The Studio of Eric Valosin

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Just Another Day of Marionette Shadow Puppet Tai-Chi

Yesterday was one of those days in the studio that reminds me why I'm an artist.  One of those days where if anybody else walked into my studio they'd ask why I was doing marionette shadow puppet Tai-Chi.  You know those days.  The kind that makes you stop and think to yourself, "I can't believe this is how I just spent the day and it's actually considered work!"

The backstory goes something like this:  As I investigated Plato's take on Idealism, I was drawn to his famous cave wall allegory, and decided to construct his ideal forms.

I was then faced with the immediate dilemma of what to do with them!  In true Platonic fashion, I decided to project their shadows onto the "cave wall" of my canvas as the basis for the beginnings of my drawing/painting.  But in order to do that, I needed 2 things:  1) A light.  2) A way to get the shadow of the platonic forms on the canvas without the shadow of me holding the platonic forms in front of said light!

So, I slinked over to the undergrad art building, Calcia, on a mission for a light to "borrow."  Tipped off by the former director of the MFA program, I put on my "trust me I'm supposed to be here" face and went into the drawing studio, full of students watching me fumble around with one of those large lamps in a cage sitting on a giant yellow tripod, as they prepare for a class.  Mission accomplished (awkwardly, maybe, but nonetheless accomplished).  ...Returning the light was a different story, considering when I tried to bring it back to the classroom they were there in the midst of their class, complete with nude model.  Lets here it for friends who TA in the room across the hall and are willing to safeguard a lamp until the nude model next door disappears!

Then, back in my studio, I set out to solve dilemma 2 by jerry-rigging a sort of fishing rod pulley apparatus out of a stretcher bar and fishing line, by which I could manipulate the rotation of the Platonic form as it dangles in front of the light.

I attached the top of the form to the middle of the stretcher via the fishing line.  Then, by attaching a line to the bottom of the form, then threading it through the slit at the end of the bar (my pulley mechanism) I could then pull it with my left hand (holding the bar in my right) and spin the form.  The following Tai-Chi ensued for the next several hours as a camera filmed the canvas.  Heres the behind the scenes, set perhaps all too appropriately to Thom York's lyrics, "You can try the best you can... The best you can is good enough!"

I'm excited for the ridiculousness that is sure to comprise the rest of this piece.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Out of the Cave and Into the Light

I've been thinking a lot about idealism and its inextricability from spirituality, and I was struck as if by the lightening of Aletheia with inspiration for my next project!  (Sadly the degree to which that bastardization of Heidegger ties this blog post in with previous posts is only overshadowed by the degree to which it makes me a dork.)

A bit of preliminary research on Idealism yielded some interesting findings.  Idealism, of course, stems from "idea," from the Greek idein a word meaning "seeing," developed by Plato in his search for truth.  For Plato the ideal lies in an archetypal absolute that is somewhat dissociated from the objects we encounter; a neumenological entity distinct from our phenomenological world.  His notion of the idea grasps at this neumena in the famous shadows-on-a-cave-wall example.  Eventually, this all develops into the Neoplatonist basis for many Christian theologies.  The wonderful cohesion of this visual struck me, as you will see.

If we trace the history of projection (the medium by which I've been most enraptured of late) back to its origins, we find that it is actually profoundly spiritual.  The first true slide projector was given the name Hyalotype, after the Greek hyalo.  At first, this word is translated to mean "glass mosaic," but upon closer inspection, it more likely would have referred to stained glass.  This means that the creators of this projector harken the very first notion of a projection to sunlight projecting colors through stained glass.  The reason stained glass is so popular in churches is because of the inherent spiritual metaphor that exists upon viewing it:  the bodies of viewers beneath the glass are literally warmed and transformed into the color of the divine image projected onto them, in a sort of imago dei type transferral.  Thus, projection itself is already loaded with spiritual implications.  Add to that Plato's vague shadows projected onto the wall by the light cast onto the ideal form - the idea - and we have something profound:

The experience of spirituality IS the struggle for idealism; the grasping at the true neumenal idea gathered from the vague phenomenological shadows cast onto the walls of pragmatism around us!

Plato discribes 5 ideal forms that he supposes must comprise all of the rest of matter, a sort of rudimentary atomic theory.  Each of these forms, he figured, must be perfect in that they are only comprised of repeated regular geometric forms:

(naturally tongues of fire would be made of pointy pyramids, solid earth from cubes, slippery water from ball-like icosahedron, and so on.)

So where has this led my imagination?

For my next White Canvas Video project I'll begin by constructing these forms and filming the projection of their shadows onto a canvas.  The shadowy shapes will gradually become the basis for my painting and drawing on the canvas as it evolves through a stop motion animation of layering.  (Which nicely ties into painting and drawing's origins - a grasping at control of forms on none other than the cave wall!)  Ultimately images will arise and a tension between neumenological idealism and phenomenological pragmatism will develop, as I visually construct the ideal in the way an artist draws, while constructing the pragmatic in the way nature would grow it (i.e. an ideal house being drawn with the infinite possibilities of shapes and lines and color, rather than the pragmatic house built up brick upon brick to form walls).

