Tuesday, September 13, 2011

art exhibition - raging calm

The second piece that i showed at this year's art exhibition was an embellished photo mosaic called raging calm:

This piece has two different stories that i can share: one about the photos and another about making the piece the night before the show.
The pictures are from October 1997. I was on a week-long overnight in Caroline County, MD with one of my favorite former team members (obviously, he was a TM at the time). Setting up Starlabs (portable planetariums; they're awesome) one morning i came around the side of my dome to ask him a question and found my partner passed out on the floor.
Ever had to walk down to a school office and ask them to call 911? It's interesting.
Anyhoo, the county we were in is so small that they didn't have their own hospital or even their own ambulance, so we had to wait for the paramedics. Meanwhile, i'm in negotiations with the principal about doing half of their shows, resceduling the shows, cancelling the shows, whatever. The decision was made to reschedule all 8 shows and i started to pack up both my equipment and his as the ambulance rushed him to the hospital in the next county. However, no one told the teachers what was going on, so my first audience arrived and i had to be the one to tell the kids that they didn't get a show that day, while appearring calm and professional.
Once i finally had all of the equipment loaded back into the van i could race off to the hospital.
On the way there, a bird flew into my windshield. I had never hit any animal before and was FREAKED OUT. Was it an omen? Was my partner dying? panic, panic, panic
Arriving at the hospital i was told that it would be a hot minute before i was allowed to see him and i started to lose it.
[some quick background for those of you joining the show already in progress, i had already spent the night in a hospital once with this TM where he had almost died; plus i was still mired in my own grief pit so even a hint of a whisper of death made me insane]
I knew that when i was finally allowed to see him i was going to have to be calm and strong and rational and comforting and at that second i was the exact opposite of those things.
So i ran.
I got into the van, pointed it at the water and drove.
You see, i love water. I have been drawn to water my whole life. In it, on it, under it, next to it - as long as water is close i am happy.
I drove and drove farther from town and closer to the water until i was on an island in the Chesapeake, until finally i was out of land and surrounded by water on every side at Black Walnut Point.
sigh... water...
Watching the waves crash, feeling the spray on me made the panic start to disappear. I had my manual camera in the van to play with; i started shooting, experimenting with different settings. As the film advanced, my fears wound away.
I have always been fascinated by my relationship with water. Oceans, bays, and gulfs are all full of ferocious energy, but they make me calm. It's almost like any turbulance inside of me is translated to the turbulance of the waves and ebbs away with the tide. It sounds crazy, but has been true my whole life.
Once i had control of myself, i returned to the hospital.
It all worked out in the end; the TM lived on to become a fTM and he is still kicking around, annoying me whenever possible; in fact, we met for fondue just 2 weeks ago.
Once developed, i instantly loved the pictures that i'd taken. They were filled with so much emotion for me that i knew i wanted to do something special with them.
A few years later i started a set of mosaics with the pictures, but the project remained unfinished. It just wasn't quite what i wanted.
Come forward another decade.
While working on a painting and a shrine to show and trying to finish setting up the exhibition itself, i was suddenly hit with inspiration. Instead of mosaicing individual pictures like i'd been doing before, what if i used parts of all of the pictures to make one big mosaic?
 Start a new piece at 11:00 the night before the show?
SURE, why not?
All of my work is done in lots and lots of layers, most of which need time to dry in between, so i was steadily able to work on the shrine, then the photos, then the shrine, then the photos. If both were wet, i worked on logistics, having decided to abandon the painting; after all, i can't do 90 things at once.
Things were going along well, when -you might remember- i lost power.
There was no way to finish the shrine in time, but i got up at daybreak and by the light of the rising sun i added words, graffitti, a brushstroke finish, and water droplets.

Mostly in the dark, I weathered and inked the frame to match the driftwood and algae in the pictures and then put it together. I honestly didn't know what the finished product looked like until i hung it at the show.
It makes me smile everytime i look at it.

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