Playlist Friday: And now, for the weather

The outdoor art show season is upon us, so if I may address the weather gods for a moment: “You’ve pulled some interesting tricks this year. That hail-bordering-on-snow in May was a neat one. But let’s not go crazy this weekend. Some of us have outdoor exhibits to set up. Go have a beer on a patio, relax, listen to some tunes about your heroic exploits, let the sun do its thing. Kthxbye.”

“Stormy Weather” – Pixies

Sometimes there’s just nothing more to be said. When it’s time, it’s time. That time is not this Saturday. Just sayin’.

“Lightning Crashes” – Live

This is an epic, life-and-death thunderstorm they’re singing about. Once-in-a-lifetime thing. Statistically unlikely to happen this weekend. Unless your baby is due?

“Moanin’ Wind” – Michelle Rumball

This is how I feel about wind, too. But, as this lovely Toronto singer points out, you just gotta stick it out. And make sure you weight down your tent properly, or it’ll fly away.

“Strange Weather” – Marianne Faithfull

Just a really beautiful song. Not really about the weather at all.

“More Than Rain” – Tom Waits

Neither is this one. Wait, none of them are. Forget I said anything.

“Come Rain or Come Shine” – Etta James

Come shine, thanks. Oh, you’re all out of cake? So my choices are “or, death”?*

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Riverdale Art Walk this weekend

Evite_2013 Riverdale Art WalkThis Saturday & Sunday, June 1-2, I will be exhibiting my new fine arts mosaics at the outdoor Riverdale Art Walk show in Jimmie Simpson Park on Queen St. East near Broadview. If you’re in Toronto, I’d love to see you there!

There are over 120 artists participating in the show – you can check out images of their work at the RAW Artist Galleries site.

As for me, I’ll be showing the mosaics from my Favourite Books series (including the one inspired by Neuromancer, that William Gibson himself complimented), as well as the slate abstracts and other new works, including this charmingly titled one:

Mixed Emotions (Dark Side of the Moon), scrap slate and pink glass

Mixed Emotions (Dark Side of the Moon)

Here’s a map of the park to help you find my booth:

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Scrap slate abstracts

I’ve been getting ready for the Riverdale Art Walk, which is coming up in ten days, and here are a few new pieces I made using salvaged slate and gold mirror smalti.

Slate abstracts

Slate abstracts 5

The slate was part of the great scrap tile haul from our local tile store, and strips of it were arranged into panels that I ended up smashing apart.

The four mosaics above are quite small – about 6″x7″ – mainly because slate is so heavy.

I did make one larger piece, 8″x12″ (on the right), after which I had to stop with this lovely series, as there was only slate rubble left.

I suspect there’s another small series of abstracts hiding in the rubble though – I’ll see about digging it out tomorrow.

In progress: bathroom graffiti mosaic

I’m thinking of making a series of mosaics based on bathroom graffiti, and I’ve started on the first piece to see whether it’ll be worth doing a few of these.

Mirror in Sneaky Dee's washroom.

The mirror in Sneaky Dee’s washroom I’m using as the basis for this mosaic

I decided to start with an image of the bathroom mirror at Sneaky Dee’s, both because the mirror aspect of it seemed like an interesting twist to explore, and because this was the place that gave me the idea in the first place.

Graffiti is the main aspect of Sneaky Dee’s decor, and while in the restaurant itself it doesn’t overwhelm you, every time I enter their washroom, it’s like an aesthetic punch to the solar plexus. Every inch of wall, cubicle and ceiling space is covered in sloppily lettered platitudes and highly unoriginal insults.

I like the place, it has good food. And I’m sure its punkish nighttime crowd, whose inebriated decorating efforts are represented here, would be pleased with the revolting effect they have on the casual weekend bruncher. But rather than try to tune out this passive aggressive assault on my artistic sensibilities, I decided to see whether I can turn it into something that I’d find beautiful.

So far it’s working. I love how this unholy mess is turning out in stained glass and mirror, on a 1.5′ x 1.5′ board. But cutting the glass with the required obsessive precision is taking such a long time.

Graffitti mosaic in progress

Detail of the mosaic in progress. Under the pieces of stained glass is the printout of the original photo that I’m using as a sketch.

And since I’ve been accepted to exhibit at the Riverdale Art Walk, which is taking place June 1-2, I’ll need to take the next four weeks to make a few new pieces for that show. So I’ll have to lay this one aside for now, otherwise I’ll kill most of that time finishing it. But it’ll be worth the wait, I think; it’s turning out kind of incredible.

The Story of a Piece of Paper

Free PDF download

You can now download the story that I illustrated for my kids as a PDF.

