KMUW Final Friday

I had a great time at the Final Friday reception for my exhibit at KMUW. I’d like to thank everybody who came out to say hello. A special thanks to the wonderful people at KMUW for being such gracious hosts. They even let Sarah, Adam and myself in the booth to record messages in support of the fall fund drive.

I handed the camera to Adam and asked him to be my official photographer for the night. Here’s a little sampling of what he captured.

                        

My Happy Place

One of the great things about living in Wichita is that we have a first-rate public radio station. KMUW FM 89.1 offers all of the best national programming combined with award-winning local and regional news, compelling local commentary and excellent, locally-produced music features.

I created My Happy Place to support KMUW’s 2017 fall pledge drive. Go to KMUW.org to find out more about how you can support this great radio station and get a mug or a t-shirt decorated with my art.

  

I currently have an exhibition of my recent prints in the conference room of the KMUW studio, located at 121 N. Mead, Suite 200, in Wichita’s Old Town. Please join me there on Final Friday, August 25th, from 6-8p.m. I’ll look forward to seeing you!

The Making of American Boy

American Boy is the digital collage I made for my stint as a guest artist at Tilt Union screen printing studio. I thought it would be fun to show all of the pieces and parts that went into the composition. The elements include my own photography from family trips and objects photographed in my studio, a few scans, and the Mayflower Descendants logo that I found online. The main image is a photo of my son, Adam, taken at the top of the dome at the Kansas State Capital building in Topeka. My son is a British-German (from Russia)-Egyptian-Indian (from India)-Canadian-American, so the idea was to include elements from all of these varied cultures.

      

        

It’s been a few years, but back when I was working as the shop artist for a screen printing company, my duties also included making film and burning screens. We used large copy cameras to photograph the art onto line film to burn our screens. I would sometimes play with using bracketed exposures from the camera to create posterizations of continuous tone photos (or even actual objects placed on the copyboard). This was well before I was doing anything on a computer, but nowadays, the Threshhold adjustment in Photoshop is what I used to create the same effect on American Boy.

I was also tasked with creating a smaller, one-color bonus image for the workshop. To do this, I decided to use all of the same collage elements used in American Boy. However, I left out my son’s photo, and instead made the elephant the focus of the composition. The image, titled American Elephant, was printed on two different colors of paper.

Tilt Union Workshop

I had a great time at my Tilt Union screen printing workshop back in April. My crew was Kim, Meghan, Juanta, Jordan, Adrian and Giselle – and, of course, Brad Ruder, the boss. Brad talked a little about the process, I talked a little about my design, then we set about the business of printing the final color on American Boy.

            

We also printed the smaller, one-color bonus print, American Elephant. Then I signed and numbered everything and Brad used his awesome cutter to trim them out so everybody could take their prints home with them at the end.

    

Tilt Union Workshop – the Setup

Back in April, Brad Ruder invited me to be a guest artist at one of his Tilt Union screen printing workshops. For the occasion I created American Boy, a portrait of my son, Adam, which focuses on his multicultural roots. American Boy is a digital collage that I composited on my computer at home. I turned the high-resolution file over to Brad, who created the color separations and burned the screens. On the day before the workshop, Adam and I went over to Tilt Union to approve ink colors and help Brad set up and print the first colors.

          

Quietly Working

I’ve been quiet lately, but it doesn’t mean I haven’t been busy. Okay, it’s true that for most of the year I’ve been busy with things that aren’t necessarily art-related. But that’s changing. In June, the amazing Brad Ruder asked if I’d be interested in doing a printmaking show with him at Newman University’s Steckline Gallery in September. Of course, I said yes. And for the past several weeks I’ve been feverishly carving linoleum, building collagraph plates and printing.

IMG_8784IMG_7676IMG_8850

Hard-Pressed and Pulled, which opens on Final Friday, September 30th, will include Brad and myself, as well as Doug Billings, Kathleen Shanahan, Gregory Folken and Travis Russel. I’m thrilled to be included with this group and am excited to have some brand new prints to show. Okay, now I have to get back to work.

IMG_8828IMG_8856IMG_8849

Frankenpress

In late August, just about the time I was ready to buy myself an etching press for my home studio, I had the opportunity to bring home a partial press that had been sitting unused on a counter for at least 10 years. It was missing the bed and handles, but I figured it was worth the effort to try to get it working.

IMG_6342 IMG_6344

1505M-40-60-300x249The press was made by Holbein – a Japanese company that was formed just before the turn of the last century, taking its name in the 1930s from the famous German painter. Judging by the 4″ diameter, 13″ wide roller, I determined that what I had was their medium model (1505-M40) press. This press can still be found on-line selling for $2775. The original bed would have been a 13″x26″ iron plate, but I decided right away that I wanted a phenolic bed.

