Thursday, November 29, 2012

Maryland Regiment- Willow Leaves

"Beneath these streets and vacant lots lie the remainder of those brave sons of Maryland."
quote is taken from The Stone House of Gowanus by Georgia Fraser, 1909.)*
"Maryland Willow of the Gowanus"- Mixed Media on shopping bag paper and ink jet print. 86"x96", 2012
This work is about the men of the Maryland regiment that fought, died, and are buried in Brooklyn back in 1776. This blog post is devoted to how I developed the final painting pictured above. I combined a print of a pin hole photograph of Brooklyn with willow leaves that I have inscribed the names and ranks of around 400 soldiers that fought around the Old Stone House, Gowanus, Brooklyn.

Here is a great link for more information about Maryland regiment and the battle.

It is a pictorial idea that I have have been developing for sometime.It came about with my reading of the e-book The Stone House of Gowanus by Georgia Fraser, 1909. Her book is about the long history of the old Vecht-Cortelyou house. The house was the center of the fighting during the Battle of Long Island in 1776. Near the end of her book there is a photograph of a lone willow tree in the vacant lot where the house once stood. (pp.129) The author clam's that it is the same willow that is depicted in old paintings of the house. I am not so sure of that, however, I became fascinated by the idea of a old Willow tree that links us back to the times of 1776.  The author described the tree as being the same one depicted standing at the door way of the original stone house.I can understand her enthusiasm for proposing this tree as a link to the battle. After all in Brooklyn, there is no physical evidence of the battle.The landscape has been totally re-engineered to such a point that no natural feature is the same as it was in 1776. Perhaps the only places that exist today that are the least unchanged are in Green Wood and Evergreen cemeteries.

Of course when the willow photograph was made 1909, the original house being demolished long before, I don't believe could not have been the same one that Georgia thought it was. But it did start me thinking about creating tangible links to the past. My work is largely about the fact that nature can be our conduit through time.How it operates on a different scale of time, than us humans do. Tress live for many human generations and are often known as "witness tress. Witness trees, as designated by the National Park Service, are long-standing trees that have "witnessed" key events, trends, and people in American history.**
A stereo image of the Old Stone House taken in the 1870's. This looks to me like the rear of the house. From this extraordinary photo we can see how the area was re graded when the street grid was laid out. Buildings were built on top of the new gentile slope. From the Brooklyn Museum of Art photo archives.
This earlier photo shows the house from the front. Maybe the willow tree is the one on the left side out side of the fence?

I gravitated to the image of the willow, because it offers a beautiful metaphor of not only describing time, but also the local environment.  Willows like to grow near water, something that is abundant in the tidal Gowanus area.Design wise, the leaf is also a beautiful structure.I used this structure in the writing out of the names on the leaves. Below are earlier artwork that show the evolution towards the final painting. The final picture was finished over the summer in time for Go Brooklyn event.

This is an early unfinished 2010 painting taken from the image in Georgia's book. Mixed media on ply wood.33"x48" 2010-2011. At this point I cut out leaf shapes and randomly wrote out names.
Detail of the lower half of the painting.

Detail of the upper half showing soildres names on leaves.


The final image starts to take shape. Using a ink jet print on water color paper. I supper imposed a willow on top of a pinhole image I took of Brooklyn. 9.5"X13" The photographic view is in the direction of the Old Stone House. For the finial work I added sky above the photograph so I could scale the leaves to there actual size.
Rubbings of willow leaves from a limb grown in Red Hook. Leaves from this branch later became the leaves that I used to write out the individual soldiers names and rank for the large work. Graphite on tracing paper. 8"x10" 2011

Details of the finished painting. Below you can see how the willow leaf shape was used to write each soldiers name that was part of the Maryland Regiments that fought at the Old Stone House August 27,1776

I tried out a couple of different arrangements of leaf patterns. I used pins to hold the leaves in place until I was satisfied with there arrangement.


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Pinhole New York Harbor Views from 2010

A panorama of the Brooklyn waterfront created by merging three 4x5 pinhole images together.
A 4x5 pinhole image taken from Governors  Island of the Brooklyn bridge (center), Manhattan (Left) and Brooklyn Heights (Right)
A 4x5 pin hole from Governors Island of lower Manhattan. The blurred object on the left is the Staten Island ferry.
Wide angle pin hole image from Governors  Island.

