When The New Normal Makes No Sense

Pepper MillIf you were around in the 1970s, you probably had the experience of going to a restaurant and, after your salad or whatever was placed before you, a waiter came over with a giant pepper mill offering you fresh ground pepper.  And, no doubt, you were so intrigued by this odd offer that you accepted having no idea of the results.

Now you are probably wondering “What does this have to do with housing”.  Well, everything, but give me a moment to explain.  I am one of the zillions of people who have replaced my good old standard pepper shaker with a pepper mill.  I have probably owned my current pepper mill for about 7 years.  It has only recently occurred to me how often I run out of pepper corns and how every time I go to buy them I

complain to myself about the price.  At the market today, I have once again found myself in that situation and opted for a can of good old fashioned ground black pepper.  Is there a difference in taste?  Well, probably to the most discerning palate, which I do not have.  I put pepper on my food purely for the aesthetics.  The little black specs somehow makes whatever I am eating look more appealing. But more importantly is this question:  at what point did freshly ground pepper from a mill become the norm in our kitchens?Continue reading “When The New Normal Makes No Sense”

Thoughts on McMansions and Suburbia

CCHP Logo
Hello!

When going through an old sketch book, I came across some notes from March of 2000. The notes basically talk about an experience I had in a printmaking studio on one day when, strangely, nobody else was using the press.  I had made two small etching plates of these goofy looking houses.   The reason I made the goofy looking houses was because this is around the time that McMansions were being built at a record pace.  These houses always looked so strange to me because they were over sized homes on way too small lots.  Nothing like the big beautiful stately mansions you see with lovely grounds and mature trees that can be seen on the Philadelphia Main Line and other areas of the country.

March 2000 journal
Sketchbook Notes from March, 2000

So with the press all to myself, I embarked on a frantic pace of inking and printing these etching plates on pieces of very tiny paper.  The irony of this mad printing session was how I was banging out these etchings  as quickly as developers seemed to be building them and the very small pieces of paper sort of mimicked the very small lots on which these houses were being built.  I no longer have the plates, or any of the prints that came from this session as they were very poor quality (and I also have to wonder about the quality of those homes!)

Suburbia the future
Back of Sketchbook Notes from March, 2000

 

Anyway, the other part of this story is how suburbs have become more than just bedroom communities.  As more people moved out of the city, companies soon followed as well as recreational activities and shopping.  It seems that the suburbs became more crowded than the cities.  The above sketch was my interpretation of where the suburbs were headed.

 

Back to the Drawing, no, Printing Board!

So basically I am a printmaker.  At least that was how I was known where I lived for many years. Of course I did other work, but for some reason, even before I started only working in printing, I was referred to as a printmaker.

I have not pulled a print for almost 2 years.  When I moved, I sold my beloved printing press and all of my show inventory has since been liquidated.   So when I was asked by a local organization if I would donate something I had a challenge as I had nothing to give.  The challenge was to print by hand, something I have not done in many many years and did not even have the right equipment for.  Yes, there is always the old back of a large spoon, but to get a really clean print, you need something a bit more high end.

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Set up for printing

Continue reading “Back to the Drawing, no, Printing Board!”

A New Version of an Old Favorite

Last week I went to visit my grandson.  I wanted to buy him a toy and I thought of the Fisher Price radio from days gone by.   I could not find that version of a radio but I stumbled upon this radio by Baby Einstein.  But it does not play the typical “Twinkle twinkle”, nope, this radio plays tunes by Mozart, Vivaldi, and Rossini to name a few.  I think it plays 8 tunes in all.  Though I recognized all the tunes, the only titles I knew were the William Tell Overture and Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.  And they were not whiny tinny sounds but very pleasing.  The radio also lights up and I love the happy wiggly worm on top.Baby Radio

Continue reading “A New Version of an Old Favorite”

Installation Art: Any Back Yard

Window on Broad
Any Back Yard, 2006 

I have talked on and off about installation art and mentioned a few pieces I have done in this medium.  One of my favorite installations I have made is Any Back Yard.  This installation was on view at the University of the Arts Window on Broad for the month of April, 2006.  The “window” is a deep space (think department store type window space) that faces a busy street. The installation is about attracting birds to an urban yard.

