Sunday, February 10, 2013

Michael DeMeng's Pez Dispensing Totem Online Workshop 2013

I enrolled in Michael de Meng's Pez Dispensing Totem Online Workshop because de Meng has decided to recycle some of his old workshops online that he most likely will not be teaching in a live setting again.  This gives a student like me, who discovered his art in 2007, a chance at the forms that were taught before I came on board his world.

The basic premise of this workshop is to retain the features of a Pez container but also radically alter it so that it looks like something very different.  The key to the whole process is to utilize the already goofy nature of the creatures on the original Pez to make a entity more thematically dramatic than say Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny or a cute little reindeer. 

The first Pez container I tackled was Mickey Mouse.  This Pez's spring still lifted the guts but the head hinges no longer worked.  I thought I would start with this one so that I could plunk a head on and not worry about it so that I could concentrate on my first totem building.  So, off with Mickey Mouse's head!  It was replaced with the skull of a muskrat skull that I had laying around the house (why, doesn't everyone?).  The skull was attached with Aves Apoxie Clay and a rebar wire armature. 

The exterior of the Pez container has to be worked on in order to prepare it for painting.  For this Pez, I decided a full body treatment was in order. 

While a Pez on its own can stand, with all the alterations that I am making to it, it is necessary to provide a base for the totem.  This led to a search through my stuff for likely candidates for bases.

For this first totem, I sawed off one half of a binocular and decided to use its sloping shape for a base.  In some packaging or other I saved a mesh net that was selected to give the totem some texture lines.  After attaching the totem to the base, I added some metal wings, two baby arms, and a watch part for a halo. 

Then it was time to paint, paint, paint.  

Completed and named in honor of Katherine Engen of Valley Ridge Art Studio, this one is called Dressed by Butterflies.

The second Pez challenged me to sculpt a head.  Sculpting is not something I have tried but I was inspired by the lesson in the on-line class.  So I decided to select the reindeer because it would have a lot of stuff to hang Aves Apoxie clay onto plus the tin frame hung on the nose rather easily.  That is Biakabutuka stopping by to sniff around.

Considering this is my first, I was rather pleased with the expression and rather surprised that he looks kind of happy.  As I built this one, the base became a piece of cardboard.

Then it was time to paint, paint, paint.

This one is called Press to Reset.  

For the third Pez, I thought I would try to wrap the base of the Pez in words rather than clay.  I had a heart-shaped Pez to begin with so I went with the shape and the required single eyeball.  For the base, I selected a rusty piece of metal that I decided I would not paint.

I decided I would paint this part of the structure up before doing anything else.  Then to the back of the Pez I glued and apoxied a metal bar and some watch parts.

This one is called The Rose-Colored Globe.

The fourth Pez was a glow-in-the-dark witch.

Whether to keep that feature was solved when I got a little over-enthusiastic in the painting.  The learning lesson on this piece was to glue or apoxie as much stuff to this one to practice that aspect of the Pez.  Painting also became fun as I went with a metallic and darker look.

This one is called Witchy Woman.

The last Pez I worked on led to a decision to actually build a totem.  I rummaged through my toy box to find the elements that would make a cool combination.  I slid a little to the left when instead of an animal I choose a very unhappy looking young man from my doll box.

Claying up my totem was easier than I thought.  This time around, I decided that I wanted to create a blend with my painting from light (swan) to dark (boy).

This one is called Headache Totem.

For more information about assemblage, Michael de Meng and his on-line workshops, please check out his information

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Oaxaca Dia de Los Muertos Dia Ocho

Today is Thursday, November 1st, and it is finally Dia de Los Muertos.  The day found me up bright and early so I went to the workshop and worked on another little wall hanging which is piece number four.  At 7ish I had breakfast and then decided my early morning stroll today would be north into the hills across the Pan American Highway. 

My goal this morning was to re-shoot the wall art we discovered on day four (dia cuatro) when we were walking back from the Santo Tomas Xochimilco Church.

After shooting the wall art I walked up to the Santo Tomas Xochimilco Church where on Fridays and Saturdays the Pochote natural food and craft market is open from 9:00 a. m. until 3:00 p. m.  I walked around the square and visited the ofrendas as well as observed the vendors in the market.