I hope that you know a kid or two that you can share it with, and that they enjoy it as much as our girls did.

The download is available in English and Russian.

Edited to add: The Story of a Piece of Paper was featured on Boing Boing. As I have no words to express just how ridiculously thrilling this is, I present it here as a bare statement of fact.

 

 

Favourite books series: Neverwhere

The chapter in which the hero of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere drops out of the everyday reality into the fantastical world of London Below is seriously spooky.

On his way to the office one Monday morning, Richard Mayhew discovers that taxi drivers no longer see him, ticket vending machines reject his coins, he is invisible to the other passengers on the train and, upon arriving at the office, that his desk is cleared and none of his co-workers know who he is. In fact, they don’t even see him unless he addresses them first, and then it takes them mere seconds to forget he’s there. When his fiancée fails to recognize him and he makes his way back home, he finds that his apartment has already been rented to someone else. His existence has completely slipped the world’s mind.

This has always been one of the book’s most vividly magical moments for me – when its protagonist slips from the normal world to begin his extraordinary adventure among the warriors, beasts, noblemen tricksters and supernatural assassins of London Below. So for this mosaic I chose the scene that precipitated it all: Richard’s finding of the wounded Lady Door.

On his way to an important dinner with his fiancée, Richard stops to help an injured girl who seems to have slumped to the pavement right out of a blank brick wall – someone his girlfriend can’t even see at first and when she does, she demands that Richard not waste time on this ragged lowlife. Despite this, Richard takes the girl to his flat to recover and hide from those who wounded her.

Door mosaic based on Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere

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Playlist Friday: Notes from space

This lunatic playlist is dedicated to Mars Curiosity, Sarcastic Rover, and the Interplanetary Internet.

“Planet of Sound” – Pixies

And you know that once the Interplanetary Internet gets going, people will be using it to illegally download music from the Planet of Sound. Pixies tried to get there using a fission drive, but they seem to have taken a wrong turn somewhere.

“Space Oddity” – David Bowie

Somebody else who got famously lost in space is Major Tom. Of course, if one was to compile a playlist of only the very best space songs, it would contain mostly Bowie. Having to choose just one of his, I’d say “Space Oddity” is the most intense and the creepiest. The lines “And the papers want to know whose shirts you wear / Now it’s time to leave the capsule if you dare” has much the same effect on me as that moment in horror movies when somebody says, “Look, there’s something moving in the forest, I’ll go and check.” You know that things are about to take a turn for the worse.

“Major Tom (Coming Home)” – Peter Schilling

From space horror to space-horror synth-pop, this German’s take on Bowie’s Major Tom story apparently topped the charts in 1983. I heard it for the first time yesterday – thanks to a tip from my husband, may his weird taste in music live long and prosper – and it is adorable.

“Spaceman” – Bif Naked

Bif Naked’s “Spaceman” was overplayed on MuchMusic in that sliver of the ’90s when I actually watched TV, but the reason this song will always have a special place in my heart is that Kat, my best friend in high school, would holler it at the top of her lungs while plugging her ears when she wanted to pointedly ignore whatever you were saying – in that way most people would yell “La La La, can’t hear you!” Not sure why. Fond memories.

“Astronaut (A Short History of Nothing)” – Amanda Palmer

Just think how much happier AFP’s relationship with the astronaut could have been if only the Interplanetary Internet was already in place. They could’ve kept in touch over Twitter and avoided the dismal lack of communication that got them into this twisted emotional head-space.

“In Space” – Ludo

Now imagine this is Amanda Palmer’s astronaut’s story from his point of view. Dramatic irony galore. Star-crossed lovers retold for the star-faring age. Juliet’s not really dead, only the letter where everything is explained never reaches Romeo. The astronaut is not emotionally distant at all, it’s just the lack of Interplanetary Internet.

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Canadian Visual Artists: Micah Adams

Micah Adams is a sculptor, jeweller and collector of curiosities. Originally from Nova Scotia, he studied fine arts in Montreal and Halifax, and spent several years in Toronto as a resident artist at the Harbourfront Centre.

She Doesn't Tell Anyone...  About the Headaches miniature monument from My Future Wife series by Micah Adams

She Doesn’t Tell Anyone… About the Headaches miniature monument from My Future Wife series

Your miniature sculptures often take familiar things out of their usual context and present them as objects of art. You have works that consist of beavers cut out of Canadian nickels and maple leaves out of the pennies, flowers constructed out of matches and jewellery put together from earring backs. Is revealing the extraordinary potential of ordinary things an important aspect of making art to you? Do you find that your work inspires those who see it to look at objects they usually take for granted in a new light?

