Art School: Semester 6, Week 12

The term is winding down. Really. Though it feels positively glacial in some ways, and a bit like an old Road Runner cartoon in others, things are coming to a conclusion.

The coming week will see the last public art and cultural theory classes. The week after will see the last ceramics class (two, actually, sort of) and the cultural theory final exam.

“What happened this past week?” I hear you ask. Well, I’ll tell you…

Advanced Ceramics

The body project was hung, and crit happened. Here’s an overview shot of the installation:

Installation of ceramic objects forming the shape of a human body. Sort of.

What you see there are all the various projects the students created. No single photo does them all justice, but that’s what you’re getting. Sorry. Crit was good. In the process I actually figured out what I did wrong with my piece, and how I could have made it a lot stronger. Sad how we only learn such things after the fact, isn’t it?

What I should have done is extend the bottom of the piece a bit, and have a second nail/mounting hole there. That would have given the piece more tension — it would have appeared as if it was stretched between the two nails, rather than suspended from just the one. Other than that I really like the work, but that would have made it a lot better. My bad.

Elsewhere in the past week I finished the creation of my piece for the final project. This went more than a bit sideways, and I am reevaluating my relationship with clay as a result, but here it is:

A ceramic piece waiting to be fired.

I cannot stress just how different this piece is from the vision I had when I started. It’s not quite night and day — there is a vague resemblance — but it’s very definitely not what I’d planned on. Oh well. For the record, I think the work is just a bit under 24" tall with the lid (or whatever that is) on. Really I should measure it. (And really, I think I am always reevaluating my relationship with clay.)

Remember, it will bisque fire to an orange colour, and then I will sawdust fire it to get patterns of smoke on it. However, since I could not burnish it, it might just go totally black in the sawdust firing. I will have no clue about that until it comes out of the saggar. The sawdust firing will be on Dec 2, so there is a while to wait before that comes to pass.

Also this week I have prepared the research presentation I will be giving on Monday. If anyone expresses interest in response to this post, I will include links to the PDF files of the presentation and the slides in next week’s post. (Did you note that? You have to contact me if you want to see/read those.)

Public Art

Last week saw the installation of our vinyl project on the SkyTrain station, and crit of all our various individual projects. Here’s the vinyl:

SkyTrain station vinyl Window art.

That’s the beast. It’s huge, but looks really good, to be honest. (That’s despite a really awful installation job. There are all kinds of bubbles in it, the window behind was not cleaned before it was put up, and there are a couple of misaligned things as well. I am not inclined to appreciate how the install went, as you can tell.)

An interesting learning from this is that the instructor did not know how the print shop actually works. We submitted the work to them in two horizontal pieces — the top and bottom trains — because she thought they would print it as two pieces and hang them that way. However, that’s not what happened. Instead they pieced them back together into one single image, and then printed it in six vertically separate sections that slightly overlap. Had we known how this would be printed, we would have sent them either one single image (rather than two) or six sections. (The latter only if they could tell us how they wanted them to overlap.) I suspect they have specialized software for the vinyl printer that cuts an image into strips, so really what they needed was a single image, but since we were never given the details, we really don’t know. Still, it worked out, which is good.

Anyway, it’s quite striking, at least so long as you don’t get so close that you see the installation problems.

Next up, here are all the individual public art pieces we installed around campus:

As always, you should be able to click on an image to enlarge it. Note that almost no one has titled their pieces yet. I will share titles where I know them, but otherwise the artists are still working on that aspect of things. From left to right and top to bottom, we have:

  • My own piece which you saw last week. Title: C
  • Heather and her apple.
  • Jess and her coloured concrete object installation.
  • Ursula’s metal goose. (She might have a title for this. Something like “Langara’s Children”. It’s in reference to the geese that regularly return to the pond surrounding the “island” in which her piece is mounted and raise goslings.)
  • Pauline’s woven metal and wire piece that is not a snail. (I made that mistake. It is not a snail.)
  • Atheana’s steel and copper piece.
  • Thomas’s concrete wave. Title: Title Wave

Puns make the best titles, by the way.