Wide angle pin hole view across the butter milk channel

Wide angle pin hole of Brooklyn Heights. Compare with the image below taken in the 1920's
Brooklyn Heights. Taken from the Brooklyn Museum photo archive collection.

View of Manhattan from Brooklyn heights. Taken from the Brooklyn Museum photo archive collection.

Punkiesburg art work

Drawing from Bergen's map. I used this simple drawing as a template for creating  a series of paintings. The map is said to be a copied from a much older map. For more information about this map, the original blog post is Here-
 I have finished up some paintings that are a representation of the area known as Punkiesburg. The old Dutch name for the strange hill that was located near the intersection of Court St. and Atlantic Ave, Brooklyn, New York. I created these images by superimposing an old drawing over the modern photographs of the area.

"Punkiesburg Hill Outline" 33.5 X 35.5" Sharpie on ink jet print mounted on board. 2012
"Punkiesburg Hill Earth" 24.5" x 41" Brooklyn soil on ink jet print mounted on board. 2012
Detail of the brooklyn soil. I collected the soil from a street construction site near by.
"Punkiesburg Hill Tar" 27.5" x 36" Tar, house paint on ink jet print mounted on wood. 2012

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Photos From Majorica-Inspiration in your own back yard

A view of the neighbors house from our backyard.

This summer my family and I headed back to Majorca, Spain. My wife's family have been vacationing there off and on for a number of years. This time I brought along my Holga wide angle pinhole camera, a Holga 120N, and the little DYI 35mm camera. I shot Fuji Acros 100 and Fuji color PRO400H . I also shot some expired Kodak 125 B&W 35mm. The color I had processed here in the states and I developed the B&W myself. I had wanted to process the film in Spain, however no one does that anymore. It would have to be send out and maybe it would be back in time before I had to return home. I was also worried about having my film x-ray ed as I went through the airports, but I don't think it affected the film to badly.
All the photos in this post are from in front of the house we rented. I was reminded of the old adage "The best place to look for inspiration is your own yard." With the photos below you can see I had a wonderful front yard with plenty of subject matter.

The first group of images below are the rocks in front of our vacation house. Taken with the 35mm DYI camera. The lens was screwed all the way out so that it creates a cool vignette around the image. These shots of the rocks and waves remind me of old silent movie technique's.

Wide angle pin hole

Wide angle pin hole

One afternoon a small boat caught fire outside of the port. No one was hurt, but it provided a spectacular photo opportunity. The image was taken with the Holga Wide angle pinhole.

A Holga 120N shot. It is way over exposed because the bulb switch was on. I was only able to salvage two shots from this roll.
The image was taken with the Holga 120N on bulb setting.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Go Brooklyn Open Studio event

Last weekend (September 8/9) I participated in Go Brooklyn. The event was sponsored by the Brooklyn Museum of Art. The concept was to have the artists of Brooklyn open there studios to the public for one weekend. The public was then encouraged to vote for an artist that they saw and liked. The votes would be tallied and 10 artists would be included in a group show at the Brooklyn Museum.
The GO project was very well run and publicized. In all I had about 50 visitors over the two days. The weather being much better on Sunday than Saturday effected the turn out.Overall  I got a pretty positive response from most people.Interestingly enough, a number of the visitors were other artists that were not participating in GO. Each one was horrified when I revealed that the paper I work on is from paper shopping bags. “But it’s not archival” they all said. I also got the comment "I wish my husband was here, he would enjoy this”.
Below are some random shots of my studio set up. I decided to present mostly "Battle of Brooklyn" themed work. After all, the 136 anniversary of the battle was just two weeks prior. For the studio, I took over our front room and hung work up and set out paint supplies on tables. Most of the time, I work in another room in our loft. But for this I didn't want people going through our living area.I could also hang everything together for a gallery like feel.
Here is my portable work table/ easel/ old door. Most work starts out here, flat on this table an then moved to the wall for finishing.

Two paintings from the Exodus from Brooklyn.

The two panorma paintings of Brooklyn in 1776. On the floor is a red milk create (center), it contains my soil collection that I use for creating paint.

In the bottom right corner you can see "the stack of generals". I have 20 paintings of Union Generals that were at Gettysburg. Some day I will create a blog post about them.
I showed a new work that I am working on about the Maryland regiment that fought at the Old Stone House. I use images of willow leaves that I write out the names of the soldiers on. The leaves are formed into willow bows, that in turn mark out the different companies that the soldiers fought with. The background is an enlarged pinhole image I took of the Brooklyn skyline facing the area of the battlefield.