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Archive for the ‘Lee Kelly’ Category

Surprised to hear from me again so soon? I was on hold with the employment office and thought, why not write a blog post? Funny what goes through your mind after listening to repeated pre-recorded messages and disturbing muzack for an hour. That’s right, an hour.

In my last post I sent links to the print-on-demand books The Theory and I created for Oregon sculptor Lee Kelly. Two of those books (One through Nine and The Observatory at Jaipur) documented exhibitions Lee had at his gallery in Portland.

The books contained:

  • Photographs of each piece in the exhibition, captioned with names and dimensions
  • Photographs of earlier pieces that are related in some way to the new work
  • Critical discussions of the new work
  • Brief introductions explaining why we thought a book was a good idea
  • Biographical information about the artist

I’m going to discuss each point in turn but right now let’s talk about why a book can be an important tool for an artist and another way to direct the messaging about your work.

Exhibition catalog
I’m not speaking for every commercial gallery, but here most galleries don’t produce exhibition catalogs for their artists. Public museums and collections often do, as a matter of course. But most of us wait years to be included in a major collection or even (gasp) get a career retrospective exhibition. So what happens while we wait? We mount important shows in commercial spaces, the work sells or it doesn’t, and a month later it’s as if the show never happened.

Documentation
You probably document your new work and exhibitions on your web site. A web site is the most important tool you possess because it contains everything and is easy to update. But speaking as a user, I know how quickly most people click through web sites. And getting people to read anything longer than a caption online? Whew!

Old tech like a printed book can place images in context with writing and give depth and insight into the artistic process. Or allow a critical thinker the ability to write about your work at length. And because the book is available online (through whichever online publisher you choose) you can buy copies of the book at cost to give away or provide a link so that people can buy it themselves. It’s always there.

Preserving a body of work or important period in an artist’s life
I was talking to my father about the book we wrote called One Through Nine which discussed an exhibition of paintings he did in 2013. It was his first exhibition of paintings on canvas since sometime in the 1960’s. He said, “I didn’t realize until I saw the book that the paintings all related to one another. Without the book, the paintings and the ideas would be gone.”

All that said, this is not a get rich quick scheme unless you are a genius self-promoter.

A book is another way to take control of the messaging and presentation of your work.

Next time I’ll try to channel The Theory about why having a smart guy or gal write about your work is a good idea.

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Jaipur cover_bogHello, everyone, I’m not dead. I’ve been… well, that’s a long story for another post. Right now I want to tell you that The Theory and I have put together three new books about Oregon sculptor Lee Kelly. Who is, coincidentally, my father.

Observatory at Jaipur
Catalog accompanying Lee’s show in October 2015 at the Elizabeth Leach Gallery in Portland, Oregon. Full color, 86 pages. Get it here: Observatory at Jaipur

One through Nine_cover_blogLee Kelly: One through Nine
In 2013, Lee Kelly created a significant body of new work, a series of paintings entitled “One through Nine.” These nine paintings are oil on canvas, a medium the artist had largely abandoned in 1963. However, these new paintings do not represent a return to Kelly’s Abstract Expressionist past but emerged from his sculptural work of the last ten to 15 years. Full color, 68 pages. Get it here: Lee Kelly: One through Nine

A bog cover_blogBook of Gardens
A Book of Gardens was first published by Lee Kelly and Bonnie Bronson in 1987 as a study of garden designs from India, ancient Egypt and Japan. Hand-printed and illustrated by Lee Kelly, designed and spiral bound by Bonnie Bronson, this small book had a single release of fewer than fifty copies. This 2015 edition includes a facsimile reproduction of the original book and photographs from Lee’s sculptures as installed at his home in Oregon City. Get it here: A Book of Gardens

For the next week or so, I’ll send free pdfs to anyone interested in taking a look at the books. Leave me comment below and I’ll get back to you.

What’s next?
With these books in mind, I’m considering doing some posts about the process of putting together print-on-demand books for artists. In a world where exhibition catalogs can be expensive to produce, print-on-demand might be something for artists to consider. So more on that later. And hopefully another year doesn’t pass before I do these posts!

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I’m watching the snow fall, the very snow I’ve been waiting for all year. I understand, people in other parts of the U.S. scoff at Oregonians’ inability to drive in the snow, dress for snow or, let’s be honest, think in the snow. Snow starts coming down and we flee the workplace by the thousands convinced it’s the end of the world and we’re all going to freeze to death. On the other hand, what group of people knows more about seasonal affective disorder than Oregonians?

Although we’re only getting our snow now, we had a savage cold snap in early December. The lows were in the single digits. And again, I understand, this is nothing for you folks in Montana (Stacey Jean Barron of Missoula, Montana, I’m talking to you) but for us it was unexpected, especially for beekeepers. A friend lost two hives, and we have no idea whether our bees are still alive. Anyway, it’s still pretty out there:

Sculptures in the snow.

Lee Kelly sculptures in the snow. The one in the foreground is from the 1960’s. The lonely table in the background is where The Theory and I had lunch during the reno. It was sunny and warm then. Seems so long ago now.

Lavender from the garden, probably dead.

