Arte de Portas Abertas

Hey All,

I’m back in the art scene! Yay! I was in Funchal, Madeira Island, in Portugal, recuperating after finishing a degree in Human-Computer Interaction at the University of Madeira.

I used my post-degree time to participate in the Portas Abertas project. The name of the project comes from the fact that artists paint doors in the Zona Velha (old town) neighborhood of Funchal in order to open up the area, and the city, to arts and culture.

I was assigned my door in November, but waited until January when I was free of school commitments to start painting my door. My door opens to the warehouse of Bar As Escadinhas. Painting the door was an absolutely wonderful experience. Completing a public art project allowed me to interact with passersby and the neighborhood residents throughout the entire process of creating my painting. I met many people from the neighborhood and heard many interesting stories about the history of Zona Velha.

Who will I remember? I will remember Dona Eugenia, a woman of 80 years who lived just above the door I was painting. She invited me into her house for lunch and let me wash my hands in her sink. She was always leaning out of her window to talk to tourists or her neighbors. I’ll also remember Fanny, a waitress at Bar As Escadinhas, who would come through my door throughout the day. She was frequently tired, and expressed her dreams of finding a job in the communications field. One man, whose name I don’t remember, lived above my door, and took his dog, Jackie out for several walks per day. Jackie was always very eager to get outside and would drag her owner down the cobbled road. Then there was Zeca de Banha, the local poet of Rua Santa Maria. He showed me a poem he had written about the dog I painted on my door. Mr. Banha sold socks on a cross street up from where I was painting. All day I could hear his distinctive bellowing of “Venda Meias! Venda Meias!” (Socks for sale!) The Rua also had its resident creatures. Speedy, or Leao (Lion), was the dog I painted on my door. Speedy would plop down in the middle of Rua Santa Maria and the surrounding streets. He is a dirty, rather miserable looking dog, but he is fixture of Rua Santa Maria. The residents of the Rua make sure that he is fed and put out buckets of water for him. He doesn’t respond when people call him, but rather chooses to amble down the street when the mood strikes him. Residents of the Rua told me that Leao was violently attacked one night by a drunk person, and that the neighborhood people took up a collection to get the dog veterinary care.

My experience painting on Rua Santa Maria ended up going far beyond just painting a picture. I got a glimpse of the community on this road, and got to leave my mark in this vibrant area.

Claire Micklin paints a door

Halfway through painting my door.Claire Micklin's finished door.




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I made it into the Self-Portrait Exhibition!

Hey Folks,

I finished my self-portrait and it has been accepted in the National Self-Portrait Exhibition. The exhibition will be at 33 Collective Gallery, 1020 W. 35th St., in Chicago. The 33 Collective Gallery is in the sweeping Zhou Brothers building in Bridgeport. It’s worth going down (or up) there just to see the building. The exhibition runs from July 16 to August 13. The opening is on Friday, July 16, from 7 to 10pm.

Yay! It’s my birthday today, and this is the present I was hoping for. This will be my second in-person gallery exhibition.

Again, the deetails:

National Self-Portrait Exhibition
July 16 to August 13, 2010
33 Collective Gallery
1029 W. 35th St.

Opening on July 16
7 to 10pm
at 33 Collective Gallery

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Progress on the Self-Portrait

Hi Y’all,

I’m continuing to work on my self portrait. In general, it is taking shape well. I have been looking at Alice Neel and Lucien Freud’s work to get more ideas of how to incorporate light and shadow into my painting. I plan to enter my portrait into a competition, whose deadline is only a few days away.

As you’ll notice, there’s a push pin on the left corner of my chin. That’s because I painted this painting on a record. Yep, a 12-inch LP. I’m not sure what I’m going to do about the chin hole. I could spackle it, maybe, or leave it. I do kinda need the hole to be able to hang the record, unless I get the record framed somehow. Such are the dilemmas of painting on records. I might give painting a rest for a couple hours. It seems I get too worked up and focused on minute details if I spend a long stretch on painting.

Man, I’m kinda tired now.


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New Expressionist Self-Portrait

This is my self portrait in progress.

Folks, this is a self-portrait I have been working on.  My friend says it reminds him of the work of Egon Schiele. I have been laboring over the flesh tones, as I have had very limited instruction in that area. I feel good that it comes across as expressive. I’m not sure what emotion it communicates. Do you have any ideas? Can anyone guess what I used as a canvas?

