Art School: Semester 6, Week 1

And welcome to an actual post about art school. Well, mostly. Maybe.

This week saw me back on campus for two classes (more about those below) and the homework is already building up. I have things I must get done (and an event I need to get to) this weekend, so I am going to publish this post quickly. What that means is there will probably be plenty of typos present. If you spy one (or 50) please tell me about them. I will fix them late some evening when I can do no more homework. Thank you!

And with that…

Advanced Ceramics

Ah… sorry. This was a false start of a sort. Ceramics meets on Mondays, but last Monday was a holiday, so it won’t really get started until next week.

But the instructor did send an email about an art opening at a local gallery featuring ceramic works. I went, and they were inspiring in a way. The works were mostly large, stacked ceramic pieces. Here’s an example, with a couple of people I don’t know included for scale:

There were six or seven such objects in a small room full of people. I mostly clung to the walls as I did not want to be the one that knocked anything over. (And being highly aware of what an earthquake can do, I was thinking about that the whole time as well.)

But the idea these works prompted for me is about creating a series of object with standard points where they can interact. Say each object has a circular opening on each end in one of a few specific diameters. If a bunch of objects with varying shapes, colours, and the like all have standard ends, they can be stacked as desired to create unique works. I don’t know if this artist was working that way, or if each piece was fully planned ahead of time, but I like the idea of art that can be changed. Adhered together properly — with museum putty, for example, so they can be disassembled if desired — a set of small(ish) objects could be used to create large ones simply. Kind of like Lego, but in ceramics. I am stewing on that. I’d already contemplated the same kind of idea but thinking about wall hung pieces rather than ones that might go on the floor, or on a table or plinth. Opportunities abound, if the nature of the class will let me explore them. (It may not… the instructor may well have very specific plans. That’s just fine. I’m here to learn at this point.)

Public Art

Here we’re already running. We have several projects to work on:

  • An individual public art piece that will be displayed on campus. We have about eight weeks to get it designed, fabricated, and installed.
  • A group design for the windows at the local Canada Line station. This will be printed on vinyl and put on the windows by pros. We just have to come up with a design and get it all prepared properly for that effort.
  • An individual proposal for a wall art sculpture also hung at the local Canada Line station. These will be voted upon by the group and the one that wins will be fabricated next term, and will be displayed at the station for a year.

Work on the second two items hasn’t really started yet. But the first one has us hitting the ground running. We’re to have sketches for possible installations next week. We have to pick possible places on campus and sketch (in any way we want, really) our ideas, so we can begin to create a maquette.

At the moment I have a flock of possibilities, but nothing I am quite hooked on. I have four locations I am considering around campus, and I have a bunch of photos of those stashed away for me to review and help drive the sketching process. By Wednesday morning, I need finished sketches and a clue about what I need to build the required maquette, and I am pretty comfortable about getting all of that done.

This weekend there is an exhibit opening at Equinox Gallery — one of the local, big name, high end art galleries — and my instructor (Devon Knowles) is now represented by them. I will be going to that event to see her new works and what else is on display.

Cultural Theory

This is the class that is probably going to give me the most heartburn this term. It’s still a bit nebulous in my mind, but it will cover the central concepts of cultural theory. That discipline is (I think) kind of philosophical, but it is also the subject of academic study by cultural theorists. It seems to have started out in linguistics, but I am no expert.

Each week we have a set of readings to do, and a small amount of writing to show that we did (and hopefully understood) said readings.

This week the writings are by (and related to) Saussure and Barthes. Saussure seems to have created the idea of Semiotics, the study of signs (and symbols, and how meaning is created in language, I think) back in the early 1900s. Barthes seems to have taken Saussure’s work farther by applying it to areas beyond just language, particularly to visual communications of most any kind.

That said, I’ve read all the readings needed for the first week once (including the optional stuff) and it doesn’t stick in my head. Saussure was Swiss but lived and worked in France for most of his life. Barthes was French. All the works we’re reading by them are translated from the original French, and nothing is easy to understand. I am trying to turn down the warnings from my engineering brain — which wants to shout “BS!” in the face of things that are not clearly explained — but it is difficult.

