Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Kewpie Collages

Kewpie and the Carousel Horse

Kewpie Contemplates the Tree of Life

Kewpie Does the Diner

Kewpie Hits Gold

Kewpie and Feathered Friends

Indulge me in a mostly visual post this week, a selection of Dollscape collages from my Kewpie series. I had to pull of out the art show I was slated to do at a local church; it just didn't work out. Politics, poor communication and ever-changing contingencies are some of the reasons why I said "adios", and feel much the better for it. The pressure is off. My art career is still and will probably always will be a work in progress. I am investigating other opportunities to show and sell my work. The Kewpie series is mostly light and/or mock serious. I hope you enjoy them....

Kewpies originated in Germany, and are said to serve as an alter ego of Cupid. Here in the United States, they were popularized by a cartoonist/illustrator named Rose O'Neill during the early 1900s. Kewpies are highly collectible. There is also a Kewpie Mayonnaise sold in Japan (and on amazon.com). Kewpies were some of the first mass produced dolls, and have been made of bisque, wood, paper and celluloid. Rose O'Neill envisaged Kewpies as friendly little creatures who helped people get out of trouble and/or heal broken hearts. May many Kewpies be with you!

photos: 5 Original cut and paste Kewpie collages by Keddy Ann Outlaw

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Dog Boy by Eva Hornung

If you enjoyed reading The Road by Cormac McCarthy, you'll be able to stomach Dog Boy: A Novel (Viking, 2010) by Australian author Eva Hornung (a pseudonym for Eva Sallis). The Road, which I very much admired, is set in post-apocalyptic America. Dog Boy feels almost as deeply post-apocalyptic, but is set in post-Perestroika Moscow.

When readers first meet Romochka, he knows nothing of dogs. He is alone in an abandoned apartment and does not know where his mother or abusive uncle have gone. There is hardly any food in the apartment and everything of value has been removed. The entire building seems to be vacated. Winter is coming. When he ventures out into the city, he encounters lots of wandering homeless people, both young and old. Danger is everywhere. Somehow he ends up following a wild dog to her lair. He snuggles in with her four puppies, he drinks her milk, and thus begins his apprenticeship as a dog or dog boy. Spending several seasons with the dogs, he becomes skilled at gathering food scraps and hunting. In time he becomes their leader.

The book is brutal. Blood and guts abound. But the story is gripping. I wanted to put it down at first, but had to find out if Romochka lived to tell his tale. Would he ever go back to a more humanlike existence? A campaign to find and poison feral dogs is involved. When the dogs bring a second child, only a baby, back to the lair, Romochka is at first jealous. But his attachment to the babe grows, and the plot thickens. The level of communication between the dogs and Romochka is beautifully developed, but at the same time challenging to read since the the first half of the book has very little spoken dialogue. But the readers' rewards are many, and thus Dog Boy is a book I feel I will never, ever forget.

I've always enjoyed books where children must survive without adults: Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George, Hatchet by Gary Paulsen and The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner (all childrens' titles) come to mind. A school librarian friend recommended Dog Boy (Thank you, Janis!) We are hoping for a sequel.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Summertime Miscellany: Right Brain/Left Brain

There is a very provocative book I read years ago that I keep thinking of: The Alphabet Versus the Goddess (Viking, 1998), by physicist Leonard Shlain. Basically, it claims that our left brains became more prominent after humankind began to communicate through text, versus the pre-print era when we thought and communicated more visually (via the right brain). In this age of the Internet, we move more towards a balance of the two. Shlain aligns text with linear male thinking and women with more holistic, visual states of mind, a premise that seems too simplistic for me. Yet I am fascinated by the rapid changes in our culture as far as modes of communicating go. We have become very graphics-rich. Everyone is a photographer. Graphic novels are beoming de rigueur. We consume visual content via tv, ipods, film, YouTube, email photo attachments, you name it....