Lavender from the garden, probably dead. I don’t want to talk about it.

Our beehive huddled under straw bales.

Our beehive huddled under straw bales. That’s Akbar’s Elephant in the background, a stainless steel sculpture by my father. Sculptures always look great in the snow.

A close-up of the hive. Snow is insulating, right? I can still hope.

A close-up of the hive. Snow is insulating, right? I can still hope.

Well, I need to get the hurricane lamps set up in case we lose power. A happy snow day to all… and to my bees, good luck.

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I hate blog posts that start with excuses for why I haven’t been in the studio or haven’t blogged. It either sounds like I can’t manage my time very well (true dat) or have vastly more Important Things To Do. To prove that isn’t so, here’s a sampling of my activities for yesterday that prevented me from getting out to the studio:

  • I slept late every day for the last MONTH and it felt great. I may never get up early again.
  • I visited an art resale gallery in Portland that has some of Bonnie Bronson’s (my mother) art for resale. This place is chock full of great Oregon art gems and the owner is very nice. There is so much work on the walls that I couldn’t immediately see if she had any encaustic work. Here’s the link: Resale Art.
  • Then I went to some friends’ very clean house where someone told a story about a cat litter box that was so funny I peed my pants.
  • Then I had to go home and bury my head under a pillow, unable to face the world.

As you can see, no time-wasting there!

Martin Drölling, “L’intérieur d’une cuisine” (1815), believed to have been painted with Mummy Brown (via the Louvre).

Martin Drölling, “L’intérieur d’une cuisine” (1815), believed to have been painted with Mummy Brown (via the Louvre).

Obsolete Pigments

The Theory sent me a link to an art blog called Hyperallergic: Sensitive to Art and its Discontents which I at first thought was a blog about asthma. Anyway, this two-part article talks about the origin, composition, risks and other odd tidbits about such vanished pigments as Dragon’s Blood red, Tyrian purple and white lead. Read the updates and comments because those are good too. Here’s sample about Mummy brown:

The pigment, a favored shade of the Pre-Raphaelites, was first made with Egyptian mummies, both cat and human, that were ground up and mixed with white pitch and myrrh. It had a great fleshy color, but due to the actual fleshy components it would crack over time. [Artist] Martin Drölling reportedly used the mummies of French kings dug up from Saint-Denis in Paris. According to a 1964 Time story, the Mummy Brown pigment didn’t last due to a shortage of its name defining ingredient. Managing director of the London based C. Roberson color maker told the magazine: “We might have a few odd limbs lying around somewhere, but not enough to make any more paint.”

Read part one here and part two here.

And just to prove that we (and by we I mean The Theory) have not been idle, here’s a photo of a lovely seating area that we hacked out of the wilderness and inaugurated with gin and tonic just this weekend:

Charcoal-mica flagstones are the setting for a Lee Kelly outdoor table called "Welder's Table" circa 1975-76. I cleared the underbrush in the background while the The Theory did the actual work.

Charcoal-mica flagstones are the setting for a Lee Kelly outdoor table called “Welder’s Table” circa 1975-76. I cleared the underbrush in the background while the The Theory did the actual work.

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Okay, yes, you’re right.  I should have started with this recipe first.

Basic chalk ground is the easiest and most flexible gesso in the entire history of artist-kind. In fact, if you Google “homemade gesso” you’ll come up with dozens of versions of this recipe by great artists and innovative thinkers who might possibly have been broke at some point in their careers. I mean, what else could possibly explain the use of baby powder as filler for gesso?

I can relate. Maybe it never occurred to me to use baby powder because my kids haven’t needed diapers since the last century. Well, The Theory thinks they still do because I continue to pay their cell phone bills. (It’s called a family plan, sweetie!)

What you need:

  • 4 parts white glue, like Elmers’s, wood glue or archival (pH neutral) hide glue
  • 3 parts water
  • 4 parts filler (chalk or whiting, gypsum, Plaster of Paris, baby powder)
  • 1 part pigment

Combine water and glue in a jar or container. In a separate container, combine filler and pigment. Slowly add filler to glue mixture, stirring constantly. Add more filler or water/glue blend to get the consistency you want. Ideally it should be like pancake batter, but you can thicken it with more filler to build up impasto effects.

If you use rabbit-skin glue
Both The Painter’s Handbook by Mark David Gottsegen and The Artist’s Handbook by Ralph Mayer offer chalk ground formulas that include rabbit-skin glue. If you want to use this traditional glue, follow the directions on the package. You can omit the extra water in the recipe above.

Plaster of Paris
If you use Plaster of Paris, be sure to sift out the big chunks of rock first.

The last word on baby powder
I asked my dad about using talcum powder for filler, and he said it worked well as long as you used a rigid support. It’s no good for canvas because it’s too brittle. The last time he diapered a kid, baby powder actually contained talcum powder. Who knew it was slightly toxic? Current ingredients may include cornstarch, which in itself might be interesting to experiment with as filler for gesso. But it’s true—all these gesso recipes are much better on rigid supports.

I am so done with gesso and board prep for now! To celebrate the closing of the board prep series, here’s an old piece from two years ago that I almost forgot about. It’s amazing how pieces start to look better if you don’t see them for a while.

