Thursday, August 27, 2020

Hessian Bayonets

“Hessian Bayonets”
Welded Steel, Canvas, Oil Stick, Acrylic House Paint, Powder Pigment, Iron Powder, Paper collage, Paper Shopping Bags Mounted on wood frame. 2019

This painting is based on local folklore. Hessian soldiers were German mercenary, “soldiers for hire” and were used by the British army to supplement their own troops. During the Battle of Long Island Hessian troops acted as a diversion to deceive the American army into thinking the main British attack was happening in what today is known as Prospect Park. Meanwhile, the true British attack was able to cut off and isolate the American troops facing the Hessians. The Americans, upon realizing this, fled towards what today is downtown Brooklyn. The Hessian troops, perhaps because of language barriers, or perhaps because of British propaganda, did not take prisoners. Instead they used bayonets mounted at the end of their muskets to kill any surrendering American solider they came across.

The painting was created using rubbings of actual tree trunks from the “Battle Pass” area of Prospect Park. Oil stick was used to transfer the bark pattern from the trees to the canvas strips. These strips of canvas were mounted to the substrate of paper shopping bags and hand forged steel bayonets were impaled into the tree bark. This painting was part of the Tides of Time exhibit at Gowanus Dredgers boat house (August 2019).

Side view showing the bayonets embedded into the painting
                            Side view showing the bayonets embedded into the painting

Installing wood frame to the wall. The painting on paper will be attached to it.
After attaching the painting

Cutting the steel bar stock to form the bayonet blades.
I created a simple jig to help assemble the bayonet parts. It was a easy build and was made by welding only three parts together.

Finished assembled bayonets ready for rusting process.

The start of the process. They rusted slowly at first.
I used a mixture of vinegar, and hydrogen peroxide and salt to achieve a deep crusty rust.

Tides of Time

The postcard for this exhibition.
I was invited to participate in the Artist Residence program at the Gowanus Dredgers Boathouse (August 2019). The Dredgers are an organization that advocates for public water access to the Gowanus canal. It so happens that my residence was planned for August 2019 the anniversary of the Battle of Long Island. This year the Dredgers have planned a couple of events that commemorate the battle. I invited my longtime friend Gerald Wagoner to participate with me. He created site-specific poems that both speak to the evolving nature of the canal environment and its history.
I created a group of four new large paintings. These painting incorporate my recurring themes of nature, warfare, process, and time. See the following posts for more info about each painting.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Gun Powder Sky

Gun Powder Sky
Acrylic House paint, Powder pigment, Iron Powder, Rock Salt, Marsh Grass, Charcoal, Sulfur on Paper Shopping Bag. 2019

This work references the painting “Battle of Long Island” by Alonzo Chappel (1828-1887). That painting depicts the retreat of the “Maryland 400” across Brouwer's Mill Pond. This painting was part of the Tides of Time exhibit at Gowanus Dredgers boat house (August 2019).

"Battle of Long Island” by Alonzo Chappel (1828-1887)

The title alludes to the great blinding noxious clouds of white smoke that were created by the burning gunpowder. Battles of this time in history were often hard to directly observe because of the tremendous volumes of thick smoke that were generated. Consequently, because the battle was totally obscured, generals of the time had a difficult time controlling the movements of their troops.

Here I layered the ingredients of gun powder and local marsh grass. White paint covers and obscures that under-structure. The paint is applied in such a way so as to let the chemical reaction of iron and salt stain and penetrate the white painted surface. Rust and decay are modern components that allude to both the past and present environment of the Gowanus canal.

Elements of Gun Powder

A graphic representation of the ratio of the three elements that compose gunpowder (known today as black powder). Various armies used slightly different ratios of these essential elements to create explosive powder. This is the ratio of the British army: 75 % saltpeter or potassium nitrate, 15% charcoal, 10% sulfur.
In the painting, the different elements are displayed as horizontal bands. The thickness of the bands represents the ratio of that element as present in the British formulation. This is overlaid on marsh grass that has been sourced in Brooklyn. Marsh grass was plentiful in the Gowanus area during the time of the Battle of Long Island.This painting was part of the Tides of Time exhibit at Gowanus Dredgers boat house (August 2019).
Elements of Gun Powder 75%, 15%, 10%
Rock Salt, Charcoal, Paper Mache, Sulfur, Acrylic Paint, Marsh Grass. 2019

Maryland Willow of the Gowanus

The willow tree in Brooklyn whose leaves I used for the leaves with the soldiers names
In 2016 I re-worked my painting "Maryland Willow of the Gowanus" for a group show at the Old Stone House in Brooklyn. I worked with a Holga photograph of the old stone house that I had taken. The Holga is a simple plastic camera that shoots 120mm film. For this new version of the painting I wanted to make a direct connection between events, places and time.  I also incorporated an updated list of solders from the Maryland rosters. There is a lot of research going on at the Maryland State Archives that is adding to our knowledge about the Maryland troops that served in the Continental army. It is all posted online.
Leaves and sky
I was inspired to created this work from a photograph that I saw in a book about the Old Stone House, entitled The Stone House of Gowanus by Georgia Fraser, 1909. 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 claimed that it is the same willow that is depicted in old paintings of the house. I am not so sure that facts back up that claim. However, I became fascinated by the idea of a old Willow tree that links us back to the times of 1776; a"witness tree", so to speak. As a commemoration, my creative idea was to inscribe the names of the Maryland soldiers onto willow leaves. I then arranged the leaves in long hanging branches that represent the different fighting units. For example, all the soldiers from the Second Company are represented by leaves on one branch that hangs down in the image.

This time I wanted to documented the creative process from start to finish for use in this blog. I think viewers might find it interesting the various process and thoughts that happen as I create a work. I myself spend a lot of time thinking about how my work is shaped and constructed by my process. For me the elements of the proccess are what create the work. The photos below are the documentation of who this work came together.

Collecting a small bag of leaves
laying out leaves on a sheet of glass- ready for transferring their image onto colored paper.

Painting the paper roll used in the leave transfer process

the paper after rubbing and leaf transfer
I used different colors for the paper
Adding the soldiers names to the leaf shapes
Detail of the names and unit information. Ready to be individually cut out.

Once the leaves were cut out they were kept together according to the different companies. Ready to be glued to the painting in long branch patterns.

As usual I am working with paper shopping bags as my base material. At this point in construction, I realized that the painting would have to be both wider and taller than planned. Research showed that there are many more documented soldiers. More soldiers meant that the willow patterns would be both wider and longer.  So to include all the companies and their corresponding soldiers, I had to make the painting base taller and wider. This is a simple prospect when creating on shopping bags, just add more paper.

Blending the printed house image with background "sky" paint elements.


Early in the layering paint process.
Laying out the company across the top and starting to fill in the leaves creating branches.

Almost done.

Installing at the Old Stone House
The finished install

The painting installed at the "Sediment" group show at PS 122 Jan 2019