Wednesday, April 29, 2020

2020 04 Andrea Matus deMeng Challenge No. 1: Odilon Redon

Andrea Matus deMeng
April 23, 2020

No photo description available.
Challenge #1: Collage, paint or sketch a small work inspired by Odilon Redon's piece "The Eye, Like a Strange Balloon, Mounts Towards Infinity".

Odilon Redon is a French artist who lived from 1840 to 1916. While he worked in a number of mediums, I am familiar with the work from which Andrea selected the image above. To me, this type of work reminds me of surrealism and Freud. They have a creepy challenge to them that really makes me look for the story in the piece.

When I was studying the work of Redon above, another familiar piece of art came to mind:

Joseph Cornell, Tilly Losch, 1935-1938

What came to my mind when blending Redon with Cornell was Cornell's early collage work could look similar to Redon's work (maybe without some of the psychological depth).

Joseph Cornell, Untitled, c. 1931, collage | Joseph cornell ...
Joseph Cornell, Untitled, 1931

So, now I know what direction I want to go. While Cornell would build his own boxes, I went the easy route and headed into my basement to find something appropriate in my stash.

Painted backdrop

For the edges of the box (and because I was eager to try out this product because of another on-line project I am embroiled in) I used Seth Apter's Baked Texture which turned out pretty cool.

Thus we have, I Should Have Remained Burdened With Destination.

The title is from a poem by Weldon Kees called The Patient is Rallying.

I want to thank Andrea for the Challenge. I find these challenges by many of the artists I follow on the web a great life saver while we are all staying indoors and social distancing. 

Thursday, April 16, 2020

2020 04 Picture What Happened to Us

Picture What Happened to Us

One of the nice things of having a cadre of friendly resources and friends on the Internet is that I never have a block on projects to work on. It also helps to have a basement full of crap when quarantined as there is an endless amount of inspiration there as well.

But, like the Cowardly Lion, sometimes I need a nudge to have the courage to tackle a subject and this project was like this.

First, let's start with the origins. At this point it might be a reveal to tell you that the theme could just have easily been "things Gary breaks." The first piece to feel my wrath was the perfect circle that was going to make the background of the whole work. In the very first step in the project, I tried to screw it into the board shown below--at which point the circle cracked in half.

I have always said that artists should never venture into assemblage unless you want to be a problem solver. However, in the whole making lemonade out of lemons, sometimes the wreckage can be a "happy accident" that is a better idea than the one the artist had at the beginning. 

Here is the results of rummaging my own basement and what survived to become a part of the project. 

Now securely attached together, it was time to gesso up the boards so that they can hold paper and paint. 



As I started on the project, the base was a composite statute that I (yes, it was me) had busted the head off quite awhile back. However, now it becomes the perfect support for what I have in mind.  

Because the bust needs to be secured to the boards, I made the decision to chop off the shoulders. 

The tool of choice for shoulder chopping: a Dremel Multi-Max Oscillating Tool

Well, here we go again. While trying to attach the statute to the boards, I snapped the boards AGAIN!!!!!

Thanks to some wood glue and some Aves Apoxie Clay, all was restored

All along I knew that the head of this creature was going to be a this camera. The question became--to what purpose.

I don't have to tell you that the worldwide pandemic and our quarantine is on everyone's mind--but artistically it was not something I wanted to use as a theme until my mentor, Michael deMeng began to make this series and not only inspired me with his artistic style but reduced my fear to use something so contemporary as a theme.

Corona the Distancer

Corona the Isolator

Corona the Separator

One of the great things about Michael is he is very much a connector and so his deMeng Workshop Junkies page on Facebook let's me see the work of my fellow followers. Who could not be inspired when another artist like Susan Greaves is inspired to make a piece like this?

Susan Greaves, Dr. Wenliang's Prophecy

It is not uncommon for me to be well into the assembling of a project before the theme announces itself. Here, viewing the work of other artists launched me into my theme. I decided that there would be a secret reveal within this work and it would be housed within the former lens housing on the camera.

In order to accomplish that, I used a tin type and some paint to create this image. 

This piece was put together, some painting done, more assemblage and more painting until it was done. Every once in awhile I would find that I needed to add an element to make the piece flow. 

Up shit creek without a paddle 

These three fail to social distance and covid-19 just spreads and spreads 

My wife Denice and I had our last social activity, a concert, on my birthday
March 11th 

And thus we have, Picture What Happened to Us, my piece about the covid-19 pandemic. 

