Saturday, October 27, 2012

Artistic Process and Scotch Tape: An Epic


Though my guilt-fear, rendered humdrum through bad habits,
dictates this day I'll purge from My Big Binge,
I am on strike for a barrier that prohibits
time from slipping through my stumpy digits.
The moral stand-off lapsed in early hours
per a dentist and hygienist with a syringe,
who, as scheduled, drilled and filled my chompers
and in doing freed my overburdened arbiters.

Still rolling on catharsis-high, though illusory
yet lucid too and fighting nagging voices
and numbed so thick my jaw denied its misery
I floated down the road for retail therapy
at a thrift store where I like to search
pragmatically among the picked-through pieces.
I tongued my fillings, my jaw began to pinch
so I headed home for lunch.

The soreness and sick feeling of responsibility
both came flooding back at the same time.
I packed a beer and am headed over shortly
to my studio where if I'm good I'll possibly
do some shit and maybe even cross from my list
the real shit from my clients who I treated like slime
who have waited much too long and now are pissed;
in my churning mental mill, they are the grist.


It's night now and I've left and come back
from my friend's house where I rent his spare bedroom
to fill with a big easel, empty frames, canvases, a storage rack
and chopped up women's magazines in a slippery stack,
a china vase sprouting rolled-up art-school projects
still unfinished, manilla folders in the corner of the room
packed with collage material: a ziplock baggie that protects
several thousand one-inch cut-out squares of pictures of skin; each connects
via a wrinkle, they're scotch taped into abstract collage components
that I someday plan to link together and meld to vinyl backing.
But that'll take a while so they're mostly still in quadrants
on top of four other folders filled with remnants
of my research, accomplished esoteric acumen
from another project sitting halfway in the making
labeled, "Black women," "black men," "white women, and "white men,"
for a painting series about media tropes that are usually hidden.

Tonight I re-shot some photos of a tiny cut-out lady
standing duck-faced over a nest of bridal tulle
from which a strand of pearls spilled, held steady
with hidden cardboard anchored with a penny.
She stands on the keyboard of my Macbook, which I've transformed
with a picture of a hardwood floor from Elle
in front of the screen, which shows Holbein's Henry VIII, adorned 
with a "curtain," a scarf that's brightly zigzag patterned.
Henry cuts a commanding figure: at his feet a pile of gold
made from candy-bar wrappers; at his groin, through illusion,
the woman's head. The photo is less pedantic, less ribald
that what I've described; the starkness is anulled
by the sensual chiaroscuro effect of the warm side lighting,
the cutesy diorama offset by academic allusion
and a slickness that allows for different materials mixing
without a "crafty" look-- at least that's what I'm hoping.

These folks belong to an ever-growing series
of photos that explore the messages sent
in media and ads about gender: cool clothes, hot bodies,
why they're desirable, the interwoven histories
of sexual domination, capitalism, colonialism,
and how those power struggles inform our present
how the old recognizable symbols of misogyny, racism
have shifted shape, surviving to postmodernism.

I wasn't sure at first what I could possibly say
about a society in which one's benefits obscure struggle
of others, concerns which my blinders keep at bay,
something I'll never fully un-learn, but may
through empathy comprehend as I am able
based on my own experiences of trying to label
what I'm not supposed to, with no words to assemble
because others claim the rights to language. So I settle
on removing what They say from any context that justifies
degradation, objectification, toxic role play drivel
such as beauty mags, pop videos, what-to-buy's,
that cut insidious paths into our personal lives.


I'm hoping the juxtaposition of Henry and Tiny Lady
and the various materials will create new contexts for each other:
the king with gold, the woman with the reproductive situation, maybe
horrified or chickenheaded, the curtain hinting at a British colony
all together in an uneasy coexistence. The secondary associations,
of Henry's wives, slavery, wealth, sexual shame, controlling one another,
are meant to be stirred up and left to stew. But in previous iterations
I used gray pearls, so I'm re-shooting with white for clearer implications.

But the freshwater necklace isn't large enough to cover the cardboard
that holds her upright, so I made the impromptu pink nest
which I rather like. But she keeps tipping forward
which turns her face into a reflection on Henry's scabbard.
I like the light in front so the gold glitters,
but that casts a coldish glare on all the rest
and when I move it to the side the shadow renders
the foil dull but it's her face that matters.

More Scotch tape. Low light f-stop, trouble focusing, she's indiscernible;
Henry'll have to be blurred; we all know what he looks like.
The curtain slips, I add binder clips, fluff it; now my Macbook is visible
I move the light-- perfect!-- the gold wrappers topple.
I'm squatting on the floor so I lay on my stomach,
Because the composition begins to look trite.
I prop up on my boobs so my arms have free movement,
and shoot different angles, keeping the head-crotch alignment.

I take a break and crack open the beer. Something's wrong,
it's too busy, too flat, I'm not taking advantage
of the Henry the VIII in lit pixel effect, the curtain is hung
at a really weird angle, so I have to crop out where the pearls are too long.
I watch some TV, Dr. Phil is just ending.
A woman is listening to experts on stage.
I'm tired and ready to go, but I'm buzzed
so I cannot drive anywhere for the time being.

I go back to the camera and it falls into place:
A strong composition if I scoot her upstage
It's the contrast by shining less light on her face
with the glowing groin, echoed in white in the necklace.
Re-arrange the pearls into a nice pleasing "J,"
snap some pictures, then I note with outrage
that my battery power is fading away.
It expires, and I am done for the day.

A detail from the photo with gray pearls that didn't make the cut. [Image: to the right a young white woman in a high fashion floral jumpsuit and Bridget Bardot hair and makeup leans over a strand of pearls. Brightly colored chevron fabric hangs on the left in partial shadow. A screen showing Henry VIII is visible in the background, but only his leg, hands and torso. The woman leans over childishly and grasps her cheeks in possible surprise, worry or horror.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Fascinating to discover how you accomplished the collage--the assumption was that you were using fancy computer/camera tricks. But no, it was all physically set up and shot the old-fashion way. Even sounds somewhat crude and "crafty" in process, but ends up slick as a high-class ad. As befits the message.