Photos from the show at Proyecto’Ace and some thoughts from Chiloé

It’s hard to believe I arrived in South America almost two months ago. I feel like I’ve lived a lifetime compressed into three weeks here in Patagonia.

After being on the road and multiple long bus rides, I have now what feels like a gargantuan amount of time–ten whole days–in a remote, tranquil studio with no Wi-Fi, reachable from the city center most easily via taxi for between the equivalent of 80 cents to $1.30 (depending on your driver and whether you’re obstinate about not getting ripped off as a foreigner/disinclined to fight with someone who is desperate enough to lie for an extra 50 cents), or if one is so inclined, an hour’s walk straight up a hill.

I’ll have more to share soon about this island of Chiloé and my second residency here. For now, I’m ready to share some pictures from my first residency, in Buenos Aires.

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The story follows the life of a homing pigeon, who unlike other pigeons, leaves his home and what he knows, to work in a world delivering packages of no value to people with no heads. He is rewarded for his ambition with a life in a golden cage, delivering messages for heads that are not connected to the bodies they try to lead. He has a choice at this point, to be comfortable with his “reward” in life, or to pursue a different way of being.

I have carried a draft copy with me on this trip, sharing it with a few other travelers who have been curious about my business here.

One of the many beauties of travel is how it gathers transient people to bond through the universal art of storytelling.

I have two choices when I buy a bus or plane ticket. Ida, or Ida y Vuelta? Going, or Going and Returning? For three weeks, I’ve only been going, but in this next short week, going will become returning, as I wrap my journey northward again.

Always, we are going and returning, and there is nothing quite like leaving what we know to find whom we always have been.

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Proyecto’Ace, Week 3: Time is Money, and some other thoughts and idioms

Time is money, the old saying goes.

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It’s not entirely true. We can buy other people’s time with money, and others can buy our time, too. But while we can always find the means to earn more money, we can never earn more of our own time. Our lifelines are a finite resource.

Still, in our developed societies, we have learned how to trade this resource for a monetary amount that someone else deems it to be worth. And we think the length of our freedom is attached to the supply of our bank account.

Another saying goes: a man works diligently for eight hours a day, so that some day he may get to be a manager and work ten hours a day.

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There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. If the work you do with your life is work that you love and that adds value to other people, then this trade of time is worthwhile. But far too many people hate what they do, or worse, are completely indifferent to it. Many people are disconnected from a sense of purpose in what they do. It’s no surprise that we are so wasteful in our “modern” life. When people do work that holds no value, they waste the money they earn from this work on things of no use as well. So goes the inertia of our hamster wheel lifestyles.

I worked for three years at my last company, which was not the original plan. I never intended to stay in an office job, and planned to save and quit after one year so I could focus on my studio practice. But I underestimated how stereotypically American I am and how much I get sucked into my work. There were a lot of problems in the office. First, I ignored them. Then, I got pissed about them. Then, I got competitive and driven to change them. Then, lots of people got pissed at me. Then, other people were really happy with me, and I started to earn some rewards and create a career for myself.

That’s a pretty inadequate summary, but I guess you could say that in spite of the stress, grievances, and frustration of office politics vs the need for business growth (never has bureaucracy been “value-add”) I learned a lot and, in retrospect, I’m really glad I stayed. I’m also really glad I left.

Whether you quit your job without an immediate opportunity/guarantee to follow it, jump out of an airplane, move to an unfamiliar city, change career paths, I hope you do something, anything, to risk losing the comfort of what you have and know, even the progress you’ve made and are scared to lose, because you’ll find on the other side that all those fears of loss don’t actually come to fruition. I could go on, but will leave it for another post.

The laws of inertia apply no matter where you are or what you are doing. As much as I got caught in the office rat race, I was enraptured by my most recent project at Proyecto’Ace, and now in the changeability and spontaneity of travel. But as full as my time has been in Argentina, I have not felt overwhelmed. I feel lifted by a new momentum, have absolutely treasured having the time to focus solely on my artwork in a studio space with many buenas ondas (good vibes), and now this immersion in the rich soul of the earth.

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As far as I’ve been concerned on this trip, I am not on vacation. I am building a new way of being, and opening my time to improve myself and my talents for whatever opportunity comes my way. I love being active, which is different from being busy. There is dynamic work that evolves you and the world around you, and there is work that fidgets, dances, and runs, in place. We should all opt for the former as much as possible.