Nasca II (2011). Encaustic and graphite on board, 8" x 8". Based on those amazing ancient earthworks in South America.

Nasca II (2011). Encaustic and graphite on board, 8″ x 8″. Based on those amazing ancient earthworks in South America. For the record, this piece uses a watercolor paper ground. Also for the record, I had a reason for naming this piece “Nasca” rather than “Nazca.” All I remember is that it had nothing to do with “NASCAR.”

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On Tuesday, November 1, 2011, a ragtag crew of sculptors, welders and students installed a public art project in downtown Oregon City. Created by Oregon sculptor, Lee Kelly, and called moontrap (lowercase m is intentional), this sculpture was commissioned by the Rotary Club of Oregon City and gifted to the citizens of Oregon City, past present and future.

Lee, father of this blog’s author, has lived in Oregon City since 1963. And despite his lengthy residency, moontrap is his first piece of public art  in his home town. Go anywhere else in the state and you’ll see quite a bit of Lee’s work.

Moontrap is located on Railroad Avenue and Eighth Street, anchored to the large concrete wall that separates the railroad tracks from the city.

Initial sketch of moontrap on a cocktail napkin. Winestock, Oregon City, February 2011.

The idea for moontrap was sketched on a paper napkin one evening at Winestock, our local wine stop, almost a year ago. The idea was to make a connection between the natural world of the basalt bluffs and Singer Creek above, and the human built world of industry and commerce. The title of the sculpture comes from Moontrap by Don Berry about the rowdy, raucus early days of Oregon City, and the compromises that had to be made in order to live with civilization.

At the dedication a few days later, Railroad Avenue was filled with citizens of Oregon City, members of the Rotary Club, Winestock folks, and friends from distant Portland, all celebrating a new work of public art in Oregon’s first city. Art and the rain—two good reasons to take shelter and create fellowship in this funny old town.

Here are some photos taken by The Theory on November 1, 2011:

Moontrap is made from type 304 stainless steel. It is 39' in length and 8' 9" in height.

Lee Kelly and D'Nita Carbone (at center) with moontrap installation crew, November 1, 2011.

Moontrap, looking north on Railroad Avenue, Oregon City.

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My wireless card seems to be limping along. The Theory reasoned with it, but as I told him the real test of reason comes at 7:00 in the a.m. when I’m trying to post a blog.

On December 1st, 2010 Bonnie Bronson’s first exhibition in over fifteen years opens at Winestock in Oregon City. Over the next nine months, there will be other Bonnie-related activities, culminating in a retrospective and publication, location and content of which are to be determined.

Grid V (untitled) by Bonnie Bronson. Created sometime during the 1980's. Mixed media on paper, 6" x6". One of ten from the Grid series to be shown at Winestock.

The Bonnie Bronson Project.
During this time, I hope to post a blog update every month about the process of getting these events together, about her art, and most certainly about her life. Bonnie was my stepmother.

Grid X (untitled) by Bonnie Bronson.

Bonnie had the raising of me after the sudden death of my natural mother, Jeanette. I was a toddler when my father, Lee, married Bonnie and started a new life. It was a complicated, often beautiful time, much of it determined by my parents’ artistic careers as well as by the social foment and upheaval of the 1960’s and ’70’s.

I find it hard to talk about our family because both my brother Jason and Bonnie are gone now. As the years pass and the people who actually knew them diminish and pass away themselves, it’s just Lee and I who remember. And though we could talk about our absent family, we usually pass those remembering moments in silence. Missing them.

Lost artist, lost work.
About a year ago, The Theory was called upon to archive Lee’s press materials and

Grid VI (untitled) by Bonnie Bronson.

to create a database of his work. While sifting through dozens of boxes, he kept seeing photos of a really cute girl who made some fantastic art. “That’s my mom,” I said. He asked, “Where’s her estate? You know, all the art she left behind?” I took him on a little walk out into the brush and vines and showed him the secret studio where all Bonnie’s art has been languishing for the last 22 years. Unseen by mortal eyes.

Next month, I’ll update everyone on Bonnie’s first show in fifteen years. Here is the press release written by The Theory:

Bonnie Bronson: Grids
December 1 – 31, 2010

Opening December 1, the Estate of Bonnie Bronson, in cooperation with the Elizabeth Leach Gallery, presents Bonnie Bronson: Grids, a showing of a series of 10 never-before exhibited works on paper. The exhibition will be on view at Winestock in Oregon City through the month of December.

One of Portland’s best known artists in the 1970s and 1980s, Bonnie Bronson (1940-1990) was recognized for her signature enameled steel relief sculptures and her collaborations on public art projects with husband, Lee Kelly. Her career lasted from 1964 to 1990, when she died in a mountaineering accident on Mt. Adams. Her work was widely exhibited throughout Portland and the Northwest, including exhibitions at Blackfish Gallery, the Fountain Gallery, the Art Gym at Marylhurst College, the Elizabeth Leach Gallery, and the Portland Art Museum.

Grid VIII (untitled) by Bonnie Bronson

For more Bonnie info, view her web site. This site is new, so check back for more.

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