31 July 2016

Relics Scroll 10: Time Stops for No One


For my RELICS exhibit, I made ten scrolls bearing American English platitudes that could be construed to have philosophical or spiritual meanings. See all of the scroll posts here.
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Like many of these cliches, "time stops for no one" urges us to move on and not linger in the past. It also suggests that we cherish the time we have, since we don't know when our lives will end. I was struggling to find a sub-text for this one when the poem Good Bones by Maggie Smith came across my Facebook page in the aftermath of the Orlando shooting. It's a beautiful poem if you haven't read it. I chose one line:
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways
Haven't we all.

Tech notes: The background was printed on an uncarved wood block, the black circles printed in sumi ink through a stencil on the same block. The large text was stenciled through a hand-cut acetate stencil and the small text rubber stamped.

29 July 2016

Relics Scroll 9: You Only Live Once


For my RELICS exhibit, I made ten scrolls bearing American English platitudes that could be construed to have philosophical or spiritual meanings. See all of the scroll posts here.
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"You only live once." Which kind of means "just do it" or "carpe diem." You've got one life to live, so live right. Live life to its fullest. Take a chance.

I took the phrase literally, though. Do we only live once? Popular science says that the human body replaces itself every 7 years or so. This isn't actually true, but many of the cells in our body have very short lifespans -- stomach cells last about a week, skin cells no longer than 3 or 4 weeks, and fat cells 8 years (that explains a lot). At the cellular level at least, we constantly make ourselves anew.

For this scroll I chose a verse from the Upanishads that is a metaphor for rebirth:
When a caterpillar has come to the end of a blade of grass, it reaches out to another blade, and draws itself over to it
Tech notes: The background is three colors (yellow, blue and magenta) with circular masks cut from paper and stencils for the large cell shapes. The large text is stenciled and the small text rubber stamped.

28 July 2016

Relics Scroll 8: What Goes Around Comes Around


For my RELICS exhibit, I made ten scrolls bearing American English platitudes that could be construed to have philosophical or spiritual meanings. See all of the scroll posts here.
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"What goes around comes around" we say, especially when it seems like someone is getting away with doing something unethical without consequences. The phrase can also be applied when someone does a good deed without reward. We say "what goes around comes around" to indicate that eventually someone will do a good deed for them as well, that their good karma will return to them.

My own feeling about this is that our good or bad deeds might or might not come back to us in our external lives, but that "what goes around comes around" applies more accurately to a cycle of thoughts and actions that happens constantly inside each of us. I chose a quote about this inner cycle from the Upanishads:
As your desire is, so is your will. As your will is, so is your deed. As your deed is, so is your destiny.
One of my own primary spiritual practices is to keep an eye on my thoughts and desires and try to catch the ones that might harm me or others before they become deeds.

Tech notes:  The two-toned background was created on an uncarved block using both a mask and a stencil for the middle ring of circles. The gray in this piece is liquid graphite, which has a subtle sparkle to it that I really like. The large text was stenciled, the small text rubber stamped.

14 July 2016

Relics Scroll 7: Time Heals All Wounds


For my RELICS exhibit, I made ten scrolls bearing American English platitudes that could be construed to have philosophical or spiritual meanings. See all of the scroll posts here.
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"Time heals all wounds" they say. I was nursing some fresh wounds as I made this work, having just lost Ty, my 13 year old labrador retriever. At the moment I post this, 33 days have passed since we euthanized him. That's certainly not enough time for the wounds to be healed, and part of me doesn't even want healing. I want to remember. I want to remember the sensation of patting Ty's head or throwing my arms around him, I want to remember how his face seemed to smile at me whenever I came into the room. I think at best time fades all wounds, and there's some sorrow even in the fading.

Many of the Psalms in the Bible's Old Testament are lamentations, people crying out in pain and grief. I chose a few words of lamentation from Psalm 39 and wrote them in my own voice along the edges of the stream of dots:
Help me Lord, hear my prayer
 Tech notes: The background is a woodblock monoprint on an uncarved block, the circles are stamped with a hand-carved rubber eraser stamp, large text was stenciled and small text rubber stamped.

13 July 2016

Relics Scroll 6: Oh My God


For my RELICS exhibit, I made ten scrolls bearing American English platitudes that could be construed to have philosophical or spiritual meanings. See all of the scroll posts here.
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Although OMG is a new-ish social media abbreviation for it, "oh my god" has been a much used exclamation ever since I was a child. I remember my mother frowning on it, like it was a kind of swear word. But it's interesting to think about when we say it. We say "oh my god" when we're surprised. We say it in the face of a stunningly gorgeous scene. We say it when something unthinkable happens. We sort of mean it when we say it. For the small text (not visible in this photo) I used a line from the Mahabharata, when Lord Krishna shows the warrior Arjuna his divine form, a form so awesome it can barely be withstood by a human being:
Seeing that amazing form, wonderstruck Arjuna, his whole body tingling in ecstasy, bowed his head in obeisance to Lord Krsna
The pattern on this print is called the Flower of Life mandala and it is said to represent creation in sacred geometry.

Tech notes: The background and top and bottom bokashi (gradations) are woodblock monoprints done on an uncarved block. The mandala of circles was printed on the same block through a hand cut stencil. Large text was stenciled, and the small text was rubber stamped.

11 July 2016

Relics Scroll 5: Nobody's Perfect


For my RELICS exhibit, I made ten scrolls bearing American English platitudes that could be construed to have philosophical or spiritual meanings. See all of the scroll posts here.
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Everybody makes mistakes, right? It goes without saying that nobody's perfect.

I used a Japanese image/drawing for this scroll called an enso. Enso is a brush-drawn circle, a calligraphic spiritual practice in which the calligrapher makes an uninhibited brushstrokes to express continuity, balance, wholeness and completeness. Enso masters strive for perfection, yet every enso is unique and thus the practice expresses the beauty of both perfection and imperfection.

There are several religions that claim that their prophets or adherents are perfect or can achieve perfection. When I hung this show, I put this scroll near a print of the Virgin Mary, who as the mother of Jesus (said to be a perfect human being) is believed to be the most pure and perfect woman who ever lived. Mohammed is believed by Muslims to be perfect, Buddha is said to have achieved a perfected state. But the text I chose to pair with my enso is a translation of a Sanskrit mantra. It reads:
Om. That is perfect. This is perfect. From the perfect springs the perfect. If the perfect is taken from the perfect, the perfect remains. Om.
  My own feeling about perfection is that there is a perfection in the sum of the parts that can rarely be seen in the parts themselves.

Tech notes: I made the enso with watercolor pigments and a large brush (this was the seventh enso I made). The large text was stenciled, the small text was hand written with colored pencil.

08 July 2016

Relics Scroll 4: Everything Happens for a Reason


For my RELICS exhibit, I made ten scrolls bearing American English platitudes that could be construed to have philosophical or spiritual meanings. See all of the scroll posts here.
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Like many of the cliches and platitudes I'm working with in this series, "everything happens for a reason" is a thing that people often say when they want to move on and move away from an uncomfortable thought or situation. "Everything happens for a reason" is often used to absent ourselves from grief and regret. But it's also a phrase that reflects the human tendency to want to make meaning from our lives. I paired this one with a portion of a verse from Ecclesiastes (Bible):
[To every thing there is a season,] and a time to every purpose under heaven
Although the verse seems to say that everything happens for a reason, Ecclesiastes 3 actually advises us to pursue our earthly activities in their proper time and order without worrying about reasons.

Tech notes: The whole background was printed on an uncarved block with circular stencils. I then added pencil lines and used pencil for the lettering. The small text (barely visible here) was done with rubber stamping.