Sunday, April 5, 2020

2019 Michael deMeng at Shake Rag Alley

Class Sample by Michael deMeng

Sanctum of the Forgotten Tune
June 6-9, 2019
Thursday-Sunday, 9am-4pm
Michael deMeng, Shake Rag Alley

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

In a feat of good planning I started my day today with a cortisone shot in my right hand for chronic tendon issues and picked up a pair of new glasses which thankfully both worked for me.

Then it was off to Chicago and O’Hare International airport to pick up Michael deMeng who flew in from Vancouver. All worked well and three hours later we checked in at the Shake Rag office in Mineral Point, WI.

After a little set up in the Lind Pavilion where the class was to be held, we headed over to Tequila Point for dinner. After dropping Michael off at his residence, I headed back to the Pavilion for a little work on the first part of my clarinet piece: the salad tray.

Then it was off to my accommodations above the Shake Rag Office in the Coach House and a good night’s sleep.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Today Michael and I ate breakfast at Red Rooster then spent a few minutes in the Pavilion.  I got a chance to put a coat of white gesso on my serving tray.

We set off to Madison’s airport to get Marilyn Werst who was scheduled to arrive at 11:07 a.m.  Of course that was also when we were scheduled to pick her up but we were a bit late because I underestimated the time it would take to get there. Marilyn met us out by the drive through and then we headed to State Street in Madison. We made stops at the Artisan and Craftsman store for art supplies and the ice cream shop for sweet supplies. Then, after a short stop at a local hardware store, we were on the road back. A quick stop at the grocery store in Dodgeville and then we were back in Mineral Point unloading Marilyn’s stuff.

I had a chance to get another coat on the serving tray before we were out to Mineral Point’s must stop: Crazy Frank’s flea market. I did buy a few things, I must admit.

Lynn Ovenden arrived when we were shopping so we gave her the key to the Pavilion as Kelley Clarke was shortly going to get there and both wanted to unload. After we all united, we met the arriving Amanda who not only unloaded but joined us for dinner.

The six of us drove to nearby Dodgeville and Bob’s Bitchin’ Barbecue where we all ate too much food.

When we got back everyone went to bed but I stayed in the Pavilion getting a little yellow on my serving tray. A knock on the window was my introduction to Margot (?) who drove in from Minneapolis and wanted to unload before heading to bed.

I did a little more work and then headed to the Coach House myself as tomorrow will prove to be an early day.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Today is the first official day of class. After breakfast we all headed over to the Pavilion to make sure it is open for the last of the arrivals.

Michael deMeng

Here is the course description: "Over the years I have acquired many interesting bits and pieces of discarded goodies, but I have to admit that some of the most interesting of them were musical instruments. Usually by the time I get them all the melodies of their past lives have long faded; old trumpets, violins, oboes, and guitars are just dusty shells destined for a corner in the attic. Or … perhaps, not … One thing I have noticed about musical instruments is that the old life never really leaves them. The brass, the mahogany, and ivory, though marked, still have a voice … though perhaps it is not a voice that can be heard … but rather seen. In this class, you will bring old discarded instruments, and we will retune them … not to play music … but so that they speak as a visual art form. Using the process of assemblage you will alter and/or combine broken violins, piano keys, trumpets, etc., and give them a new beginning as a shrine or sculpture. Music to your eyes."

The Opening Talk

The class sample pictured on the top of this blog and in all the publicity for the workshop had to be shipped to Australia for the upcoming repeat of this class there. What this meant for us was that Michael decided to create a class sample in front of our eyes. He began with this computer game guitar from Crazy Franks to which he would add a candle holder and a statute of Michael Jordan from Space Jam. (More on this later)

Our home for four days--the Lind Pavilion

Some things in the workshop should just not be seen

This day I had lunch at a place I normally do not go during Shake Rag workshops: Cruise Inn where everything is fried except my BLT which turned out to be great.

My table mate Marilyn Werst from Louisville, KY, gets some help from Michael

The group had dinner at Poppolo’s this evening. I am the last person to leave the Pavilion at night as I agree to be the key holder.

Friday, June 7, 2019

After breakfast this morning it is time for more demos from The Master.

