I think it's time to share some good news. Though I haven't yet officially signed the contract, I have been tapped by the good folks at ArtWorks for the biggest commission of my career thus far. I have been asked by Children's Hospital here in Cincinnati to create 12 custom pieces of artwork to be installed in the newly renovated neurology unit!
This commission is not only special because of its scope, but because it gives me a chance to make a mark on a place that has made such a difference in my life. My little cricket has epilepsy, and at one point, her seizures were so out of control that we thought she'd be severely brain damaged or worse. Children's Hospital saved her life on more than one occasion, and she has been seizure-free for nearly a year and a half. No number of words or works of art could ever express my gratitude, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't try, right?
So I embark on this crazy mission with my cricket in mind. The theme that Children's has asked for is "Wishes, Hopes and Dreams in Nature." I've come up with three concepts for their consideration:
Each concept involves incorporating the actual written dreams, hopes, wishes, and prayers of patients, family and Hospital staff directly into the artworks.
So which do you like best?
It has been a while. I've been caught up in the new big-girl job, which, surprisingly, doesn't leave much for recreational blogging (imagine that). But yesterday, I stepped back in time to the glorious summer I just spent painting a mural in Bellevue, KY. The ArtWorks dedication of the mural was last night - treats, live music, and inspirational speeches by the mayor, the director of the Taft Museum, and our peeps from Artworks. The cricket and the dungeon master were my dates. The weather was GORGE. A sharp contrast to the conditions over the summer!
It was my first time seeing the mural without the scaffolding, and it was, well, awesome! It looked so much bigger than it seemed as we worked on it, bit by bit. I felt a wave of exhausted satisfaction, knowing that something I had a hand in creating would be existing, quite publicly, for decades. Decades! It was fun to point out the parts that I worked on, and the apprentices took particular joy in pointing out the fact that a bird pooed on the buckskin coat of my interpretation of Henry Farney's "The Song of the Talking Wire" (1904). One of the pitfalls of outdoor art...
Anyway, here are some pics:
What a trip! I can't think of a better way to spend a summer :)
OH MA GAH!
It's hot out, and the weather is determined not to break until after the Bellevue crew is finished with the mural, I'm sure. The remarkable thing is, we've been powering through with nary a complaint (well, actually, I probably complain enough for everyone, truth be told). This week is our last week working on a "full" crew, and next week has been dubbed "detail week," where a smaller crew will go in and fix mistakes, finish sections that have been put off, etc. In short, we're in the HOME STRETCH! Realizing this made the rough day a little better.
Well, that and this. It was too good to keep it to myself. You're welcome.
This week at the wall was AMAZEBALLS. With the weather approaching tolerable levels, the crew was able to work slightly extended hours, so we got a lot accomplished. Faces are beginning to appear and a story is starting to unfold. So. Excited.
One day last week, as we took our lunch break in a square of shade in the parking lot, we got a visitor with a few things to say. An older gentleman with a smart straw hat wandered by, taking photographs of our work. I looked around at the smiling crew, who were clearly proud that a member of the public was interested in what we're doing. The guy turned to us and asked, "Are you the artists?" We nodded, yes sir. "Did you do the one in Newport?" We shook our heads, no sir. "Well, the one in Newport is better. This one has too much junky-junk up there, " he said as he gestured to the upper right of the wall, and then walked away without another word.
When you're doing public art, you are necessarily subjected to public judgement - that's just the way it goes. The crew took it well, they were quite tickled, in fact. And now "junky-junk" has become kind of a catch phrase for us. We are thinking about making a flag to attach to the scaffolding, and that might just end up being our motto.
Anyway, some photos from the week:
Also, a reporter came by earlier in the week and gave us a lovely little write-up in the local paper. You can read it here.
I'm hoping I can remember to bring my drill on Monday so we can take some of the plywood panels down and see more of the wall. Stay tuned for more junky-junk :)
It's only Monday and I'm already wiped - I spent this past weekend (my birthday weekend - yay!) at my family's house on Lake Barkley. While there, I caught a few too many rays and got effectively beaten up by the deadly combination of my dad, a jet ski, and a tube. So I am writing this update from the warm embrace of my new best friend - my heating pad. Gettin' old here, folks.