I’ve been spending my night posting on Facebook about the BP oil spill. I am beyond devastated and disgusted about it. I feel helpless. I hate saying that, but it’s how I feel. Here is a link to a video of Representative Scalise, from Louisiana questioning Tony Hayward of BP about BP and the federal government’s role in blocking efforts to mitigate the effects of the oil spill on the gulf coast.

If nothing else, I want to get the word out about what is happening to the people of the gulf coast and how the federal government and BP continue to thwart attempts to establish some type of order and move forward. Okay, it’s way past my bedtime.


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Plarn Earth Day Pre-Party

Hiya Folks,

I’ll continue my tradition of binge-posting (writing an extremely long post every couple of weeks, instead of writing one of a reasonable length every couple of days.) So what is everyone doing for Earth Day? Well, for me earth day is every day, so I don’t need a celebration to motivate me to do green things. I am green. (Did the italics help you imagine the proper amount of self-righteousness in my tone?) Let me tell you about an email I received from Etsy that showcases green crafts.

The most recent email to crowd my inbox was about plarn, a type of yarn made from strips of plastic shopping bags. Crafty people are crocheting these strips into various types of shopping bags and purses. I really have no desire to learn to crochet, but these bags are cute.

Plastic waste is a huge problem. When plastic bags get into the ocean, sea creatures get caught in them or choke on them. I like the idea of reusing these bags and making them into durable goods, but it doesn’t tackle the problem of overproduction and irresponsible discarding of these bags. I googled “how to dissolve a plastic bag” and came up with an intriguing find. A 16-year-old named Daniel Burd won the 2008 Canada-Wide Science Fair with a project, “Plastic Not Fantastic“, in which he investigated the ability of various microbes to break down plastic bags. He managed to find two microbes that were able to break down plastic bags relatively quickly—he estimated a complete breakdown of the plastic bag material would take three months. If I had a yard, I would be tempted to try his experiment myself. I have way too many plastic bags. A biotechnology approach to the plastic waste problem seems promising, but I also like the idea crocheting the bags into a durable good. A real solution to the plastic bag problem would focus on eliminating the demand for plastic bags by providing a biodegradable (in anaerobic conditions like a landfill), sustainable substitute for them. It would also require people to learn new habits, like planning their shopping trips so that they can remember to bring cloth bags. Our modern lifestyle is predicated on immediate satisfaction of our desires, and if  it suddenly occurs to us that we want to pick up something at the store, we can just use a plastic bag to carry it home. Part of this is related to our long work weeks, which limit our ability to relax, plan our purchases, and buy fewer heavily packaged, pre-prepared goods.

I’ve been taking little stabs at getting back to a creative practice. I keep preparing surfaces, like the ceramic tile, and records, but I get paralyzed when I think of actually starting to paint something on these canvases. My kitchen table is also quite cluttered at the moment, and that is limiting my ability to spread out and paint.

Right now I’ve decided to direct my creative energies toward making a batch of cream puffs. Yikes. I almost typed “cream puggs.”

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Happy (Good?) Friday

I was wondering why the coffee shop was so full, and then I remembered that it is Good Friday.  What a Good time to reflect on my recent artistic activities. Last weekend I went to the closing reception for ARC Gallery’s Materiality exhibition. The curator gave a talk about how she selected the pieces for the exhibition and also what she thought the common themes running through all the selections were. She asked the artists present at the reception to comment on their work. I was very nervous about talking about my piece, but also very excited to be able to give some background information about my work. A great discussion about the celebration of the quotidian resulted. With my piece “Strength in Numbers” I aimed to elevate a common, overlooked part of nature. My piece, and the process I went through to create my piece was meant to be an act of reverence to the common house sparrow, who hops around in plain sight, but is rarely noticed. While creating my piece, I really had to stop and observe the sparrow, almost get inside the sparrow’s experience of the world. The sparrow is one of many, but in my piece he is an icon and a standout. The piece asks viewers to slow down a savor the small pieces of nature that are often silenced in the urban experience. We are conditioned to only notice the dramatic parts of nature, oceans, canyons, mountains, and we fail to see what is in front of us. This can also be said of the way many people approach life. We often discount the small pleasures and are waiting for something big to happen. We are always delaying the gratification that is one step ahead in the future, but all we really have is now. I hope I’m not starting to sound like a new-age self-help book.