I'll continue to let the narrative be open as I try to practice a prayerful, meditative openness, and see where the film/painting goes.  Ultimately it will return to white, being that the search for idealism is essentially a preparation towards a starting point.  Only when one can believe unwaveringly in the ideal can one truly be open to the workings of the spirit.  Then the spirit can begin it's work.

I'm hoping to resolve some of the other issues I've had in my previous White Canvas Videos as well, making parts of the canvas highly textural for a stronger visual relationship between canvas and projected image.  I'll also take more liberties as a film editor rather than adhering to the regimented staccato of my previous works.  

I'm very interested to see where this all leads!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Why Artists Should Rule the World

I'm told there's an art to making window displays.  While I believe that to be true, I also believe that this artistic thoughtfulness is not always employed, or that artists are not actually in charge of making these decisions.  Case in point:  

If an artist were truly in charge, window displays would never look like this.  ...Or maybe they would always look like this.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Plays Well With Others

As I continue to diligently update this blog daily ["...?"] to keep you all abreast of up-to-the-minute developments ["... um ..."], I figured I'd share this little project from late this December ["...oh, sarcasm."].  I did something that I never thought would be possible - I collaborated on an art project with my wife, and refrained from prompting the apocalypse!  Heather had the idea to make a painting for our good friends Mike and Mark as a Christmas gift.  I was naturally skeptical.  Considering the last time we tried to co-write a song together it resulted in more hours of damage control and apologies than were put into the arrangement, I had my trepidation about our ability to collaborate on an art project (rather, I had my trepidation on MY ability to collaborate on a visual art project with a non-visual artist and not try to micromanage it and end up doing it all myself, thereby making said non-visual artist extremely ticked off!)  Factor in the fact that it was December 23rd when we started this Christmas project, and my projections were bleak.  I even consulted artist Jaqueline Humphries during a studio visit, having mentioned a collaborative video-painting she did with her husband.  She affirmed that it was indeed both extremely successful artistically and extremely trying relationally!

But, believe it or not, we actually did it!!

Below you'll see the product, incorporating paint and collage (my wife's preferred medium) in a mutually designed composition that pulls together many of the things that comprise our relationship with them.  And believe it or not, she did do some painting and I did do some collaging, making it as much a true collaboration as you could ask for!   But most astoundingly, when we worked on it, there was nothing but merriment in the air!  (To make up for it, we argued about nearly everything else outside of this project for the two days or so we spent on it!) 

So let that be a lesson to all you skeptics out there:  it IS possible to team up with your spouse on an artistic collaboration and still be happily married afterwards!  ...It just takes quite a bit of intentionality.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Idealism Deficit Disorder

I think I'm suffering from IDD.  I've noticed this waning sense of Idealism ever since graduating college, and it's only been augmented by the balancing act of grad school, work, a studio practice, and a pregnant wife (that's right!  If you haven't heard, June 23rd I will have created my greatest collaborative work to date!!)  I've always seen the world as full of imaginative possibilities and held little fear of failure, since failure was, for all intents and purposes, largely imaginary as well.  With no real bottom threatening beneath the safety nets of youth, idealism freely soars over the realm of practicality and responsibility.  Part of this loss probably stems from a currently stagnating spiritual life that has perhaps become overly analytical and theoretical rather than trusting and emotional.  But this also is a product, I suspect, of the fact that most art does not make sense in a pragmatic setting, yet things like feeding your family and health benefits are harder to come by in a fanciful, dream-chasing idealism.  As I navigate art school, I often feel caught between the clash of pragmatism and idealism.  Drop all sense of responsibility, through yourself into the blindness of your faith, and devote yourself wholly and unbalanced to your artwork and this fanciful quest for culture?  Or settle for halfhearted artwork in order to preserve the time and resources necessary to preserve a marriage and raise a family in a stabile environment?  A coworker of mine recently noted that the common thread in the biographies of famous people is that they were wholly and singularly preoccupied with their field, at the cost of nearly everything else in life.  I fear that the striving for balance is also a death sentence to greatness.

This tension mirrors all to closely the uncomfortable place we often find ourselves spiritually, torn between the call magic and the lure of safety.  Pragmatism is the all-too-convincing adversary of nearly every great social and spiritual advancement, and yet there needs to be a framework by which to sustain such idealism.  My friend recently summed up the whole reason for this blog quite nicely by adapting Thomas Mann's assessment of writers:
"Painters are not people who love to paint.  They are people for whom painting is harder than it is for normal people."
I find lately that no sooner do I have a brilliant inspiration for a project than I discover 5 conceptual reasons why it's not worth following through on.  Sometimes I envy people who don't think too hard about things.