Sitting down to blog this week, I felt less verbally inspired than usual, so I reached for my camera and went out to the yard. Yesterday I snapped the photo of our one lone cucumber growing in the garden, hardly worth the dozens of gallons of water we've poured into it, not to mention compost, mulch, etc. But maybe there will more cukes coming. Sometimes I think the cuke and squash flowers just don't get pollinated correctly since it is always a challenge to succeed with these veggies in hot humid, Houston. Why do we even try? Darned if I know, but that's a different post..... I thought about doing some research on cucumbers and composing a whole post about that, but it felt too forced. So this morning I took a few more photos of things growing in the yard and wanted to be done with it, just post a few photos and move on with my week since I am busy getting ready to hang my art show.

But this notion of visual versus text kept gnawing at me. My brain is leaning more towards the visual these days since I am making so much art. But then again, I also read a lot. I'm not sure I can conceive of a world without text. Artist's Way author Julia Cameron recommends giving up reading for a week or so if you are a blocked artist. I'm not sure I could ever do that! There is much to be said for being fluid between both modes of communication. I love to pour over native American war and pony paint symbols, cave paintings and other pre-text images. Apparently most people picked up paint or sticks to draw before there was text. They took "art" for granted.

Drafting an artist's statement for my forthcoming show, I wrote that I love collage because it serves as an alternate reality where anything is possible. Because it is often multi-layered and complex, collage has the potential to portray the states of paradox, fancifulness and imagination common to the human brain. Only through collage do I feel I am saying things words can't express. We have become very sophisticated in our visual communication, and I do believe that involves some integration of the mind's ability to move back and forth between the brain's hemispheres. We have so many digital tools that allow us to express ourselves. Talking to or everyone (or no one) here in the blogosphere, I am grateful for this mode of communication that blends words and pictures. Peace out!

photos by KAO" Lone Cuke, Chickens a Pecking, Plastic Flamingos "Pete & Petunia", Yard Flowers with Metal Chicken Figurine

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Assemblage Fever

Assemblage boxes are multiplying on my work table during these Dog Days of summer. Last year I was sewing up a storm during August. It's good to have plenty of inside activities planned when the thermometer shoots past the mid-90s. I've made assemblage boxes before, including a portable Elvis shrine for a friend, but it's been awhile. That means my supply of oddball materials has been building, and it was time to get into action. That and the added nudge of homework assigned in the Mixed Media course I'm taking at the Art League gave me plenty of impetus.

Wikipedia defines assemblage as an artistic process in which a three dimensional artistic composition is made from putting together found objects. Joseph Cornell was a master of assemblage, and here in Houston we have access to a lot of his work at the Menil Collection. Years ago I devoured a wonderful biography of Cornell called Utopia Parkway: the Art and Life of Joseph Cornell (FSG, 1997) by Deborah Solomon, which I can't recommend enough. But I don't want look at too much of Cornell's work right now because I'd rather play with what I have, uninfluenced by anyone else's masterpieces.

I'm using cigar boxes, boxtops, frames, all kinds of substrata, and though I tried to get away from the "dollcentric" theme I've developed in my collage practice, I quickly realized there was no getting away from that particular obsession. See two works above that I completed last week, both of them including small doll elements. There are always problems to solve in such multimedia works. Will the glue hold? Will the glue show? In what order should things get glued down? Will I be able to touch up the paint without messing up other surfaces? Will there be enough three dimensionality? and so on and so forth. There is lots of experimentation and running around for "just one more thing", as well as some frustration when things don't quite work out right. There are both "oh-ohs" and "ahas", so life is never dull when I'm caught up in assemblage fever. I like to work on more than one box at a time so that while one is clamped, fresh-glued or fresh-painted, I can turn my attention to the whatever next stage is required.

I should be doing other things - there are three rooms to paint here at the house, and many other siren calls. But I'm having too much fun to stop. As long as the AC holds and we don't run into any hurricanes, I'm all set. Roll over, Beethoven - the Dog Days are here.....
Photos: assemblage boxes by KAO, 2010