I played around with several different media for that show.  

This is a dry collage and acrylic paint representation of the Black Cat Books and Coffee logo.  Black Cat is a wonderful little used bookstore, one of the first places I experienced here last year that made me realize that TorC was "home."  I visited the store on my way through town when I was heading all the way to the East Coast, checking out various places I might want to live.  When I got back here a few months later, one of the customers overheard me tell Rhonda, the store owner, that I had just moved here, and she invited me to come sit with her and her friends.  That's the kind of place the Black Cat is, and that's why it was my first choice of subjects for the "Treasures of Truth or Consequences" art show.


Here's another dry collage and acrylics mixed media piece I did for the same show, called "We are the Water."  The mineral hot springs here in TorC are one of our country's secret treasures.  If people realized how inexpensively they could vacation or live here, while frequently "taking the waters," this town would be growing like Phoenix.  Fortunately, just a few of us find it and move here each year.  

Dry collage is an easy technique for successful mixed media pieces.  When I've done traditional collage using various types of glue, I've sometimes had paper bubble or become transparent or even regress to pulpiness.  (That is, the paper does these things...I usually don't.)  Dry collage preserves the integrity of all of the elements and the final work.  

Whatcha do is coat all of the pieces you want to put in your collage with acrylic medium (I bought a thick liquid type rather than the gel), let them dry, and repeat on the other side.  You also coat your canvas (or wood or paper, whatever you choose as a background) with acrylic medium. Then, using release paper (the slick paper that's on the back of labels or Contac paper), you can iron all of your pieces into place. If you've coated everything well, there are no bubbles and no corners or edges that pop up.  I totally love this technique and will be using it a lot in the future. 

One of the things I love about collage is the subtle or not so subtle use of subtext.  People looking at my Black Cat or Water pictures from a bit of a distance won't notice, but those looking closer will see that the backgrounds are all words.  The Black Cat collage has scores of poems about coffee in the background, which I stained with strong coffee and coffee rings.  The Water picture has wall tiles as a background, and the tiles are made of articles from scientific journals or newspapers.  Some of the words are about local controversies on who has the rights to the water.   

Another new-to-me technique that I used for the "Treasures" show is drywall mud carving.  I learned about this when I was on vacation up in Jemez Springs this summer.  I saw some work by an artist named Kristin Mendenhall that just knocked my socks off.  She coated pieces of wood with joint compound, also known as drywall mud.  Then after the mud had almost completely dried, she would re-wet some areas with a sponge or spray bottle and carve designs into the mud.  Later she thinned down some acrylic paints and used them to lightly color different areas of the picture.  

Kristin mostly does pictures of pottery, fruit, and flowers.  I could tell from her work that she was a former potter.  We talked and she said, yes, she no longer wanted to be tied down by a wheel, kiln, and all that shelving.  Dry wall mud carving was a great find for her, and she's developed the technique way beyond anything you'll find in print or online about it.  How lucky for me to happen to walk into the co-op gallery on the day Kristin happened to be working the desk!

The picture above is my drywall mud carving of El Cortez, our local movie theater.  I called it "Enjoy the Movie!", because that's what the theater owners' kids always say right before the show begins.

This picture is another drywall mud carving.  I call it "All Who Broke Down Here and Stayed," because the people of Truth or Consequences are its greatest treasure, and many people arrived here exactly that way.  
After getting these pieces to Grapes Gallery in early December, I took a little breather from creating artwork and worked hard at the retail biz at January's art and antiques gallery while also enjoying a long visit from Steve, who stayed through Christmas.  We had some interesting items come in at January's from consignors, including one person's lifelong collection of pigs which I spent about three weeks pricing.  Pig Christmas tree ornaments, piggy banks, pig shaped cutting boards, you name it, she had it.  We had one entire 9-foot Christmas tree that had only pig ornaments, and it was packed!  People loved it, and bought a lot of pigs.  Steve and Sonja did not work retail:

Then it was time to start gearing up for the next gallery show, which will start early next month at January's gallery.  The theme is "Art from the Heart," and the work can be about any aspect of love, romance, or related symbols.  I've done four pieces for the show and may do more.  Briefly the completed works are:  

An untitled "love the Earth" mandala--mixed media

Another mixed media, called "Warm Hands, Chile Heart"

"Black Heart Mandala," framed colored pencil on cardstock, above; and "Heart Mandala," also framed colored pencil on cardstock, below.

The latest development in my life here in TorC is my recent decision to forego having a part-time job.  After about three months of working for January, which I enjoyed immensely, I realized that I was feeling a constant and growing sense of financial worry.  It's hard to make ends meet working at a hair over minimum wage, and I couldn't ask January for more money, because she's recently expanded her store and has a lot of new expenses to deal with.  So I decided to put all of my energy and efforts into my other streams of income:  Selling on eBay; continuing to consign antiques and vintage clothing at January's store; and making art.  Fortunately, January is a good friend in addition to having been my employer, and she sees the wisdom in my decision and supports it.  

I loved bringing my skills to work at January's, but now I'm putting all that time and energy into my own business.  So, since Christmas, I've been listing auctions on eBay like crazy, and it's already paying off.  Who knew that a little metal wastebasket that I paid a buck for at the thrift store would sell for over $20?!  To me, selling on eBay and doing consignment at January's is great fun--I get the thrill of the chase, I get to shop even though I don't need anything myself, and then it's like gambling to wait and see how much return I get on my investment, except I don't lose money like I do when I actually go to a casino to gamble. 

Next episode?  My son Sly is coming to visit me, just about exactly a year after his last visit, and a very changed guy.