I thought it would be a simple matter of having a piece of phenolic cut for the bed, but when I started calling around for pricing, I realized there were quite a few different types and grades of phenolic. So I emailed a few press manufacturers and asked them specifically what material they used for their beds. Tom Conrad at Conrad Machine replied to ask what I needed the material for, and a few emails back-and-forth later, he told me he could make me a press bed out of scrap .75″ material from their larger presses for about $100. I gave him the go-ahead and by late September, I had a press bed.

IMG_6506 IMG_6503

Getting a set of handles proved to be a bit more of a challenge. First I emailed Holbein America to check on the availability of replacement parts. Eventually, they put me in touch with John Bates at Vermont Art Supply. John spent a fair amount of time and effort trying to locate me some handles. The one set he shipped to me turned out to be too small…

IMG_6510 IMG_6512

… but he allowed me to return them for a full refund. Basically, what it came down to was that they would have had to open a crate and rob a set of handles off a perfectly good press to get me what I needed.

So I went to plan B. In a town that has manufactured items ranging from the Boeing B-29 to the Vornado fan, I didn’t think it would be too hard to find someone in Wichita to make me some handles. So after a few more emails and phone calls, I ended up at a blue metal building next to the railroad tracks on the north end of Broadway. Craig at Pumphrey Machine made me a perfect set of stainless steel handles for just under $100. By Thanksgiving weekend, I had my press up and running and was working on printing Christmas cards.

IMG_6849 IMG_6850

Tom Conrad told me “I think I might have done one or two Holbein press beds in the last 40 years,” so I may not have the only Holbein/Conrad etching press around. But I’m pretty sure I do have the only Holbein/Conrad press with Pumphrey handles.IMG_6851

IMG_6852

Weird Shapes

This is the presentation that I gave at the Wichita Art Museum‘s Art Chatter on Friday, October 9th. Art Chatter follows the PechaKucha format, where each presenter is limited to 20 slides, 20 seconds per slide, so I’m not sure how well this will come across as a blog post. But here goes.

Weird_Shapes_art_chatter_03-01.jpg

While remodeling our kitchen in 2010, my son, Adam, inspired me to create a painting using a broken scrap of panelling. When I framed out the panel following the broken edge, I though I had stumbled on something new for myself in my work.

Weird_Shapes_art_chatter_03-02.jpg

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I’ve working with weird shapes for a long time. So, now I’d like to explore the origins of this interest and show some examples from my work over the years. The finished painting on the right is called “The Dynamic Duo.”

Weird_Shapes_art_chatter_03-03.jpg

When you have 10 children, you have to be resourceful. Mom would sometimes sew our clothes on her old Singer sewing machine. And of course those clothes would be handed down through the ranks. There are 5 years of age between my brother, John, and I, so you know that shirt had a nice long life.

Weird_Shapes_art_chatter_03-04.jpg

Dad was of the generation who would build or fix just about anything. After retiring from a long stint with the State of North Dakota, his first project was to re-shingle the roof of our house. So it was my own family that inspired me to be a maker, a builder, a tinkerer.

Weird_Shapes_art_chatter_03-05.jpg

Dad was a WWII veteran, and though he was in the infantry, I was fascinated with every aspect of that era, in particular the aircraft. This is a spread from a book that I’ve had since I was a kid. Of the many plastic airplane models I built, the Corsair was one of my favorites.

Weird_Shapes_art_chatter_03-06.jpg

I don’t want to embarrass myself too much, but here are a couple of works from my undergraduate days, mostly to show that I was already starting to think a little bit outside the rectangle. On the left is a self-portrait using model airplane parts, and on the right a painting project using a street sign and a hubcap. Both of these are from the late 1980s.

Weird_Shapes_art_chatter_03-07.jpg

I spent many, many hours of my Catholic church-going youth examining the details of the Gothic architecture, the sculptural stations of the cross, and the beautiful if intimidating stained-glass windows. This is St. Mary’s Catholic church in Bismarck, N.D., where I grew up.

Weird_Shapes_art_chatter_03-08.jpg

My MFA thesis show at Wichita State University in 1993 was a mix of prints, drawings and sculptural works like the piece on the right called “Reliquary for the Little Man”. It was made of plexiglas and steel, with a button that activates a light underneath layers of screen-printed plex.

Weird_Shapes_art_chatter_03-09.jpg

My older sisters taught me a lot about drawing, but I also paid close attention to other artists who I admired. Antonio Prohias was a master of creating very active compositions that seemed to defy the page. I also love the way he drew textures like brick, stone, woodgrain and tree bark.

