Migration, an exhibit at Proteus Gowanus

Three of the Wanderer Prints are part of the fall 2011 exhibit at Proteus Gowanus here in Brooklyn. The title of the exhibition year at the gallery is Migration, and this first show of the season will run from September 17th through early January. If you are in Brooklyn on the evening of the 17th, please join us for what will be a warm and lively reception:

Proteus Gowanus
Wine Reception for Migration

Saturday, September 17, 7-9pm
543 Union Street (at Nevins)
Brooklyn, NY 11215
718.243.1572
Directions for getting there

Proteus Gowanus bills itself as an interdisciplinary gallery and a reading room. I would add that it is an example of genius in the fully unpacked meaning of the word: brilliant and complete unto itself, the project is also very much of its place and generous of spirit. It is worth the trip. Go visit and be nudged, inspired, and informed.

There will be fifteen artists participating in this exhibit, along with an artist-in-residence, several correspondents, and a new blog called Proteoscope. Take a look around the Proteus Gowanus website for more information about the many avenues by which the Migration theme will be traveled.

Small Breaches in the Firmament

ChromaProjects_April_1st

Here’s what’s exciting about this show:

  1. We all get an excuse to visit Charlottesville for the opening on April 1st. I’ll be there. If you stop by, we can say hello in person!
  2. Showing with three talented fellow Virginians makes me happy (yes, I live in Brooklyn, but I will always be Virginian).
  3. There will be a poetry happening during the opening.
  4. Bill Bennet, one of the fantastic teachers who encouraged me in the first place, will have his Byron’s Telescope interactive sculpture outside the gallery for opening night.
  5. It’s a show about celestial stars. Think about it: stars are the most distant thing we can sense with our bodies. Very, very old light. Faint, beautiful. Perfect turf for some refreshing visual art.
  6. And being about the heavens at night, we get to mention the Dark Sky Association. If you don’t yet know about the fight for lighting practices that promote human health, benefit wildlife, and turn back the tide of light pollution– check out the trailer to the new documentary City Dark, which just premiered at SXSW last week.

And one more little thing: I’ve been working on a suite of new prints. Smaller this time, but really special. I’m printing over aluminum leaf. Seeing this in person is the best way to really understand. They glint in the dark. They will be in this show. Come see. And click on this progress snapshot to see a little bit closer:

Here’s the text from the announcement with the gallery info:

Bill Bennett * Barbara MacCallum

with Kathryn Henry-Choisser and Randall Stoltzfus
in The Passage Gallery

April 1 – 30, 2010
Opening reception Friday, April 1, 5:00 – 8:00

Chroma Projects
418 E. Main on the Mall
Charlottesville, VA 22902
434.202.0269 | 434.589.3117
www.chromaprojects.com

The Amish Inkjet

What’s an Amish inkjet?

Amish_InkjetIn this case I’m referring to an obsolete 24″ Epson Stylus Pro 7500 that I picked up for free about a year ago. Once a commercial printer sporting 5 colors plus black, it’s still a sturdy machine, if a little cranky and low-res by today’s standards.

But this printer has been set up to do something that was never intended. The original inks have been replaced with a set that I mixed up myself, using examples others have posted online, and using special software created by an enthusiast. This custom inkset is made using a commercial carbon black ink that has been diluted with a home-made base solution to create five shades of grey. The result can only print in black and white– but the output is very light-fast and chemically stable. And since the printer can now use shades of grey instead of dithering to to make a printed area less dark, the effective resolution has gone way up.

512px-Old_Fordson_Tractor_at_See_Canyon_Fruit_RanchHow’s that Amish? Well, a little background: A few generations ago, one part of my family was Old Order Mennonite. If you saw them, you’d call them Amish, as they dressed plain and drove horses and buggies. But if you looked carefully you might have noticed that they used tractors on the farm, instead of just horses. Gasoline tractors were just becoming widely available, and promised better quality of life. So they were allowed– with a restriction: the tractors could only use steel wheels. You see, steel wheels worked fine on the farm, but were unwieldy and slow on paved roads. And this clarified the the difference between a gasoline tractor and the automobile, which already symbolized all that was “englisher” or outside to the plain Mennonites and Amish. The steel wheeled tractor was a way to adopt a technology while maintaining their emphasis on small communities and separation from the world at large.

So for me, there’s a funny resonance in crippling this old inkjet printer by replacing it’s bright color inks with grays. There’s a separation from the world at large– I can no longer go and buy ink cartridges from the store if I run out. Instead I have to mix dilutions of ink and refill the ones I already have. And in a virtual sense, a community is reinforced, as I learn from the group of people who have made this same conversion and who share their successes and frustrations via the internet. And I’m working to produce prints with carbon pigment and quality cotton rag paper, true archival materials. In art market terms, that’s kind of like the moral high ground that my ancestors thought so important. And it feels right.

Of course, as with any technology, this is all changing very rapidly. The specific church that I refer to here has split many times, as new decisions had to be made and things got murky. I’m sure that my decision to use this particular set-up in my studio will be just as unclear in the long run.

But for now, I’m just excited to see what it can do!

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An experimental print of the painting “Bear-lithia” using carbon ink