Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Red Bag

Now that I am home, I have decided to take advantage of the snow.  Though I really can only stand about an hour outside in that thin little hanbok, I find that I have become quite efficient in planning everything out beforehand.

Personally, I like this image digital.  I can't really see it as a gum print.  So until I do, I don't really see this image in the series but again, the truth remains to be seen!  I have decided to include a small excerpt from where this image is based from: 

There once lived a young boy that would love to have stories told to him.  Every story he heard, he kept in a red bag so that they were all in one place.  Over the years the number of stories grew and the bag became heavy trying to keep them all in.  The bag was so full that the stories grew uncomfortable with lack of space.  This caused much anger and resentment from the neglected stories and they soon longed to seek revenge on the boy who was now a man.

The story goes on to tell a larger adventure of how they managed to escape but what I chose to focus on is the idea of holding onto bitter feelings, keeping them with you, and finally just letting them go.  I wanted to show weight of holding on to these negative feelings one can bear, so I used black stones to pour out of the bag.  The wintery scene creates a blank slate, an open mind and sense of acceptance.  The pine tree remains a symbol of hope and steadfast faith that has followed throughout the series.  And all of this ties back into my thesis and my feelings on my adoption.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Methods (Alternative)

Right before Christmas, I was accepted into the 2013 Kiernan Gallery exhibit called, Methods (Alternative)Christopher James was the juror and he selected one of my thesis images printed as a tri-color gum bichromate.  I really love this image and I am happy to see it gain this kind of attention, especially from Mr. James!  (A fellow alternative process pioneer who has created the ULTIMATE historical/alternative process book!) 

The gallery follows traditional exhibition standards and only allows for black frames and white mats.  Ideally I would have purchased another weathered barnwood frame and I would have float mounted the piece behind glass.  But since I couldn't do that, I opted for a textured black wooden frame and placed the image behind 8-ply off-white mat board.  

I'm happily surprised to find that the image looks great and very finished behind black.

The Kiernan Gallery is located in Lexington, VA.  And the show begins January 30th!  Along with my work are the amazing works of artists that I admire and look up to.  If you get a chance, check out their work here.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Inkjet Transfers

 Right before Christmas break, I had decided to try some inkjet transfers with my thesis imagery.  (I had the case of "over-achiever" fever and I thought that I would present this work with another set of final work in a class.  Unfortunately it never happened because I found that there was too many variables with inkjet transfers to confidently show to my class.)  What initially drew me to this process was the unique texture that is achieved with the transfer.  I wanted to see how this texture would play with the thesis images. 

There was a lot of trial and error and many throwaways.  I didn't have a concrete source of information to work from and opted to take what I could from various online and book sources.  The interesting thing about these transfers is that there are many, many variables and some methods work better for others.

I'm my case, I kept much of my supplies constant and experimented with matte medium consistency.  I also had issues with color transparencies but I believe that was due to the printer, not the transfer.  I had run out of ink on my semi-pro Epson 1900 and choose to use my home printer which is a Canon 3-1.  I believe that the way the printer lays down the ink explains the loss of magenta in the color transfer seen below:

What worked for me was to let the transfers sit on the gel medium for at least an hour.  I found that more detail was more intact and transferred better when I peeled off the transparency paper.

These are the materials that I used:
-Arches 140lb Hot Press Watercolor Paper
-Golden Gloss Gel Matte Medium
-3M Ink Jet Transparency Paper
-Small Paint Brush
-Inkjet Printer

1.  Prepare your image.  Print onto the transparency paper.  Make sure that you are flipping the image before printing!  I profile my images for glossy paper and the image quality is satisfactory.  The nice thing about 3M paper is that there are two very distinctive sides to the paper, a rough side and a smooth side.  You will need to print on the rougher side of the transparency.

2.   Prepare your paper.  I buy very large 20x30 sheets of watercolor paper and for these transfers, I printed small, 5x7 images.  I used a bone folder and tore the paper down to an appropriate size.  While my images were printing, I dampened the watercolor paper with water and blotted it dry with a paper towel.  
 Next, I applied the gel medium.  In this step, I experimented a lot with the gel medium consistency with water.  Too watery, the image will bleed and the ink will run.  Too dry, the image will not transfer.  As much as the consistency of gel works with tranfers, I ended up mixing a bit of water to bring down the thickness.

3.  Apply your transfer to the paper.  With the gel medium/water mixture applied to the watercolor paper, take your printed transparency and place the image onto the readied surface.  Gently apply soft pressure to the transparency and smooth out any air that might get trapped underneath.

4.  Now this is where I veer off from any other conventional set of instructions.  Many other instructions tell you to apply pressure and rub the heck out of the transparency print onto the paper.  I end up letting the transparency sit on the paper for an hour.  After that, then I begin to apply pressure to the transparency, using my brayer to push the transparency print on to the paper.

5.  Carefully lift off the transparency.  Allow the paper to dry.  Done!

Good luck and remember, this is just ONE method that worked for me.  I'm still not that satisfied with the end results and I would still like to achieve a full colored print.  Either way, if you are trying inkjet transfers and have any questions or comments, feel free to let me know!

Monday, January 7, 2013

The year long (48 hr) sewing project

 Almost one year ago I had started a sewing project with enticing hints of what to come and then proceeded to never mention it again in the year 2012...

