The Winter Mail Bag
Just a few highlights (still more to sort through) of the mail that landed in the post office box recently:
- Torma Cauli sent a card that included what seem to be Hungarian tax stamps from cigarette packs.
- Stewart Charlebois sent stitched and fused plastic shopping bags on a card. Note that we would be hard pressed to make these in San Francisco as we’ve banned plastic bags. As the ban spreads around the world, which is better for the environment, this type of collage fodder will become rare. In the future pieces like this will be really “dated” to this period in time.
- Finally, Meral Agar sent this card from Istanbul. The scan does not do it justice. It’s some sort of acetate film/negative with layers of wash and white paint. It shimmers.
Yellowstone September, mixed media on board, 12”x12”
Yellowstone National park has been in the news lately. Last week was the anniversary of the founding of our first national park. And then there was this sensational and misleading story that was making the rounds online – yes, Yellowstone is a volcanic caldera, but no, it’s not about to blow in a cataclysmic eruption. The Discovery Channel probably doesn’t help matters. All this Yellowstone talk reminded me that I have not been back in 8 years. Yellowstone makes a good long road trip from San Francisco. It helps f you have the time to take a few days getting there and back with a lot of stops.
The last time I visited Yellowstone it was a September. The grass was golden and brown and the leaves were yellow. The park was near empty, warm during the day and freezing at night. The yellows and gold contrasting with the “unnatural” looking blues, or maybe unusual blues, of the hot springs and geysers. There were some of the colors that inspired this latest piece for the Collagescape Series. Not to forget those big, brown bison at every turn.
Yellowstone September will be shown in my Collagescape exhibit opening in August. In the meantime, prints and additional items with this image are also available from Society 6.
Happy Birthday Yellowstone
America’s first national park, Yellowstone National Park is 142 years old today. An amazing place and one of the many parks that inspires my work. The image above are two of the handmade Yellowstone postcards included in a series of postcard booklets created in 2009. More national park inspired work can be seen at tofuart.com
Greener than Green
Columbia Gorge Collagescape, mixed media on board, 12”x12”
It seems every time a friend returns from a visit to Washington or Oregon they always pretty much say the same thing, “It’s so green up there.” Up in the Pacific Northwest they seem to take the green for granted – well at least west of the Cascades. And you know, it really is green up there. Even California’s wettest winters and greenest springs are different from the green up north. The dense lush grass on every roadside, the skies that quickly go from blue to lead gray, the muted light – it is striking how a place that is not that far away can be so different.
I wanted to capture some of that green for the Collagescape Series. I chose one of my favorite places in the Pacific Northwest — the Columbia River Gorge just east of Portland. It’s one of those over-the-top landscapes that the Western United States does so well. But unlike the arid West, up north it’s green, so many shades of green with occasional break of a tall, narrow waterfall and the blue flow of the river itself.
This is another work to be included in my Collagescape show opening in August. In the meantime, prints and additional items with this image are also available from Society 6.
Cape Cod Snow
Cape Cod Winter, mixed media on board, 12”x12”
I’ve been a San Franciscan for more than 20 years, but there’s snow in my past – a lot of snow. Life started in Buffalo, and then Cape Cod with stints in Boston, Illinois and the snowiest city in Switzerland. Suffice to say; I know snow. Now my life is different and virtually snow free. Snow is something I see when driving over a mountain pass. Recently, it was a morning drive over the mountains into Death Valley. Snow on the sagebrush – very pretty – look out the window and just turn up the car’s heat.
I’ve had a long fascination with snow in painting. I saw the Impressionists in Winter: Effets de Neige show that came through San Francisco in 1999 four times. I still find it remarkable how one could start feeling cold just by looking at a painting. Painting snow can be intimidating, but I wanted to capture it for the Collagescape Series.
Cape Cod has many winters with little or no snow, but every once in a while there is a “real” winter like the one that is happening this year. I sought to capture the various shades of white and shadow on the snow. The bright whites after the sun comes out as well as the blues and grays. Snow mixed with glimpses of bare branches, golden beach and marsh grass, the gray of weathered cedar shingles and snow fences. Fences that usually attempt to hold dunes in place instead of snowdrifts. After I finished the piece I realized the grid pattern I used added more unintended Cape Cod references. For example, the pattern is a nod to the shingles and picket fences as well as the small windowpanes so common on Cape Cod houses.
The snow will have long since melted when this piece is included in my Collagescape show opening in August.
Last night was the opening of Mail/Art/Book at the San Francisco Center for the Book. It’s a truly global exhibit with art from all over the world. All of the art arrived via the mail to curators Jennie Hinchliff and John Held, Jr. The opening was packed and I saw familiar faces and plenty of mail art from different artists who I correspondence with. I wasn’t surprised to see Susanna Lakner had sent went one of her groovy little hand made books all the way from Germany (see above). Phyllis Lucas-Haddon sent in a delightful tribute to her letter carrier (see above). The show runs until April 27, 2014. And look closely and you also will see a piece I sent through the mail (see below) in one of the display cases.
Alabama Hills, mixed media on board, 12”x12”
There is a plenty of painting, cutting and gluing happening these days in San Francisco. All in preparation for my Collagescape show opening in August. I did have time for a quick and inspirational trip to the other side of the Sierra. My mom and I spent a wintery afternoon in the Alabama Hills near Lone Pine, California.
Here is the latest piece, this one inspired by those big gray rocks. The grays are really quite complicated and full of hundreds of shades of browns, blues, reds, golds, etc. Mix in the dry grass and sagebrush with looming, snow-covered Mount Whitney, and you have it.
If you haven’t seen the Alabama Hills in person, you most likely have seen them on film. Since the 1950’s the Alabama Hills have been the filming location for over 150 movies (mostly westerns) and numerous television shows and commercials. It wasn’t planned, but the grays in this collagescape also resulted in a bit of silver tone palette – an appropriate homage to the many old movies shot up in the hills.
Answering a mail art call where the theme is inspiration – it took me moments to realize I needed to do another national parks piece. America’s national parks have been a constant source of inspiration for my art, in particular the desert parks. Just last week I have a glorious day out in Death Valley. This piece is off to France for a show this spring.
The Escape Series
The rains back, staying inside and it’s time for a new series (20 pieces) of mail art. This is the Escape Series, done on the backsides of recycled airline safety cards – many from now-defunct airlines. It’s all about escaping the cold, the winter, or just plain (or plane) getting away. Receiving a piece of exotic mail in your mailbox might be the next best thing to traveling somewhere exotic yourself.