I like when I see an object or a material and realize something about it I hadn’t noticed before, much of my work is about that moment. All art has the capacity to change perspectives on things, both big things and small things. If others after viewing some of my work, look at objects they usually take for granted more closely, I would think the artwork was successful at communicating my observations.

Ring made out of gold earring backs by Micah Adams

Ring made out of gold earring backs

Pile of Dead Leaves by Micah Adams

Pile of Dead Leaves

I like to use familiar or everyday items for a few reasons – sometimes it’s an item’s material qualities that I like or want to use in an unconventional way. I like finding new uses for things. For example I discovered that masking tape is really good for forming 3-d shapes by folding small pieces over one another to create a form. This could resemble the way potters handcoil vessels.

One Roll of Masking Tape sculpture by Micah Adams

One Roll of Masking Tape

Often I see or use something in my day-to-day life and realize that it looks like something else. I want to take advantage of these visual similes in an artwork. The consequence of using familiar objects is that they are relatable for people and I like art that is accessible.

When I’m conceiving an idea for a project, it’s based around what I find or have access to. I don’t just want to invent something new when there’s so many material objects out there where the ideal thing could already exist. It’s just waiting to be mixed and matched with other things. My job is to find or wait for the right idea to come up and match with the perfect found object. For example, with some of my cast miniature monuments, the bottle caps worked perfectly as monument bases. This was one of the starting points for that work.

Hands & Teeth & Antlers by Micah Adams

Hands & Teeth & Antlers

The size of your works also seems to encourage looking at familiar things in a different way – as with your miniature monuments series, or the Hands & Teeth & Antlers sculptures, and My Own Personal Olympic Stadium. What first attracted you to working on such a small scale? Were the ideas you wanted to communicate through your art the decisive factor behind you choosing to make miniatures, or did the love of working on a small scale come first?

This question I’m not sure of. It happened naturally as far as I’m concerned. People call it miniature or little but to me that’s just what happens, and it turns out that is unconventionally small. The answer is probably both at the same time. When I grew up I played a lot with Lego and later plastic models. Lots of people used Lego when they were younger and grew out of it. I think I’m drawn to small things and making small art but also some of the ideas or observations I wanted to communicate were little in scale.

My Own Personal Olympic Stadium by Micah Adams

My Own Personal Olympic Stadium

For example the Olympic stadium piece was based on an observation I made, how hair when pulled makes the skin around it look like a little tent. Then I thought of the connection to the stadium and how it looked the same.

With the teeth and hands, I thought there was a visual connection with roots in general and hands as tools for gripping things. Those are small things so the ideas dictated the scale of the work. That said, I could make the hands and teeth idea at hand size. On the other hand, if the stadium could be done at the life size, the idea is ridiculous. So sometimes it seems the work has to be small in order to work.

Micah Adams - Miscellaneous displayI saw your work at the TOAE (Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition) last summer, where you had a sort of cabinet of curiosities set-up filled with your miniature sculptures. There were small drawers and shadow box-like displays for this profusion of tiny artworks, and together the effect was almost fractal – the closer you looked the finer and finer details were there to be found and marvel at. This combined effect is like a separate artwork in itself, and it seems to reveal something different than the sculptures themselves do.  What do you think is gained and what is lost when one of your sculptures is viewed on its own versus when they are seen all together like this?

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In progress: Door

The latest mosaic in my Favourite Books series is based on Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. If you haven’t read it, you may find it odd that a picture of a brick wall and a bleeding girl is called Door. Explanation is forthcoming – once the mosaic is finished.

For now, here’s the sketch for the piece:

Pencil sketch of a girl collapsed beside a brick wall

I did end up toning down the curve of that hip and the extra-long thigh when I transferred this to the board. It’s bad enough to depict a figure that is recognizably a girl – when in the book she appears in this scene as a shapeless bundle of rags – driven by the reasoning that a vague dark mass would be a much less compelling image than a collapsed girl. Making her an improbably shaped fantasy-book-cover girl would be inexcusable.

Unless you have a healthy obsession with putting complex things together out of tiny pieces, you’re probably looking at those bricks going, “No way she’s going to make that wall brick by brick.” Oh, but I am.

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Architectural mosaics: backsplash

The backsplash is finished and installed and it looks like this:

Mosaic backsplash abstract in beige and brown

I ended up hanging it all in one piece, as it was just manageable in terms of weight.

I’m glad that in my research I came across the suggestion to fill in the spaces between the tiles with sand before applying Thinset adhesive to the back – this worked really well to prevent any cement from being pushed too far forward between the tiles.

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