Short Pieces About Making

Talking About the New Series: Indifferent Garden

Working on Grey Pansy. On my monitor is a detail from the scan, and on my desk is the original in my notebook. Underneath it is a 13x19 proof.

I love a moody floral. With a couple of exceptions, the flowers in the current series, "Indifferent Gardens," I've harvested from old greeting cards. In addition to the gorgeous colors, liberal use of this delicious almost matte gold, and half-tone dots, the flowers are embossed, which presents a particular set of challenges -- first, capturing the extremely subtle depth and shadow in the scans, then rendering those critical characteristics in the prints.

Here are a couple of details. "Grey Pansy" is on the left, a detail from "If the Tiny Blue Flower" is on the right: 

Typically a lacquer coats the cards that is either cracked, or cracks the instant I start working with the paper. Terrifically pleasing to me in the original, though very difficult to see, I was curious how the cracking would scan and print. I'm thrilled to say, though I'm very early in the process, the cracks are coming up remarkably well, both in the scan, and printed at scale. 

The series title connects in my mind to Louise Gluck’s book The Wild Iris, but the connection may be pure association, I haven’t gone back through the book (both copies we own are still packed) to suss it out. The book is one of those lodged in my fundament, the poems are full of literally moody flowers and lines from them recite themselves in my mind — I tell you I could speak again: whatever / returns from oblivion returns / to find a voice. That's the titular Wild Iris speaking, by the way. And I happen to think Gluck's spareness and punctuation are exquisite. For instance, say that's not a beautiful colon — 

I tell you I could speak again: whatever

And the confluence of idea, language, and arrangement in the next line —

returns from oblivion returns

is poetry.

Gluck's lines as she made them, and as they exist in my life, and the phenomenon of intuitive, mostly unconscious connection over decades, speaks to me of the essential mystery to making: how, if anything interesting happens at all, it results from collaboration rather than control. It results from the independent life of the made thing reaching back to the vehicle of its making, and out into the world, and back again, to assemble itself. 

Which is to say, were I to go back to Wild Iris, I may not find the literal thread. But I'll insist it's there nonetheless.

The full scan, in process, working title Grey Pansy. Candidate for my new series, Indifferent Garden. Obviously, all rights reserved by me, Kimberly McClintock.

Sneak preview ... not mentioned elsewhere, this is an uncorrected scan of "onli" (working title), also a candidate for the Indifferent Garden series. In it, too, the embossing is visible. "onli" (or whatever its title ends up being) is a bridge piece between Indifferent Garden and the next series, Strange Maps. Again, all rights reserved by me, Kimberly McClintock.

Talking About Making: Layers

I think beauty in made things results from layering because layering creates complexity, complexity creates interest and the illusion of depth--literal, metaphysical and metaphorical. Satisfying meals layer flavors, successful relationships layer selves. A good haircut requires layers, at least for me. Seems I've had this thought before, and probably read it, too, though I can't think where just now. Interestingness definitely accrues in the visual art I make as a result of layering. 

I’ve been listening to myself answer questions lately about this work--variations on the question "what are they": how and why and what were you thinking; and "what do they mean." I’m amazed at the range of conversations I'm having as a result.  

With my friends in technology, and with photographers, the conversation tends toward the quality of the scans, the scanner, the printer, the depth and texture in the reproduced images; the illusion of dimension in the prints is so strong, viewers invariably reach out to touch them. Painters and gallerists mention Lichtenstein’s painted half-tone dots. The many writers and designers in my life often cue in on pieces of words, or the paper itself, want to see and play with the typewriters, talk about typeface. A friend’s former husband and I, he a veteran of multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, talked about maps; contemporary and ancient maps, Tolkien's maps, those of his own invention. 

Do you make your own maps? Do you think in those terms? That's what poetry is, for me, has always been: shows me where to go, and where I am. These are definitely maps. A series I hope to work on printing soon is called "Strange Maps."

My friend the Tarot reading mystic "read" piece after piece, telling stories until she found her own. Stories are a theme that comes up again and again. What's the story is a common question, and one I'm working to answer in other essays as its own question. I'll say for the moment that they are that, too. Meaning, they are fill-in-the-blank; clouds passing overhead. A therapist at the Atlanta show said they are lovely Rorshach tests.

Not least of all though, these pieces are very simply the sum of my engagement with the materials. They are layer upon layer of paper. Paper foxed, and burned paper, paper stained with cherry juice, and the bodily fluids of bugs; fibers of its definitely-not-lignin-or-acid-free materials; handmade papers from around the world. Typography from gone eras, ghostly handwriting; illustration, ink. Paper removed from context, rearranged, juxtaposed. As a reader, paper and type were my first loves. 

Removed from context, then reassembled and rendered overlarge. An object like a Japanese postage stamp, its Kanji lettering inches high, cannot escape notice. 

What are they? A stage set or plinth for pieces of antique printing that would otherwise go utterly unnoticed.

What are they? Pure product of a curious human interacting with adored materials. Materials made and, more importantly, handled and loved, or not, maybe just used, doodled on, for very different reasons, by other humans.

So, the layering began long before the materials piled here on my table. Before they became, for me, a way to make contact with the present, with the day, with myself and something tactile; a way for a busy person to inhabit silence and solitude. What are they? Letters, prayers, meditations. Guardrails, too. And ransom notes! 

Complexity is a station on the way to mess, and artfulness is partly just in knowing when to stop.

Have I just described life?