Woodcuts and wood engravings on paper, 36″ x 60″
This installation consists of a 5′ x 8′ print on paper, a collection of carved wooden block sculptures of various sizes, a set of chess pieces whittled from twigs, a dried common mullein plant, a representation of a monumental roadside religious pilgrimage site built by a distant cousin of mine, my grandmother’s drawing of a piece of driftwood, and the actual piece of driftwood. The matrices from which the print was made are carved and engraved on the set of sculptural blocks. Some are patterns, others contain images and/or words, while still others are typographic sets of letters and punctuation marks in two different sizes. I have been carving this series of blocks and printing them in various combinations since 2005. For awhile I was doing street performances using the blocks, in a project I called Footprint Factory, and they were also a part of A Work of Art.
The chess pieces are arranged such that all the high ranking pieces have not moved from where they started, but the pawns are gathered at the center of the board, as though conspiring together around a long feasting table laden with food.
The message in the patterned, quilt-like patchwork of prints reads as follows: “
WE’VE WORKED SO HARD FOR YOU
BUT KEEP YOUR MONEY, HONEY-!
TAKE IT, & HIDE IT SOMEPLACE
WE DON’T REALLY NEED IT:
WE ARE RICH IN LOVE
When I was young, my family, like the vast majority of families that share this planet, did not have a lot of money. We struggled to get by in those days, and in some ways we still do. Although we lacked financial resources, we had another kind of wealth. We had love for each other, for the land where we lived, for our neighbors, and for people and places far away. This work considers the immense, immeasurable value of love, in contrast to the quantifiable, comparatively meager value of money. The distance between these understandings of existence is enormous, and yet overlaps succinctly in each person’s life.
I produced this work while I was in retreat from the world at Phats Valley residency in Truro, Cape Cod in December, 2013.
I made a small skin-on-frame boat as a magic tool for exploring my cultural heritage. I was thinking a lot about my Irish ancestors and about an ancestor on my paternal grandmother’s side. My Grandma Helen’s Great Grandmother was a Native American woman named Christine Periord from Hawkesbury, Ontario. That’s all we know about her. No tribe information, nothing. All lost in the shifting sands of cultural assimilation. So I kind of made this boat as a very indirect way of finding out more about her.
I lashed the frame of willow saplings and split locust gunwhales together with nylon sailmaker’s twine. The form is similar to a very foreshortened Irish Currach.
I skinned the boat with canvas salvaged at the town dump, sewn to fit the form of the hull and lashed to the frame in the style of an Umiak.
I made driftwood scraps into seats and flooring and lashed in place.
The hand stitching on the canvas was laborious but rewarding.
Ann Chen helped with the stitching, and also encouraged and supported the entire project.
The boat is light enough for me to easily carry it on my back.
The canvas is coated with tar for waterproofing.
We tried it in the salt marsh in Truro, by the house where I was staying. Our neighbor Rich asked us to retrieve a red plastic trash can that had drifted in and gotten stuck in the marsh grass. We got it back to him in no time.
I also made a small hand-stitched photocopied book in an edition of 31, documenting my research and building process, and incorporating a new set of 6 woodblock carvings and engravings, as well as some drawings and a bibliography. Copies of the book are for sale in the Emporium. Read on to view the full contents.
This is a work I made at the Center for Book Arts in 2012 when I was a resident artist there. It consists of thirty-six woodcuts and wood engravings from all six sides of six handmade type-high (0.918″) blocks of maple, with an original narrative text & list poem handset in lead Caslon Antique type, letterpress printed in seven colors on a paper booklet & fold-out broadside. For sale in the Emporium of Real Things.
This is not just any old business card, but a parody of one, which opens out to an accordion-fold book with a very long, very irreverent list-poem of every job or identity construct I have ever had in my life. I made this book while I was a resident at the Center for Book Arts in New York, using hand set lead type on a Vandercook letterpress, in three press runs. It is printed on lightweight chinese tissue paper with a cardstock cover. I put a pretty insane amount of hours into producing these books, which are in an edition of 200. The typesetting and printing alone took several hundred hours, not to mention the cutting and folding of each one. It sort of became a marathon meditation on how changeable identity is and how we present ourselves in all these different complex ways depending on the situation. Doing all that work to produce this ridiculous thing with highly questionable use value was somehow therapeutic, and appropriate, in thinking about the choices and sacrifices we make for the sake of the holy dollar or whatever.
3 3/8″ x 2″ x 3/32″ (closed), 3 3/8″ x 52″ x 1/64″ (open). 2012. Edition of 200. For sale on a sliding scale depending on your income, at the Emporium of Real Things. Barter is also a possibility: contact me. The info is on the business card.
Click on the long skinny image at the left two times to make it big enough that you can read it.
This work imagines what it would be like to convene an inter-species committee about the monumental environmental crises we face on Earth. The acronym, C.R.I.E.R.S., stands for “the Committee for Relentless Inquiry into the Earth’s Regretful Situation.” Click on the image to view it bigger so you can read it.
