Wednesday, April 4, 2012

How Much Is Enough?


Should I try to use my blown glass objects in these hypothetical new pieces I'm supposedly making, for the exhibit that opens in seventeen days?  I did manage, somehow, to get myself over to the Newark storage space today, to drop off some of the stuff that's been sitting in the back yard for... two years, and to root through the Newark accumulation, in the hopes of finding something glassy and useful.  Which, in fact, I did, to some extent.  I found an old piece of work I never liked anyway, and removed some of the glass from it.  And I found a laundry basket filled with damaged glass pods, which for all their imperfections, are exactly what I think I might need.

I also did some pre-foam-injection modifications on some old undershirts (I'll soon be naked, if I keep using my own clothing for my artwork), to see what might happen if there are internal restraints, keeping the foam from expanding as it wants to do.  I unwrapped one of the pieces I made yesterday, and although it seemed exciting as I untied some knots, and saw the way the foam picked up the wrinkling of the fabric, in the end the bare foam is kind of boring.  Maybe I need to damage it somehow? 

So, the plan for tomorrow is to set up a kind of outdoor work station, and make another series of these melon-like shapes, trapped in ribbed fabric.  (Must remember: wear gloves.  I've had a headache all day, and suspect it might be from handling so much of that foam yesterday...)  I'm hoping that, if I can get enough of these weird globules,, they may actually begin to make some kind of visual or emotional sense.  Maybe. 

As for the paper.  Think, think, think -- plot, plot, plot.  I'm reminded of graduate school, where, at the beginning of my glass studies, I had to come up with a different project for each of the ten weeks of the trimester.  No developing themes -- just ten different explorations of... something.  There were just two 'assigned' stipulations: one piece had to use rope, and one piece had to have, as one of its dimensions, my own height.  We were also told that all our work had to consist of at least 50% glass.  My fellow student and I were always trying to figure out just what this meant.  '50% by weight, or by volume?' Pamina would ask.  I wanted to ask -- 50% by cost?  We never did get a coherent answer.

As for the paper.  So, how exactly do I use this paper?  How much paper do I use?  How much do I need to use, in order for all of this work to qualify as 'Combat Paper' art?  The more I work, the less I like the idea of reconstructing these sheets into garments for the weird things I'm making.  What I've begun to like is the notion of labels and identification tags and serial numbers, on everything.  Which of course means finding vinyl letters and numbers, of which I have sheets and sheets... somewhere.  I'd really love a big stamp, that would allow me to produce a kind of soulless, mechanical series of numerals -- that feels the most correct.  The military is always keeping track of things, as a way of avoiding the inevitability of 'acceptable losses', I think.  I might still try to use a sheet of the uniform paper as a containing, sleeve-like restraint for my new foam work, but I'm pretty sure all I'll end up with will be an unappetizing mock cannoli. 

I also located, in my pile of detritus, a long, narrow plexiglass box, possibly from some sort of commercial display, and I instantly thought of those stories of American service personnel drowning in the Euphrates River.  I'm going to see if I can't caulk the box, to make it truly water-tight (in a quick test, it currently leaks like a sieve), and create a 'sample' of water-logged oddments, all with their ID tags of course.  My only concern -- the last time I tried using a plexiglass box, and put water in it, the thing leaked, and created a great dismal spot on the gallery's grey carpet.  Luckily, there was no damage, and it actually made the piece look more 'real', if you will.  The people in Teaneck might not appreciate such liquid verisimilitude, however.  Damn.

Oh, and I almost forgot -- in what may seem to be an unrelated event, I decided to go grocery shopping this evening -- John was out of yogurt, and I thought I'd save him the trouble of having to stop at the market on the way back from another long long day of pre-Easter churching.  I could have gone to the Eden Gourmet, for the yogurt, but I also wanted some loratidine -- in case the headache is spring-allergy-related, and not caused by a growing foam-incited brain tumor -- and some ice cream.  So I drove over to Union, to our favorite market, Shop and Shave, as I like to call it.  I zipped in, filled my cart with oddments, and five more bottles of seltzer (eau de Seltz, in French, don't you know), plus the ice cream, of course, and then had to wait a few extra minutes, because the cashier's printer wasn't working, and she insisted that I take my receipt with me.  How can I say no?

So, groceries in the back of the van, I retrace my path, instead of taking the other way home that John usually prefers.  When I got to the intersection where I leave Vauxhall Road, I was startled to see a large black plastic trash bag, rolling around in the middle of the street.  A large, black plastic trash bag.  It was obviously filled with something lightweight, given the way it moved, and I even thought it must be full of bubble wrap or something.  As there was so little traffic, at nearly 10 pm, I was about to turn and be on my way, when I realized I just couldn't.  Someone might swerve, to avoid this mystery impediment, and have an accident.  (I may have failed the knot-tying test, but I've still been a spiritual Boy Scout all my life, I'm afraid)  I pulled into a lot on the corner, waited until there was no oncoming traffic, and went to retrieve this glistening hazard-in-training.

As soon as I touched it, I knew what was inside -- pieces of that coarse, blue packing foam that I usually see in boxes for electronics.  How odd, I thought, that I should almost literally stumble upon a bag full of material I use for my artwork, and that, in deciding to perform a public service, I am 'rewarded' with yet more stuff to play with.  Instead of looking for a trash receptacle into which I could stuff this wayward sack, I tossed it into the van with the groceries, and continued on my way home.  Thinking... what are the odds?  Is this... a sign?  Or, more likely, just a bag of trash?
So.  In spite of 'lucky' finds of possibly helpful materials, I'm still groping.  I'm trying to find a way to make some art work that makes sense to me.  I feel stupid.  I don't really have enough time, and in spite of that, I keep coming up with new options, new notions, new variations on a theme I can't even articulate yet.  If only I'd started working on this a year ago, he says. If only I felt more energetic and positive.  If only I could figure out how to take the easy way out, instead of continually making things more difficult for myself.

And I feel ghoulish, really, in that, at the Combat Paper workshop, there are veterans with tangible, verifiable disabilities (my own 'unspecified 10% service-connected disability' seems, by comparison, like me complaining about my terrible hangnail, to patients in the cancer ward), and I'm plotting to hijack this art event, to 'wow' the viewers with artwork I suspect will be at a different level from most of what they'll be seeing.  To 'steal the show', as it were.  Of course, the joke could well be on me.  As it has a long-standing habit of being, now that I come to think of it.   

©   2012       Walter Zimmerman

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