The crit went well, though apparently I forgot about a hexagon while I was installing the work a while back and left it sitting on the book shelves. One of my fellow students pointed it out to me. *sigh* And also, a magnet was visible that I didn’t see during the installation. I have a couple of things to fix when time allows.

Also in the past week I have been working on my final project for this class: the proposal for a display on the wall at the SkyTrain station. You’ve seen the renders of the most recent version, and that hasn’t changed. What I’ve been doing is getting quotes for steel, mounting hardware, and paint, and starting to assemble the actual proposal itself. And also, I am building a maquette:

I will have a photo of the final assembly next week. And also, if you ask, a link to the PDF of the proposal itself. (Just like the PDFs from ceramics… you have to tell me if you want to see/read this one too. I will force this to be more interactive somehow!)

Cultural Theory

Last week, as I think I mentioned, we were discussing the most difficult reading of the term, according to the instructor. And it might have been. I clearly didn’t get it. Or at least I didn’t get all of it.

This week is the last reading: A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, technology, and socialist-feminism in the late twentieth century, by Donna Haraway. I didn’t make up that title. And no, I haven’t read it yet. Been busy with other things. Soon.

As I said at the start, the following week will be the final exam for this class, and then I am done with all my academic classes for this diploma.

And all I have to do is pass.

Other School Stuff

Registration for next term happened last week as well. Here’s the plan, such as it is, for the spring term:

  • Public Art 2 — the second half of the public art class
  • Advanced Ceramics 2 — the second half of advanced ceramics
  • Intro to Wheel Throwing — just like it sounds.
  • Intro Foundry — a new offering involving two metal casting projects, taught with a First Nations flair.

That’s four studio classes next term, and it may kill me. Or it may not. Or I might drop one or two of them after I figure out which ones are driving me nuts and which are not. All are completely optional. I have met all the requirements to graduate once I pass cultural theory this term, so I am only taking these out of interest.

We’ll see what happens.

Other Non-School Stuff

The transit strike is about to get real. This coming Wed, Thu, and Fri there will be no bus or SeaBus service. That hits me on Wednesday, as I have class all day. I guess I am driving that morning. Lucky for me I have the option. There are many students who do not have a choice about this, and it will be ugly.

No one knows what happens after the three day work stoppage. My gut says that management will not be impressed and the strike will continue at some level. I’d like to be wrong about that, but I have no information. I might be driving in for my final classes and exam this term. Or not. No way to predict it yet.

For the record, one of our local bus routes — the 99-B — is considered the busiest bus route in North America. It carries over 55,000 people a day to and from UBC. That will not be running, so imagine all those people trying to get to school and work.

Harbour News

While I have been on the SeaBus a couple of times this past week, I have seen nothing of interest and it’s been pretty dark. Vancouver harbour might have gone into hibernation for all I can tell. That’s good, though. An exciting Vancouver Harbour means collisions and spills and explosions. We can live happily without those.

And In Conclusion…

I went to an art show opening this week. Thursday night at the UBC Museum of Anthropology, a ceramics show opened that included a number of pieces by my ceramics instructor. Here’s a photo of one of the works she has in that show:

The two objects on the ends are either lined with gold leaf or glazed in a brilliant, metallic gold. There are a few tiny holes in the pieces (one is visible on the right) that let you get a hint of what is inside. These are lovely, and how the porcelain manages not to get broken in the middle works I have no idea. In fact, all her works are quite amazing. She’s got a thing for objects that look like they should fall apart.

Also, the MOA holds one of my very favourite sculptures, and this time it was lit up in a new way (to me, anyway):

That’s Raven and the First Men, by Bill Reid. It’s huge, and in that lighting it looks both spectacular and a bit terrifying. Very interesting!

Cheers all!



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Jeff Powell

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