Weird_Shapes_art_chatter_03-10.jpg

I made a series of paintings in 1996 on unfolded brown paper bags. Probably not the world’s most archival surface to paint on, but I love the unevenness of the edges. These are acrylic, collage and graphite.

Weird_Shapes_art_chatter_03-11.jpg

Another early influence was my brother-in-law, John Bergmeier, partly for his own work which you see on the left, but also because he turned me on to Robert Rauschenberg, who is famous for his combine paintings of the 1950s. I had a chance to see Rauschenberg’s “Interview” at the MOCA in Los Angeles in the mid 1990s.

Weird_Shapes_art_chatter_03-12.jpg

“No Dumping” from 1996 is a very Rauschenberg-inspired piece made from a shipping pallet, an old toaster, a broom. You might be surprised to learn this piece did not sell. Don’t worry though – I was able to repurpose the sand pail from the bottom for the painting on the right, “Sawblades and Sand Pails” from 2001.

Weird_Shapes_art_chatter_03-13.jpg

My first car was a 1973 Chevy Nova. It was kind of a beater, but after 10 years of driving it, I got pretty good at rebuilding the carburetor. I paid $1200 dollars for the car in 1985, and when it was totaled in 1995, the insurance company wrote me a check for $1200.

Weird_Shapes_art_chatter_03-14.jpg

These are from a series of works I did in 2001 for the “Constructed Visions” show at Butler County Community College’s White Gallery. Each piece is hinged and they include such odds and ends as an electrical insulator, a fishing bobber and various toilet parts.

Weird_Shapes_art_chatter_03-17.jpg

When I went to the Yard in 2003 in search of materials for “Melting Pot”, I was really excited to find a piece of aluminum that had fallen down off the stack into the roadway, where it had been driven over several times. When I carried it over to the guy to weigh it, he took one look at me and said, “Now that’s art!”

Weird_Shapes_art_chatter_03-15.jpg

Several years of my design career were spent designing for packaging. The dieline is essentially the plan for how a flat piece of corrugated is trimmed and scored so that it can be folded up and assembled into a box that holds the product.

Weird_Shapes_art_chatter_03-16.jpg

One night I had a dream. In the dream I saw the shape of a print that I knew I had to make. Later, I was in the studio and there was a box there. I grabbed the box and unfolded it and that was it – it was the shape I had seen in my dream! The kind of sad part about this is that my vision was basically a 12-pack beer carton.

Weird_Shapes_art_chatter_03-18.jpg

I always loved the United State map puzzle when I was a kid. I think of it as one of the early ways that I began to think about my identity in terms of how I fit into the larger world, the world outside my yard or my neighborhood.

Weird_Shapes_art_chatter_03-19.jpg

These days, my work is about finding a balance between all the different roles that I play – as an artist and a designer, a teacher, a husband and a father, and, of course, the household fix-it guy.

Weird_Shapes_art_chatter_03-20.jpg

So for me, the weird shapes represent the puzzle pieces of my identity that can fit together in a whole range of different ways to create the complete picture.

 


 

_DSC5592_crop

My fellow presenters and myself, from left: Wichita Collegiate School theater director Emily Ottaway Goodpasture, Wichita Symphony Orchestra violinist Dominique Corbeil, City of Wichita landscape architect Larry Hoetmer, Apples & Arrows brand strategist Todd Ramsey, myself, Fish Haus co-founder Eric Schmidt (just outside the crop), musician Torin Andersen (not pictured).

WAM_Art_Chatter_10-08-2015_Harms_adj.jpg

Photo courtesy Deanna Harms.

 

Art & Book Fair

I was happy to be invited to participate in the ‘art fair’ side of this year’s Art & Book Fair, presented by the Friends of the Wichita Art Museum. After being held at Century II for the past several years, the event this year was moved back to the Wichita Art Museum, where it first began 55 years ago.

All indications are that the event was a big success. It was held this past Mother’s Day weekend and was attended by 3,500 people. All three of my mixed-media collage paintings sold early on Saturday, in fact, early enough that by the time my son and I made the short walk from our house to see them, they were already gone!

In keeping with the theme for this year’s sale of small works by regional artists, “The Art of the Book,” I decided to create works inspired by my stash of mid-century grade school textbooks.

lets_look_around

“Let’s Look Around” acrylic, collage and graphite on paper, 7.5″w x 10″h

science_in_our_world

“Science In Our World” acrylic, collage, crayon and graphite on paper, 7.5″w x 10″h

exploring_science

“Exploring Science” acrylic, collage and graphite on paper, 7.5″w x 10″h

My son and I had a great time at the event. We perused the books, really enjoyed the daguerreotype exhibition in the main gallery, and took in the illustration demonstration by John Pirtle. I scored this nice old art book from the sale.

abstract_art