How this will go in the end, I don’t know. It’s a required class to graduate, and I will finish it. But… ugh. Not my favourite stuff given what I see so far. Maybe future readings will be different or more engaging. Time will tell.

Anyway, I need to read all of this week’s material at least one more time, perhaps seek some outside sources to help explain it more clearly, and then do the required writing. That’s for this weekend.

Other School Stuff

Not much to report here yet, except that an instructor is trying to recruit me to continue working on the next iteration of the plastic recycling project, and he’s also got a new five axis CNC machine that no one yet knows how to operate. He’d like me to help with both of those things, but I am holding him off because I need to figure out my overall workload before I commit to anything for him. I really need to get the inside scoop on the ceramics class before I say yes or no. So, there’s that.

Also, the roller cabinet I made over the summer for the printmaking instructors is installed and in use:

Other Non-School Stuff

Last week I shared a link to a book that a friend of mine wrote. This week I want to share some things from my friend Sue (with whom I used to teach stone carving). She creates lightweight jewellery, and she’s added a couple of new earrings to her line that I like. Here they are: links to her whole site, new disk earrings, and new robot earrings:

I cannot explain why Medium picks the image it does when it creates those links — thus the title about “Hot Pink Disks” being associated with an image that has no hot pink in it at all… weird — so if the ideas are interesting please click on them to see what is really going on out there. I hear she’s thinking about flying saucer earrings as well if she can figure out the landing gear.

Harbour News

I’d been a bit worried that the harbour was boring again, and then I saw this:

That cruise ship confused me when I saw it the other day. First off, it’s docked next to (but apparently not in) the local dry dock (you can see the end of the dry dock sticking out from behind the prow of the ship on the right). Also, that cruise ship looks, well, old. It has port holes, not balconies. No modern, big cruise ship is built that way. What is it doing there?

Then I found this article and all became clear:

That cruise ship is the temporary quarters for a huge bunch of people who are going to be retrofitting another cruise ship that was supposed to arrive last night. The details are in the article, but apparently there will be an intensive, 24x7 remodel of a cruise ship that will go on for a bit over two weeks. The workers need places to sleep, so the second ship was brought in. Very weird, but that’s the cruise business for you.

Also in the harbour this week:

Click on that to enlarge it. You’ll see a tugboat using a line to pull a huge ship away from the container port dock. I’d wondered how the big ships left the docks and now I know: they get pulled away. What you cannot see in that photo is a second container ship off to the right, being steered into position (I think) to replace the one you can see after it has moved on.

And here’s a terrible picture for you:

If you click on that, you might be able to make out a barge with a crane on it right in the centre. That stuff is sitting in the harbour next to Canada Place (where the cruise ships dock, as you can see on the right) and directly in front of the SeaBus terminal. I figured it was just anchored there to get it out of the way or something but on Thursday I noted that is not the case. There were people working on it, and some equipment seemed to be moving up and down, as if it was doing something below the surface of the water. It might be dredging, I suppose, but I am not sure. In any case, the SeaBuses have to go around it as they go in and out of the terminal, and I am always fascinated by whatever is going on around me. This the picture, taken through the water splashed windows of the SeaBus.

And In Conclusion…

North Vancouver — where we live — is full of hiking trails. These interconnect parks and provide paths for kids to walk to school, among other things. In the last days before school started I was out walking for exercise and hit a couple of trails that were new to me. On one, I found this:

I stopped to figure it out, and to be honest I actually didn’t. I don’t know if this was a school project, or if a group of people just spontaneously did this. The paper leaves you see have messages on them, many written by children and others not. Here’s an example:

It was inspiring to find this out in the middle of a trail. I wonder what else is out there to discover?



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Jeff Powell

Jeff Powell

Sculptor/Artist. Former programmer. Former volunteer firefighter. Former fencer. Weirdest resume on the planet, I suspect.