Admittedly, at one point, I began to feel overexerted by my project. Commuting between Milwaukee and Madison for much of last year meant I haven’t had this kind of time to dedicate to new wood carvings, and in a way I binged a lot on a thing I enjoy to the point of getting indigestion. But, true to intent, I finished all 21 plates in time to print for our exhibition, or rather, for Adriana Moracci and Barita Vincenti at Proyecto’Ace to mix and test ink colors, set up the registration at press, and start the edition as I carved the last of the blocks. Thank you thank you thank you. I’m amazed by the team at Proyecto’Ace more than words can express.

I’ll write one more post after this one to share the final book, and there, I will share the full story of this little pigeon and some thoughts moving forward.

Ciao y cuídate. Envío mi amor desde hermosa Argentina.

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Proyecto’Ace, Week 2: Drawing and Carving the Images

If I’m to say any truth about the way our brains work, or at least my own, it’s that there’s often a delay between our experience of a thing and our understanding of it. (Or I’m just a little slow.)

This is my second post about my time at Proyecto’Ace. Read the first post here.

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The story is something of an allegory. Once I knew that I would be creating a fictitious tale, the storyboarding happened quite quickly. I love the momentum I had right from the start of this project. I finalized 12 images to illustrate this story, printed in two colors, for a total of 21 woodblocks to carve, print, and edition in under two weeks (my hand still aches thinking about it).

It’s funny to me that I had to fly to the other side of the equator to resolve thoughts that I have been brooding on for a long time in the States about our work culture.

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The story I’ve created follows the journey of a little homing pigeon, who, unlike other homing pigeons, decides to fly away from home.

He finds work as a carrier pigeon, delivering packages of no value to human beings who have no heads. He doesn’t understand these headless people, but continues to work hard in hopes of gaining something bigger.

Because of his ambition, he moves up in the world, to become a messenger for heads that have no bodies. This is the ambitious pigeon’s reward, to live a life in a golden cage through which he gets to see the world, and be a part of delivering messages that have no value and continue to drive the disconnect between people and their perspectives.

Stay tuned for posts three and four, where I’ll share the prints and resolution for this story.

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Proyecto’Ace, Week 1: Storyboarding new concepts

I arrived in the studio of Fundación ‘Ace on Monday, January 26th. The space is gorgeous and full of buenas ondas (good vibes). This was to be my creative home for the next three weeks.

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I knew that I wanted to produce an artist’s book during my time here, but did not yet know the story I wanted to tell. Whereas my work in the past has focused on the more personal narratives that connect people to their histories, I’ve found my interests moving towards a more social dialogue.

What I knew prior to this project: I am interested in passionate people, and for that matter, in indifference. I’m interested in what drives us–and thwarts us–in our pursuits. I believe it is important to understand the value of and motives behind what we do, and that a lack of understanding drives disconnect, dissatisfaction, and apathy. I believe that most people are capable of change, of either going after the things they want or reinventing their surroundings, and that the lack of movement in our lives stems not from a fear of change but a fear of loss.

More specifically, through my various work experiences in art, education, manufacturing, business, I’ve learned this: same shit, different place.

People are ambitious, industrious, passionate, opinionated…judgmental, apathetic, insecure, limited. Often loud spoken, but poor at articulation. Rarely do we express what we truly intend.

Printmaking as a medium was made for sharing messages with the masses. I like to think it was the world’s first social media. It’s an art form that educates and incites. Historically, politically, conceptually, it’s a powerful medium, capable of moving people first to understanding, then to action.

Among artists, I find myself in the company of those such as Goya, the Chapman Brothers in their defilement/decoration of Goya’s prints, Posadas, Otto Dix, the many creators of Brazil’s literatura de cordel

Otto Dix shone a light on human destruction.

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Goya stripped away the romanticism and idealism surrounding war.

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All of these artists have created poignant and relevant work, both in response to the social agonies of their time and the universal sufferings of humankind. Many have been great exposers, cynics, and satirists.

But for the work I was to spend my three weeks at ‘Ace on, I knew that I had no wish to be satirical or harsh. I wanted this work to deeply sincere without being naïve, to create simple images that explore a complex, human trouble.

I asked myself, “Is it possible to create images that can be honest about corruption without cynicism, that make healing seem possible in the midst of disrepair?”

I spent my first few days storyboarding. As much as I would have loved to jump straight to just making something, there was something coming clear to me that I could not see when I was living my “normal life” back home. And I needed to have the patience and focus to do justice for this newly forming story I wanted to tell.

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This will be the first in four installments that share the process of my project in Buenos Aires.