Personal symbols in artwork is another topic I touched on and laundry is another such symbol for me.  Laundry hanging out to dry is an everyday site in a city so it is no wonder such imagery was stuck in my mind.Continue reading “Installation Art: Any Back Yard”

Intro to the Cookie Cutter House Project & Beginning the Artwork

box and mug
Box and mug from Julie

The Cookie Cutter House Project is based on a number of things.  Houses and buildings appeared in my former work because I lived in an old, large city and became part of my subconscious.   Recently, I moved to a totally new environment comprised of a mix of rural and suburban landscape. Overdevelopment and a lack of housing for the booming population are major concerns. In addition, when I did move, I left the only place I ever knew as “home” and I believe this project is helping me address and possibly redefine my thoughts on home and community. Continue reading “Intro to the Cookie Cutter House Project & Beginning the Artwork”

Installation Art

Window on Broad
Any Back Yard, 2006

Probably the first thing I should do here is describe Installation Art for readers who may have heard the term (or maybe not) but never quite knew what it was.  Installation art is a themed exhibition that takes up an entire space, is temporary, and generally is not marketable unless an institution purchases the whole installation for its permanent collection.

My first memorable experience with installation art was sometime around 1990 at the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, New Hampshire.  My family was there visiting my mother, who had relocated there a few years earlier.  I cannot recall who the artist was or the exact message, but I do recall the work was making a statement about trees, possibly the exploitation of trees?  Anyway, I was very impressed how this artist used the medium to present a message.   A second installation that impressed me was on display at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.  It was was a map of the local rivers, streams, creeks, as well as ones that no longer existed.  The map was made of glasses filled with water (or turned upside down if the waterway no longer existed). The size of the glass seemed to represent the size of the waterway.Continue reading “Installation Art”

The Origins of the Cookie Cutter House Project ~ Part 3

2.Tenament with Bird Nest - side 1
Tenement, Circa 2008, Private collection

Some where in the early 2000s, my imagery and the associated symbols in my work took a turn away from buildings and houses.  When they did show up, they tended to be less of the main point and more part of an entire message.  Around this time I became interested in book arts and installations.  Installation art, which is what the Cookie Cutter Project will be, is an interesting art form and something you can read about  here.   Though the artwork is still a mixture of media, installation and book arts, by their nature, are three dimensional.

The first piece on this post, Tenement, can be called a sculpture, or three dimensional print, or a book depending on your definition of such work. It is made from three small boxes covered with etchings I made of (what else?) buildings! On the very top of this piece, a paper birds nest sits and is embellished by another ubiquitous personal symbol in my work, a TV antennae.

 

Continue reading “The Origins of the Cookie Cutter House Project ~ Part 3”

The Origins of the Cookie Cutter House Project ~ Part 2

Mountainside Village
Mountainside Village, circa 1990s, Private collection

My work process started to include a variety of papers, many of which I made or altered by painting or printmaking techniques.  I have tried a number of different surfaces but paper remains my favorite to this day.  The satisfaction of making paper and altering the surfaces of manufactured paper resulted in my including other materials in my work such as stitching and wire.  The house and building imagery increased and also seemed to go from grand buildings (as in the cut paper work in my last post) to singular structures and small groups of less grand buildings. Other samples of this work are shown in this post.

Continue reading “The Origins of the Cookie Cutter House Project ~ Part 2”

The Origins of the Cookie Cutter House Project ~ Part 1

Neon Nights
Neon Nights, 1989, Cut paper collage, Private collection

Houses and buildings have long been represented in my artwork.  I believe that even though certain imagery may remain in an artist’s work, the meaning of those images can change over time.  When I teach, I often refer to such imagery as personal symbols.

When I first started putting buildings in my work, it was obvious to me that it was because this was part of my everyday scenery.  I lived in a very large city and you saw row after row of houses and blocks and blocks of buildings.  This post shows some samples of my work from the late 1980s which was all made of cut paper, down to the smallest detail.  I truly believe I would not currently have the patience to work in this medium. 

Continue reading “The Origins of the Cookie Cutter House Project ~ Part 1”