Today's lunch was at Grey Dog and dinner at Brewery Creek. Again I was the last to leave the Pavilion.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Today some of us were up early to get to Pointer Café by 7:00 a.m. because today is Crazy Frank’s outdoor flea market which is going to be attended by most of the students. This turned out to be a rich field of pickin' for the group--including the oft-discussed by eventually never purchases vintage tractor hood.

Here are my buys:

My group was back to the Linn Pavilion by 9:30 where we launched into our painting demos.

Lunch found me taking Michael and Marilyn to the grocery store for more supplies for tonight’s wine and cheese party. After working through the afternoon we had wine and cheese at Tuck Point with Katherine Engen, Bill and Lorraine Reynolds as guests. Then it was dinner at Tequila Point before I was back to work in the Linn until 10:30 p.m.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Today I was up and out by 6:30 a.m. for breakfast at Pointer Café. Then Lynn, Kelley, Marilyn, Alice and Rob headed over to Dodgeville for the Lion’s Club Flea Market. For the second time this weekend, we found a great flea market and here are my buys.

Today's class has some demos, much angst, and lunch again at the Cruise Inn.

The afternoon has some work but this group was ready by 3:30 p.m. for the highlight of all Michael deMeng workshops: the Critique. This is a chance to have your work reviewed by The Master, hear him comment on your fellow students' work, and get a close up look at all the hard work everyone did for four days.


Most of the students use this time to clean up and pack their cars but some of us are not going home tonight. So after The Master packs his class supplies up Lynn, Marilyn, Alice, Rob, Gigi, Mike and Mr. deMeng all drive over to Bob’s Bitchin’ Barbecue in Dodgeville.

When we get back to Mineral Point I decide to do some painting in the Linn until 9:30 p.m.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Michael, Lynn, Marilyn and I are up a little later today for breakfast at The Red Rooster.

After saying our goodbyes to Lynn, the three amigos head to the Linn and pack our stuff in my van.

Then we drive over to Madison to spend some time walking State Street, shopping and get some lunch at an Asian Fusion restaurant.

After a two hour drive, we reach Chicago's O'Hare airport around 4:00 p.m. where I drop Marilyn and Michael at the United terminal for their flights home.

I am home, unpacked and out in a restaurant with Denice by 6:00 p.m. in Milwaukee

As always, I want to thank Master, O My Master Michael deMeng for a great workshop and fun times in Mineral Point at Shake Rag Alley.

He will be back next year and so will I, you betcha hey!


I have discovered two things about taking remote workshops. They work best for me if I do some planning and construction at home. Plan and construct.  So here is how that worked this year.

PROJECT ONE: Many Human Transactions Take Place In a Realm of Darkness

At Home

Auditions at home led to the selection of a wall stand, one of the three wise men from a Christmas set and an old violin

This is how I conceived it would all go together

Auditions at home led to the selection of a muskrat skull

A quick Dremel exercise (done outside while wearing a mask)

I used the Dremel to round the planter so it sat on the rounded violin

I ran some bolts through from the back to hold the rack

This drawer pull was added on the front... the bolts out the back can act as a hanger for the wall mount

At Shake Rag Alley

The muskrat skull replaces the wise man's face

The baby Jesus gets into the act

I use papier mache on the violin

The violin is prep for paint and nails are added

The figure is done and attached to the porch

The finished project at Shake Rag ready for the critique

And thus we have...Many Human Transactions Take Place In a Realm of Darkness.

The title is a modification of the quote, "Many human transactions take place in this realm of darkness" by Kathryn Harrison from Please Stop Thinking contained in Light the Dark: Writers on Creativity, Inspiration and the Artistic Process edited by Joe Fassler.

PROJECT TWO: This Body I Testify From Is a Binoculars Through Which You Watch

At Home

The audition process led to these selections

The post was attached to a round stand of wood

An armature was added to the post

This serving tray became important


The first task on this project was to paint this cheap plastic serving tray I bought a Party City the night before I left while Denice was shopping for school supplies

At this workshop I found out one thing--do not turn your back on Michael deMeng

It is finished...but the face will probably go

Arms are added to the clarinet

The binoculars are clayed in

A rather long and laborious audition process led to me trading for the little gold container from Kelley Clarke; she got a vintage door plate

I painted this post system all white

The clarinet got painted...

...and then I just kept going and did the whole thing in black

A second coat was needed

By the time I left Shake Rag on Monday, this was as far as I got on this one. I am patenting the color technique as Hawaiian Shirt. 


And thus we have, This Body I Testify From is a Binoculars Through Which You Watch.