In spite of many muscular complaints, I was somehow able to get myself out of bed at dawn, arriving at our mural worksite ready to go. Here is some evidence of our recent work:
If only we could have more days like today! Overcast, mid to low-80s, and a steady breeze to boot! The crew was in heaven as everyone dove into the real work of laying the paint down. Today I worked intensively with two apprentices on the Japanese peonies that lay across the foreground (they're conveniently behind the plywood walls - you'll just have to wait to see them in their full glory), and let me tell you, I felt like I had fallen down the rabbit hole into a Georgia O'Keefe painting.
Some of our brains haven't worked quite so hard all summer as they have today, but it is nevertheless so energizing to see our sketches coming to life through color:
Check back soon for more updates!
EGADS, it's hot out! I'm surprised the whole state hasn't burst into flames - it makes the already challenging mural project even more so. The blacktop of the parking lot beneath us is like a skillet, and the freshly gesso-ed wall is blinding in the direct sun. Scott, Joe (my co-Teaching Artist; see/hear his awesome work here), and I tried our best to rig up some shade on the scaffolding using tarps, but the sun still finds a way to weasel in. The heat makes every second feel like an eternity.
Yet, miraculously, the crew stays on point. They are truly amazing art-making machines, pushing through the merciless weather like professionals. Today we nearly completed the drawing using a grid system, and that means that come next week, we will finally...
...wait for it....
I can't wait to crack open the first bucket and really start to see the mural take shape! In the meantime, I'm going to hide out indoors (I might not come back out all weekend) and try to return my body temperature to normal.
We've got the first week of work under our belts, and it has been BUSY! As the Taft Museum is our partner for this mural, the design is based on some of the more iconic paintings in the permanent collection. So the crew spent some time in the breathtaking museum, sketching from the landscape, the architecture, the draperies, and of course, the art. Not only did they flex their creative muscles in their sketchpads, but also in a polished and professional presentation to all the donors, sponsors and partners in the project. They really knocked 'em dead - I felt like such a proud mama bear!
Come Friday, it was finally time to face the wall and tackle the first step in prep: wire-brushing the bejeezus out of the surface. This takes off any crumbly bits that might encourage the paint to peel later on, as well as a few layers of skin off of our knuckles (see above) in the first of what I suspect will be several small sacrifices to the art gods. Though as long as we stay hydrated, alert, and sun-screened (no one gets melanoma on my watch!), I think we'll manage just fine.
Six more weeks to go! It's hard to imagine that this massive expanse of ordinary wall is going to turn into a one-of-a-kind work of art, especially in such a seemingly short time frame. Today we got through just a mere fraction of the gesso process, and we're hoping to have the thing gridded and drawn by the end of the week. Phew!
And as a side note - today I signed my contract with Kenton County Schools and am officially the newest art teacher at Scott High School! Hooray for art!
Today marked the first official day of my summer gig with ArtWorks, the Cincinnati-based creative machine for regional transformation. The non-profit organization employs 14-21 year-olds to work as apprentices on various projects (lots of murals) in nearly all of the greater Cincinnati area neighborhoods. Luckily for me, they employ Teaching Artists, too. This summer, I'll be working under local artist Scott Donaldson with a team of 8 teens on the very first ArtWorks mural in Bellevue, Kentucky.
Pictured at left is Scott's 2008 mural in Camp Washington, which towers at 45 feet and is aptly titled Campy Washington. You can check out more of his incredible work (I love his portraits) and read all about him here.
Today was just the orientation, but I am already ridiculously excited, even though most days, we'll be facing brutal sun and thick, heavy heat as we work at the wall. I got to meet all of our apprentices, but I look forward to really getting to know them in the coming weeks. Collaborative art-making is such an exquisite (and unfortunately these days, rare) pleasure, which forges deep connections that can't be achieved through mere conversation. Art reaches into our depths and touches us at our most human level. I like to call it the Great Connector.
And really, anything that gets me out of my studio/hobbit-hole/head and interacting with people (what are those?!) is a good, good thing. Stay tuned, friends, as I chronicle the journey.