Ceramics & Painting: New Beginnings at the End--Moldmaking Post 8-Oct 28-Nov 4. 2018

Finishing the Residency with Eutectic Gallery & Mudshark, and tying some threads together in my practice to take back into the school studio.

Moldmaking at OCAC

October 29, 2018

This week is my last in residency at Mudshark Studios, and it started with pulling some work from the kiln at OCAC.

I’ll be sad to leave the residency space at Eutectic/Mudshark, as it’s been ultimately inspiring and helped me tie together a lot of the concepts in the work I have been making—both, what I had already started at school and what I’ve discovered while making in residency. Being in this space has been very beneficial both for the distance it’s allowed me from what I have previously made (which helped with considering what I’m making) and in the work that was inspired while at residency, including some of the newer pressings in porcelain and things I drew and painted. It allowed me the chance to see my work in a new light and consider the connections with content—for example, making impressions from building faces became complimentary to the paintings, or the paintings became complimentary to a pressing, and those originals became records of time and place. I also arrived at the question of making pressings that become molds or resting with just originals, and what both of those mean when making impressions of buildings that start to be torn down—the relic, the documentation, whether an impression becomes an artifact, what an object is if it is art or artifact…these questions became very real in the residency environment and its neighborhood.

As you know, I took impressions from familiar street objects and fired them in my process of making tiles or impressions (below). The process of making these in residency helped me to consider them and form a grouping of textured objects that became a symbolic grouping, or code, for the themes I am thinking about (of the street, structures of our urban environment). I will take this code and use it in my work, to continue to inform my work from original content and origins of inspiration (being on the street).

As you may remember, a few of these objects/symbols were loaded into the BLAAUW, last week. Here, they are coming out of that firing:

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You can see there was a loss with the first piece on the top shelf, which developed a long crack right down the middle. I will experiment with how that edge looks if I chisel or otherwise reform it, to get some information about how a piece looks with that type of edge. As mentioned, I plan to make more of this same pattern as it is one of the symbol-marker objects that I will return to in the studio.

You can see how well the porcelain picked up the textures from surfaces it was pressed into. The pitted texture of this safety surface is going to feature in more work and I may be manipulating it on other surfaces to keep a consistent aesthetic language.

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In the last few days at Mudshark, I had the mission to make more impressions from buildings in the area. Being able to press and then store these pieces at Mudshark helped me with a place to keep them before moving to the school, drying to avoid destroying them when moving (or, just switching one problem for another). However, with the pressing below, I pushed this process one step further and actually left the impression on the original (the building) to harden overnight instead of moving it back into the shop. I had wanted to do this with a few other pieces over the course of the residency, to see if it would affect how they formed. There was, indeed, another effect in leaving the porcelain upon the surface to dry—it was visible on the building, during the day. This piece actually stayed on its building for two days, drying and even pulling away from its wall over the last few hours. However, noone seemed to notice it there.

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This building is the Janzten Building, formerly Jantzen Knitting Mills Company Building, built in Portland in 1929. It is a listing on the National Register of Historic Places, which is the US government’s official list of districts, sites, buildings, structures and objects deemed worthy of preservation for their historical significance. I find this stimulating and complex on so many levels, although I originally identified the building as one I would like to do a pressing from before I knew its exact historical significance—you see, it has a wonderful presence and Art Deco panels which indicated to me instinctively that this was a site to preserve a piece from. This opens up the complex information I am thinking about when making these pieces: disappearance and presence, awareness of the history of an area vs. ignorance of that history. In fact, it was quite shocking to me that so many people would walk by something so queer as a piece of porcelain peeling off the face of a building without seeming to notice it, as did—but that was a poignant note to my explorations of this historical area of industry in Portland; it seems perfectly normal for most people to walk by without taking note of either what they are seeing or what is around them. Of course, I can’t speak for each person who did seem to walk past this public porcelain pressing without taking notice—but I think it feeds into the narrative of isolation in public spaces, and our ability to lose buildings, neighborhoods, people and entire eras of history without a second glance—if there is no-one making special notice of these things. These are notions I will explore further in my work in the studio at OCAC, after having gathered plenty of raw information to deal with during these two-and-a-half weeks in the industrial neighborhood area.

Another note of interest is that this building (below), the one across the street from Mudshark and the very one I was painting for two weeks, began being demolished on the very last day of my residency. It had been an in-use, active dairy company until that last day. Noone in my residency knew it was going to be closed, until that day.

This information inspired me to deeply consider why I am making these pieces—if the theme of loss might be what I am countering with my work; why is loss so poignant for me? Does a ceramic reproduction of something become an artifact, and does an artifact counter loss? Is loss something others wish to stall with their work? Is making artwork a method of stalling loss? I know that loss and mortality are big themes to swallow, and they seem especially poignant for most people, but could this possibly be what I am making about? Maybe it is what I am coming up against, wishing to slow time down; to record things in effort to stop them from ending. Perhaps I am seeking a means to stop an ending.

Who knows how long it will continue to stand, but I will have a painting of it, made in the last two-and-a-half weeks of October 2018.

Farewell, Sunshine Dairy Foods.

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I will miss the the neighborhood and residency spaces of Eutectic and Mudshark when I’m done, the enchanting night scenes with high contrasting electric street lamps illuminating the industrial city spaces.

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I will miss the shadows and light of the Mudshark production floor, dim and twilight as it appeared with light filtering between the upper and lower spaces, and magic apparent in every angled corner.

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I’ll miss the engagement of my eye with myriad materials and shapes, which turns even a stairwell into a memorable moment.

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I’ll miss the forms which impelled me to think about the difference between negatives and positives, stacks of materials and the angles which rendered them more fabulous, engaging my imagination to abstract and consider them more beautifully. It was a playground for a visual artist with a hopeless predilection for chiaroscuro.

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Most of all, I’ll miss the exploration which has inspired so many connections and insights into who I am as a maker. Being in this space crystallized my love for the industrial aesthetic, the multiple, and light and shadow and forced me to consider why I am looking at specific things—what it was I was looking at was amplified within this ultra-industrial space. Ambiguity was nullified and I am left with a stronger point of view. Furthermore, I will be able to look back at the drawings and paintings I made in this space to inform my memory of this time and place. The reasons for making drawings, paintings, photo and sculpture seem to have moved forward in their prominence, as ways of marking time and place. The documentation becomes important. From this space, I move forward in making.

Lived experience, memory, interpreted experience, remembered experience. How do we inform that memory?

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So many thanks to Eutectic Gallery and Mudshark Studios, LLC. for the unforgettable experience and opportunity. I can’t thank them enough!

My next post will find me working in these ideas, in the studio at OCAC.

Until then,

Go Make Something,

Jessica