On the square is a gate to the Panteon de San Tomas which looked like a lovely little cemetery with plenty of sculptural and flora interest to a photographer but the gate was padlocked and I could not get in.  The cemetery was full of residents decorating the graves and I must have looked absolutely pathetic standing there because a kind gentleman took it upon himself to pantomime to me that I could leave the square, walk about a block up the south wall of the cemetery and find the actual entrance.

I did so and then had a truly religious experience.  I was the only non-resident in the cemetery as the residents were working and it was very moving.  I am not a religious person nor do I put much faith in whoo-whoo kind of stuff but at one point while taking these photos I started crying.  Very strange.
Very unexplainable or not.

I spent about two hours shooting photos this day so pardon the excess on my part but I think this might have been the best photography experience of the trip for me.

Here is an example of how I can use the images from the graveyard to make interesting art.  I plan on using some of these for screen printing onto hand-made paper to create a book about this special place.  

On the walk back to the hotel there was time to swing down the Pan American Highway (to revisit the wall of art by the cultural center) and a different street so I could see some different street art.

The art on the wall of the Instituto Cultural Oaxaca is too tempting not to shoot all over again (see Dia Cuatro).

I had some time on my hand so I did this self-portrait in order to leave a little of myself in Oaxaca.

OK, just kidding.  However, this is a little eerie to look at.

Although Oaxaca is the most poverty stricken state in Mexico, you did not see the homeless on the streets like you do in the USA.  However...

When I got back to the hotel it was time to hit the studio and finish my fourth little hanging sculpture and then on to a bag lunch brought in by Colleen and her crew.

After lunch, it was time for the famous Michael de Meng critique.  For those who have never experienced it, the end of the workshop comes when the students here the tune The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.  Then it is, as the man says, "Pencils down!" and we gathered to have a discussion about what we have done. For this workshop, we gathered on the patio of the hotel.  All the students bring their art forward to a table and there is time to take a close look at everything that the other students made during the class.  Because this was the patio of the hotel, we even had an audience (not sure what they thought about all this).

 Michael de Meng

My apologies to my fellow classmates but time and my failing memory may have me mislabeling some of the art below or missing some completely because of fuzzy shots.

My five pieces

Lois Inman Engle

Vickie Trancho

Solange Belleforte

Teresa Reaver

Marilyn Ubben Werst and Jazz Hands Jesus

Jessie McNally

Kristy (KD) Duncan

There is value in having your own piece discussed but there may be just as much value in hearing the other students talk about theirs and hear Michael critique their efforts.

Tonight we are a mission to conclude our Dia de Los Muertos experience by heading out by cab across town to the most famous of all the cemeteries, the Panteon San Miguel.  Once there, the atmosphere was very circus like and the cemetery was very crowded.  While my experience from earlier in the day at Panteon de San Tomas was very religious, this was a very different event and not quite as moving.

After wandering around the panteon we all cabbed back to have dinner in the zocalo at La Cafeteria del Jardin.  That night I need a little down time so I walked around the zocalo by myself and the back to hotel.

I had a little Photoshop fun with this child and his costume.

I really liked my time in Mexico and I found Oaxaca to be a vibrant and exciting place to be.  Perhaps too exciting at times.  There is a federal presence in the city that at times can be rather scary.  Trucks roll by with mounted machine guns and federal police with really big military guns walk the streets.  Once I was walking with my arm slung over my camera when I found myself approaching two federal police who, oddly, had their arms over their rifles in the exact same position as me.

Tonight, alone, I returned from the zocalo and as I rounded the last corner to head to our hotel, I saw a trio of officers standing on the edge of the small park that is just down from our hotel.  All I could think of was that I might have run into my worst fear, that all stories of political unrest, drug running and Mexican prisons was about to be my story.

I kept saying to myself:  don't stumble, don't look at them, don't do anything.

And..nothing happened.  They did not call out.  They did not want me.

I would guess they have other things to worry about.

You can see the full set of photos from this trip at