Perhaps it was my forgetfulness, lack of time or inspiration, but I began that small quilting project in hopes that it would turn into a much needed sewing machine cover.  I was also on a recycling kick then and I really wanted to use up a lot of leftover fabric just sitting around my apartment.  I found a simple enough pattern from my Fresh Quilting Book by Malka Dubrawsky and began piecing.  I got as far as putting together the entire front piece before I packed it up and moved out of my first SF apartment, began school, new projects, etc, etc until I ultimately realized that nearly a year had passed without much progress.

So, this morning, I finished it!  As my post title reads, technically this project took me one year to complete, but the total amount of active hours sewing was probably around 48 hours.  It really was a simple project to do and I only spent about 4 hours today finishing up where I had left off!

 After piecing, I was able to cut out a piece of sturdy cardboard to place as the top structure of the cover.  I slipped the cardboard under the front piece and quilted around it.  After quilting, I cut all for sides even and sewed on the binding, making sure to add four ties on the sides to keep the cover snug on my machine.

I'm really happy with the results and I'm a bit embarrassed that I didn't get to this sooner.  But now I have a cute and efficient dust cover for my sewing machine!

You can find this project from Malka's book:  Fresh Quilting: Fearless Color, Design, and Inspiration

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Tourist

Artist Statement:

As I continue my thesis work, I've found that my concepts are becoming increasingly more complex and they are allowing me to explore new avenues stemming from the main route.  One key issue that I've come to cultivate within my work is the idea of cultural genre.  And perhaps that is the most dignified way to say that I am creating oriental stereotypes.  Could I have chosen to create my imagery beyond the historical reference of Korean culture?  Surely.  Yes.  Definitely. 

But I didn't.  I did choose this key defining element of Korean culture, created the historical garment, stylized myself in hair and costume.  I took those photographs.  Much of my defense in this choice delves from aesthetic formalities.  An observer might see this historical figure and assume a narrative that is from an oriental past.  They understand that this figure is not from current reality but rather historical imagination.  These kinds of assumptions are underlying ideas that I want to convey with the series.

Yet, the choice in wearing the Korean Hanbok also comes from a personal fear of mine that I hope to explore more by creating this work and others like it.  Openly visualizing myself in a stereotypical historic Korean role makes me feel judged.  And that fear of judgement has followed me throughout my childhood.  In the past, people have looked at me and assumed that I was someone that I am not.  They think that my parents are Asian.  They think I can speak some oriental language.  I'm good at math.  I can't drive.  I must love anime.  So on and so forth.  As a child, these small judgements felt very crippling and unfair.  Why must I be perceived so differently just because of the way I look?  And so I learned to fear key elements that would differentiate myself from any other Western person.

But with this thesis, I've come to accept many things with myself personally.  I've also learned to accept other peoples judgements better.  And as I said before, this kind of acceptance, opens up for new explorations.  So, I am now working on a side project called, The Tourist.

This idea came to me long before thesis, but I never had the courage and gall to take it on.  Initially I was inspired by Tseng Kwong Chi and his body of self-portraits.  Chi would dress himself in what he called his "Mao" suit and pose himself in front of iconic and sometimes plain Americana environments.  I've mentioned him before a few times on this blog and I believe that his work has always been a forerunner for my thesis.  I just couldn't believe that someone would create such an odd paring of place and person. 

But I never created anything like what he did.  I couldn't get into the idea of posing in front of random places without a solid reason why.  I did like the idea of utilizing a stereotype to create a new kind of narrative.  But I didn't like how out of place the character was that he created.

Sometimes life needs to create a kind of order for you to take on projects like this.  Cue my Christmas holiday cruise.

This recent Christmas, I went on a four day cruise from Long Beach, CA to Ensenada, Mexico.  Cruises are a love/hate relationship for me.  Before I ever get on a boat, I think that it's the best idea in the world.  You buy this ticket and everything is taken care of.  No need to transport, rooms are cleaned twice a day, abundant amounts of free food, lots of booze and plenty of entertainment and gambling.  What more could you ask when on a vacation?!

But then I get on the boat and I'm reminded of my periodic sea sickness, hidden costs placed everywhere, how utterly gluttonous people can be and my eventual loss of faith in humanity.

Perhaps I'm just not a "team" player.  Because I can't help but role my eyes at the sheer madness that ensues when on a cruise.  If you ever want to see human dignity abandoned in a snap of a finger, attend a cruise art auction.  If you ever want to watch people lose all sense of civility, have a meal in the ships dining hall.  Being overly indulgent is a simple understatement for places like this.

And somehow all of that made sense for my newest project.  This project embraces the ideas of excess, indulgence, and ignorance.  Instead of trying to create a disconnection between person and place, the cruise would compliment the kind of character I wanted to photograph.  She would be the typical tourist that thrives so well in places like this.  She wouldn't have to be an outsider but one that belongs with others like her on this crazy cruise ship.  It is her home away from home.  She does not need to try and be anything else but what she already is.  And in many sappy and heartwarming ways, it made me feel that I could gain a kind of acceptance in this Western society.

So, before my cruise, I bought a few key props: A red vinyl visor, large black sunglasses, a blue fanny-pack, and a cheap tourist t-shirt.  A snapshot look gives an unintentional feel and improvised aspect to the work.  So I loaded a crappy old Canon camera with color film and went to town on my four day cruise.

Ultimately, I still ask myself what the hell was I thinking?  Am I being too judgmental?  Am I further grounding this kind of racist stereotype?  I don't know.  I really don't.  But I took a chance, investigated and created a new kind of work that I know shows this certain kind of character, time, and place that fit so well together, you would swear she is real.

I present to you, The Tourist.

All photographs are directed self-portraits taken with Kodak Portra 160 film. 

Many thanks to Thom.