I’ve also been exploring my ideas about the beauty of the ordinary and of the present moment through cell-phone photography. Instead of waiting for the perfect shot, I see how I can frame something perfect from whatever is in front of me. I’m beginning to think beauty is more about how I observe and frame a subject than it is about searching for a beautiful scene.

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Upcycling and New Coffee Loyalties

Hey there, faithful readers of the Art Party,

I’ve been up to a lot in my weeks-long posting fast. I went to the opening of the show I’m in (Materiality @ARC Gallery), and I started working with a new material. Last year I purchased some glazed ceramic floor tiles from the Brown Elephant. I was determined to find a way to make these into decorative tiles, but I couldn’t find a way to remove the glaze. I also wasn’t sure if the acrylic paint I wanted to use would adhere to the tile. I googled “how to remove glaze from a ceramic tile” but never found a satisfactory answer. Some posts suggested using etching chemical, but I don’t have the facilities in my apartment to deal with toxic fumes or chemicals.  Then I read that if you sand the glaze off enough to make it porous, you can paint over it. I tried sanding the tile with aluminum oxide sandpaper, but my progress was extremely slow. After becoming impatient, I put a coat of acrylic paint over the sanded tile. I dried the coat with a hair dryer and did a scratch test to see if the paint would peel off. It did peel off, so I was back to square one.

After more hand-wringing, I decided to hit up CAS Hardware , a wonderful old-school, independent hardware store on Clark street. I first perused their aisles, whose organization eludes me. I usually don’t find what I need until one part of the couple who owns the store helps me. I finally gave in and asked if they had any carbon sandpaper. Earlier in the weekend, I had attended an opening at the Cornelia Arts Building, and an artist named Jason Messinger told me that I might be able to sand off glaze with this type of sandpaper. One of the owners of CAS suggested I try a type of wet/dry sandpaper called emery cloth.

Once I was home, I searched for videos of glass sanding. I saw that wet sanding was the preferred method of sanding glass. As I experimented with wet sanding my tile, I watched videos of people in an auto shop wet-sanding corroded auto body paint. The shiny sheen came off much more quickly with the emery cloth. I sanded and sanded until the tile’s surface had more of a matte sheen and even sounded different when I tapped my finger on it.

Next, I mixed up a combination of cerulean blue and vidrian green oil paint and laid some down on the tile. I then dipped a cloth into a jar of turpentine and “stained” the tile.  I have no idea if this will actually work. I will wait a couple days and see if the paint dries. Was reading this post like watching paint dry?

I need to get back into an art practice. Working with the tile is a good start in that direction, but I need to hone my drawing skills too. I also got a new idea for a possible market for my vinyl record paintings. Yesterday I read a home decor magazine and saw some artists’ work being promoted in it. I wonder if my work goes with the “Mod” aesthetic that was the theme of the magazine. I still need to find a way to present my record paintings. When they are just tacked through their spindle hole to a wall, they are too flat and blend into the wall. Perhaps there is a classy way to frame them. Anyone have any ideas or designs?

Oh, and I found a new coffee shop to patronize. At first I resisted going to The Coffee Studio because I found its mod decor pretty cold and yuppie-ish. I finally ventured in yesterday, and the place is actually pretty pleasant. Yes, a lot of the patrons do look fairly yuppified, but it’s not overwhelming.

I have an announcement to make: I’ve decided to adopt a vegan brownie.  It’s kind of like when in home-ec class you used to be assigned to adopt an egg or a bag of flower to help you understand the responsibilities of parenthood. It will be my responsibility to resist eating the brownie and prevent it from being thrown away or going stale. I must constantly keep it wrapped in Saran wrap, and an outer aluminum foil wrap. I’d like to buy it a giant stroller, and maybe in good weather I will peel away the tinfoil so it can get some fresh air. My vegan brownie will be a genius, that I’m sure of. It will be putting together sentences at 6 months of age, and I will be sure to let everyone know that. Peace out, art partiers. I have to go work out at my man-gym.

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