Handset letterpress, original text, four color reduction woodcut, additional marks made in homemade oak gall ink and storebought shellac paint. Printed at the Center for Book Arts in 2012. Edition of 15 deluxe four color, plus 45 single color. 14 1/2″ x 11″. For sale at the Emcee C.M. Emporium.
Here is a video showing a version of the project performed in Somerville, MA, at a street festival, in 2006. Thanks to Jamie Rinaldi for the camerawork.
This project started as one aspect of my elaborate MFA thesis exhibition, A Work of Art, in 2005. It continued as a portable system for one-on-one collaborations with strangers for several years afterwards.
I made a kit of tools that resembled a shoeshine’s setup, which I used to make relief prints from wooden cubes that were carved and engraved on all six sides with images and text. Sometimes I set it up on the sidewalk in New York or Boston. Once I took it on the plane to Berlin, Germany for a performance art show.
Sometimes I did it as a mute, not speaking, but using gestures and images to communicate. Other times I would converse freely, and try to get people to tell me stories while we did the work together. There was an intimacy to the situation that made some people uncomfortable, while others seemed to be overjoyed at being served by an artist on his hands and knees. By creating the situation I was aligning my work as an artist with other working class occupations, in an attempt to critique the elitist pretensions of the art world, and reclaim the artist’s rightful place in solidarity with working class movements of resistance to labor exploitation.
In 2005, I worked 40 hours a week at a museum for five weeks, tending to a film I had installed, talking to people about the film and whatever else came up, playing music, writing, making prints, etc. Here is a video of it.The film was installed as a sculptural material, running through the space, hanging in the air and going in and out of two projectors in a giant loop. I shot it on black and white 16mm film stock and edited it manually with a splicer.
The projectors were pointed at two stations where people could sit and interact with it: a typewriter for writing responses and whatnot called the Creative Communication Department, and an electric organ where you could improvise a soundtrack for the film called the Spontaneous Soundtrack Department.
I made a book of music to project the film onto. The organ came from my grandmother when she moved out of her apartment into an assisted living situation. In the bench of the organ there were a bunch of music books that I went through and picked out songs I remembered her singing, or that she said she liked, and made the book from those. I named it Our Songs. You can buy a copy in the Emporium. If you didn’t know how to read music though it was kind of fun to just noodle around on the keys anyway.
The other place the film was projected was on this long roll of paper hanging down and feeding into a typewriter. The film itself was images of me and my brothers playing games, joking around, and doing chores around the house. I come from an unschooling family of six boys. The family has an island quality as a result, maybe more than most, because of that radical self-educating setup and the fact that we live out in the country. Most of us were in our twenties or teens when we shot it.
People could sit and write and then file their work in a set of folders, labeled as follows: Poetry, Prose, Suggestions, Memoranda, and Top Secret. Another cue for writing, in addition to the film, came from a small takeaway book I had printed called the Handbook of Workspeak. You can buy a copy of the book in the Emporium.
Since it was one film going through two projectors, which run at slightly different speeds, inexpertly rigged up, there were some breaks and hangups. Needing to maintain the film was something I had anticipated, so I had all the tools to do it there. So over time the film wore down and acquired a really old scratchy patina.
This was another station of the work called the Footprint Fabrication Department, which would become a separate project, the portable Footprint Factory. It is a setup for block printing collaborations. Somebody would sit in the chair and be the press, stepping on the block and using their weight to force the ink into the paper, while I worked on the floor inking the blocks.
I carved a set of blocks with images on all six sides. There were six blocks, for a total of 36 images. The idea was for someone to choose a series of images to tell a story or make associations and contrasts, normally of a personal nature. Together we printed their choices in sequence on a long piece of paper, sort of like a filmstrip. Then we cut the paper to length and the person took the print home.
I made this poster to show what all the options were. Most of the images were iconic objects like a chair or a book, with a few other things thrown in that came into my head around that time.
This installation was also shown at ISE Cultural Foundation (NYC), in 2008, as part of a group show called the Ideal Cloud, curated by Yuka Yokoyama.
This book was made at the UConn printshop using Gus Mazzocca’s offset press, embosograf, and screenprint, in 2004. I made drawings of everything in my toolbox at the time, and grouped them into rough categories. The book is hardbound in an edition of 67 with a few extras that are softbound. For sale in the Emporium.
This was a studio process project I did in 2002 when I was a senior in college, and had my own art studio for the first time. I made a series of sculptures from a bunch of found junk; each time constructing something, taking a slide photograph of it, making a screen print based on the construction, then taking it apart and reconfiguring the materials for the next cycle. The project was shown as a suite of 10 prints and a new arrangement of the objects, along with a slide projector automatically advancing to simulate the chug-chug sound of a train, while flashing images of the previous configurations on the wall. I still have copies of all the prints. If you want one, buy one at the Emporium of Real Things. They’re actually not bad, although this photo sure could be better: