Mnemonic Whale’s fix-up – pt. 2



The Mnemonic Whale will be installed for my show at Backstory Books in early March, which means this weekend I have kept myself indoors and been busy working on it’s next manifestation.  For now, I’ve decided to stick with one card catalog drawer (hand-cut without an electric saw) while the remaining space of the side box will be temporarily covered with small paintings. Two of the little paintings include a scene of Oregon’s 1970 exploding whale and one of my earliest sensory memories climbing on a fake one. The drawer will house catalog cards pertaining to each of Backstory’s books that will be for sale behind each subject door.  While making room for the drawer in the flurry of sawdust on my kitchen table, a piece of wood/particleboard I ripped out of the catalog box looked like the state of Oregon (or a file icon) – I’ll take that as some kind of sign.

Mnemonic Whale’s fix-up – pt. 1

mnenomic whale pt

The front and left side of the Mnemonic Whale is completed. For the left end, I added/modified a few tiny paintings I did years ago to the top + silicone, wood glue, gold and red ink. On the front, I sanded down the edges of the doors so they closed completely and I outlined the whale carving in gold ink. Now all it needs is the top layer, right end card catalog drawers, and proper innards (more about that soon).

anslem kiefer and joseph beuys at The S.A.M and The Broad

As 2017 comes to an end, I’d like to dedicate a post to two museums I visited in Seattle and LA during September – the S.A.M (Seattle Art Museum) and The Broad – and how Anslem Kiefer and Joseph Beuys unexpectedly connected both of them for me.

Earlier in February, when I was visiting my sister in LA, I fell in love with Anslem Kiefer’s work when I picked up a retrospective book on him at LACMA’s Art Catalogues Bookstore.  From his color palette, his subject matter (German history, mythology) manifesting in landscapes/spaces and the residue of objects, textural surfaces, to the cursive text on some of his pieces – Kiefer’s paintings were almost (minus specific subject matter, of course) everything I had been wanting to work towards in my own paintings.  It’s a beautiful surprise, but also slightly devastating to be reminded that the work you’ve been wanting/trying to do has already been done and done BETTER.  Up until this point, however, I was beginning to unconsciously shut out influences from major figures in art – but Kiefer would become a new easter egg for me to keep my eye out for.

In July, I attended Art of the Archive: The Intersection of Archives and Art by by Jennifer Strayer and Geoff Wexler at the Oregon Historical Society.  The presentation included slides of artists whose works drew upon existing archival collections or were interpreted as their own archives, along with blurring the line of what is and is not an archive.  One of the artists mentioned was Joseph Beuys and his vitrines – glass display cases holding a variety of items such as animal fat, wax, felt, jars, a painted violin, and beyond. Beuys’s almost-anthropological survey of objects encompassed both the organic and the industrial – human struggle verses healing.  I was already slightly familiar with his other works (most famously, his performance installation I Like America, America Likes Me (1974) ) – but I was unfamiliar with his vitrines.  But if my Mnemonic Whale had an Opa, it would certainly be them.  Thus, I found my second easter egg for wandering museums.

Kiefer was a student of Beuys when he taught at the Dusseldorf Kunstakademie between 1961 and 1972.  These artists, who both worked in various mediums, have been continuously linked together because of their timelines, nationality and how their work illuminates Germany’s post-World War II-struggle to reckon with the country’s dark past. It was only fitting to find the work of both Beuys and Kiefer displayed in the same room.

So when my friend Kim took me to the S.A.M for the first time, and I saw Beuys’s Felt Suit (edition of 100) on one side of the wall and a couple of Kiefer’s massive paintings on the other, with Katharina Fritsch’s Mann und Maus (1992) in between – I squealed and hopped up and down.  This is something I never do (“squealing” especially).  When my sister took me to The Broad in LA a week later, I let out another minor squeal.  There they were, a few of Beuys’s vitrines right next to Kiefer’s Deutschlands Geisteshelden (1973).  It was settled – my Beuys/Kiefer room radar was activated.

I loved The Broad – my sister and I stumbled upon it during a free admission day.  I’m aware that this 2017 blog post about the two very famous male artists who inspire me does a disservice to the many other inspiring talents on display.

My other loves include: Jenny Saville, Jean‐Michel Basquiat, Mark Bradford, Ellen Gallagher (eXelento, 2004), Jenny Holzer, Barbara Kruger, Julie Mehretu, Cindy Sherman, Susan Rothenberg, and Kiki Smith.

The Broad

Seattle Art Museum

Reception at Tiny’s

I made the kind folks who showed up to my opening each fill out an answer card from my archives/preservation info table, which included a display of articles and a Hollinger catalog.

The questions were:

“If we were to become extinct, what would you want to leave behind as an artifact of yourself to be found by future inhabitants (if the earth is still inhabitable)?”

(For example: your favorite jacket, your ashes posthumously pressed into vinyl, your paintings, your writings, your skeleton posthumously bronzed with two middle fingers raised)

“What preservation processes would you take to make sure this artifact survives extreme temperatures/time?”

I’ve been thinking a lot about death and ecological ruin these days… must be something in the air…

The tiny cards are now safely behind the Z section door of the Mnemonic Whale, but I hope to eventually put them in a tiny card catalog drawer I’ll be attaching to the right side. I will definitely be welcoming more answers from folks, so I’ll be keeping a few blank cards on me when I’m out and about. In the future I’ll be putting together a handmade book expounding on these ideas from friends.

promo for show at Tiny’s

Postcard announcements finally came! I’ve been scurrying around SE Hawthorne, Belmont, and Division stapling telephone poles – I only ordered 500 cards so I won’t be able to cover all of Portland, but the nearest streets will have to do! Reception is this Thursday from 4:30 to 7pm. I’ll be bringing a few more paintings to display, and I’ll have an (optional) interactive table (it’s a surprise!).

archives prep

I finally finished the fold-up-pocket-disaster-plan for my workplace’s collections, and found a good spot for that handy-dandy-magnet-disaster-response-wheel. Still felt very inexperienced (or just unconfident?) during the interactive Orbis Cascade Alliance ArchivesSpace Implementation Choices Workshop, but I scribbled enough notes that I ended up grasping most of it by the end. My goal is to be confidently using ArchivesSpace by mid-Fall.