Remember when a calling card had only a name on it? Nothing else? Then came business cards and the information a card had to carry proliferated to keep up with the growing number of ways by which we attempt to communicate with each other.
Now we can return to the past, because anyone who really wants to find us can. I grant that this is easier for me than it is for some: googling me produces only two Dana Kadisons in this world, and one of them clearly is not I. Thus, it is easy for me to use this cunningly “deconstructed” card which Earl Kallemeyn presented to me not long ago.
Yesterday I completed the edition of Loteria Card #220/284: Playing in the Dark . In addition to the 4-color screen print of the card and the letterpress of my handwriting, two layers of screened background texture bleed off the edges of the 18×24 inch sheet. For the final layer I spattered sumi ink on each print with a fat-bellied animal hair brush. Although each print differs from the others, it is still an edition. We could toss around descriptive terms, like “variable edition”, but I think that is unnecessary.
Notice the phrase “Monk logic” in the word-cloud at the bottom right. Think Thelonious Monk. The words in the background texture belong to Professor Howard Rambsy who generously allowed me to use his report of a conversation he had with Amiri Baraka in 2002. Rambsy was speaking enthusiastically about the music of Baraka’s friend the saxophonist Albert Ayler. Baraka interjects that Rambsy has only heard ruins and rumors of Ayler because he has only heard recordings.
Monk logic, jazz logic, ruins, rumors, echoes of children’s games, doll play–everything we hear and see and everything we miss or choose to ignore, everything we learn and then forget makes up the palimpsest that is a life. We turn the page to start afresh, but we are writing over what was previously written. We cannot escape that. The story we tell will change every time we tell it. Perhaps we remember or forget a detail or tailor the story to captivate a new audience or suit a new situation, but we will be writing or telling the “new” story on top of the original story.
Of the several people who informed this image the most helpful were Professors Susan Kumin Harris and William J. Harris, old friends who bring a high level of discourse and humor to any discussion, of which there were many.
I mean this post to honor that fat-bellied animal hair brush which, once I learned how to use it, became my friend. You may already know about artists brushes, but I did not. Really good ones can hold a lot of ink and not drop it. They can do other wonderful things like swoosh and make beautiful accelerating curves. Big fat ones can make luscious thick strokes and then turn and describe a delicate, almost hairline, ligature. All I wanted this one to do was drop big fat multi-pointed star-blobs and then drop a few smaller ones and maybe trail some tiny spatters. I was prepared with various smaller brushes for the “fiddly bits”, but didn’t need them. The spatter sometimes resembles the star chart from Card #38:The E-ticket Ride and on other prints feels more like star dust or a swathe of the Milky Way. The pressure and acceleration of the drops makes them sprout beguiling little finger-like appendages. Whipping the brush causes the trails of stars.
One brush to rule them all, Frodo.
The editions are happening and they are splendid. They will keep appearing on the website inadequately photographed by me. I would apologize if there were something I could do about it. Having given most of my studio equipment away, it’s just me, an easel and the sun, so the color balance is off and the dimensionality of the letterpress is not apparent. When the editions are completed I may build a copy stand and try for a happier result. Raggedy Ann and the Mammies are up next.
Kudos to Mark Herschede (Haven Press) for the CMYK work and Earl Kallemeyn (Kallemeyn Press) for the letterpress, two individuals who are as remarkable as their work.
I had hoped to be able to say that cards #1 and #2 have been editioned. But I cannot. However #1 is in process.
Thinking about editioning started me thinking about letterpress, because for the editions of the first 8 images, I chose to set the 6.5×10.25 card faces on 18×24 sheets of paper. I thought I would handwrite the text that would have appeared on the reverse of each image had they been produced simply as cards. 8×25=200. Earl Kallemeyn of New York Letterpress will produce plates from my handwriting and put the ink on paper for me. Problem solved. Arthritis and CTS crises averted.
Meanwhile there is more beautiful white space available. So parts of the card reverses are now finding their places as letterpress in that white space. We all know that paper is not really 2D, that it has depth. Besides carrying visual information, the letterpress process adds texture that can be seen with or without ink. And a letterpress registers.
Although Earl will be doing the letterpress for the editions, I have been playing with it myself. It is a little unsettling to use a press, completely unlike pulling the screens: less physical and mental exertion, primarily because once you register that first sheet of paper to the plate, every piece of paper is registered. Atmospheric conditions in the NYC studio are so variable and water-based inks misbehave in such interesting and frustrating ways that achieving consistency in CMYK prints takes great physical and mental stamina. A polite way of saying that humidity makes the paper buckle, heat makes the inks dry out more quickly in the screens, and at a certain point you have to register each sheet of paper individually with an acetate sheet. In CMYK printing consistent registration equals consistent color.(I never intended to do so much CMYK work, but it just felt right for the Loteria project.)
Because it is summer, I have been working again at Pickwick Independent Press in Portland ME. Pilar’s Vandercook 4 is in fine fettle and I was finally able get good prints from the plate I had prepared for my beginners’ letterpress class in April. And here it is…
No, not sex–gallery exhibitions and the calls for submissions. Feeling a little “shirty” as the Brits say. Well, I was, and then I complained out loud to my studio buddy that we weren’t seeing any “Calls” for 2D agit/prop or advocacy art. These Bozos have been saying stupid things for a full year at this point. Broadsides and posters, please! Maybe even very didactic re-imagined Loteria cards?
And ping! Suddenly, like after-thoughts, calls started to appear for shows scheduled in June, July, August, September. Leaving things a little late aren’t we? Sometimes, although not very often, I miss the ’60s.
And WHERE ARE THE BUTTONS?
Today I posted two screened monotypes. They are monotypes because I made them with an “open” screen, no stencil, and painted directly onto the screen. It’s unpredictable, forgiving and expansive. And you can make them at the kitchen sink. On the left is the first one I ever made and on the right is one I made months later. A real sea-change, if you will.
These make me smile because I can see how much the photographer in me has relaxed.
It’s start and stop season again. And yet I have managed to post Card#24: Freud’s Last Words–Dreams follow the mouth. Some will note that these cannot be Freud’s actual last words, just as Darwin on his deathbed did not say “It’s all drag.” And some will add that the text is actually from Talmud. The reverse text will also be Talmudic: it is the wise and lovely story of the Rav who took a single dream to 24 interpreters and received 24 different readings. He told his students that “within me, each reading was realized.”
Remember: a dream that is not interpreted is like a letter that is unopened. But keep in mind that 9/10 of dream matter is dross–or is it 15/16?
Wherever we travel, there is likely a smaller museum that has something we should see. Like the Peabody Essex Museum– there being more to Salem than witches and Seven Gables: Merchants were big collectors. Or the Bowdoin College and Colby College museums–it seems that every artist east of the Mississippi summered in Maine. Unless they went to Michigan where you might want to visit the Dennos Museum Center in Traverse City.
Just being a schoolmarm. But really…
Print and block details from John Buck’s “The Mechanic”, 1994
I was about to call it “Saint Bonaventure at the 3C Diner”, but backed off, because that really is a riddle, to which only I know the answer. So, as a riddle it properly belongs on the reverse, where it will document what I was thinking at breakfast one spring day in 1979. If you are the first person to come extremely close to figuring it out, then I will send you a signed proof of the obverse image.
I started thinking about loteria cards while working on a project I was calling Signs and Dreams. I needed a break from reading what other people thought and broke out a set of loteria cards and wrote down what came to mind from the images on cards I pulled at random. El Musico was one of the first. The other day I made this image to remind me where I started.