It’s been a long time since I have contributed to this blog aside from snarky comments for Hannah as she diligently keeps up with posting. Hannah says that’s OK because I’m busy ’cause I have a job; I say that’s me being lazy and handing the reigns over to my social media director (her). I’m happy to give Hannah stuff to keep her busy, especially since the financial and professional kick in the gut she got last week. Which brings me to the point of this here post.
It’s tough being a creative person married to another creative person. It’s tougher when your partner is in the same field as you. And it’s nigh on impossible to then collaborate with your partner without it becoming a competition at best and bare-knuckle brouhaha at worst. Why am I writing like I’m stuck in a Walter Brennan highlight reel? (Clip from “Rio Bravo”, that’s Brennan as Stumpy on the right)
We addressed the nature of art partnerships and creative couples at our wedding/performance/panel/exhibition, Blessed Unions at SGCI 2011 in St. Louis. The big thing I wanted to learn from our fellow dynamic duos was how they put egos aside and work comfortably together. Not surprisingly, the answer was that they often don’t work together well. They often can’t even work in the same studio space! But Orange Barrel Industries has a lot riding on the idea of Hannah and I being well-oiled, art-making machine, so we try our best to live up to that image. We have collaborated on a handful of pieces over the last couple years, but we’re just now finding our sea-legs when it comes to teamwork. The key, as it turns out, comes down to me responding to what Hannah brings to the table and vice versa. This allows us to maintain our respective styles or agendas while allowing the other person to influence the final product. In short we’re borrowing a page from the Midwest Pressed playbook. Tim Dooley and Aaron Wilson, my printmaking professors from undergrad., screen print t-shirts, album covers, and fine art prints in a call-and-response fashion; they pass a piece back and forth, adding information and colors until they both decide the shirt/cover/print is finished. The approach is collaborative, but also a little competitive, and I think that’s why it’s working for Hannah and I. It allows us to both exert and subvert our creative egos in service of the greater good. And boy do I need that!
Below are a handful of recent collaborations. The drawings are for Gumbo, an Expanded Draught exhibition that will be shown during the Friends of Dard Hunter Conference in St. Louis. The paper is composed of materials from the lives of the participating artists. Paper-maker Megan Singleton then blended those scraps into a “gumbo” slurry and beat the pulp into paper. The paper was then sent back to the artists who used it to create artwork in a variety of media. We chose to stick with drawings, especially given our limited apartment/studio accommodations. Our contribution, titled “Ripe When Soft”, references our notions of family dynamics through the real-life practice of saving and exchanging produce stickers off of fruits and vegetables we have consumed over the course of our relationship. We continue to develop a productive, supportive way to collaborate; in this case the drawings were a sort of “call and response”, with me executing drawings that responded to Hannah’s pieces (it seems to work best when I contribute to Hannah’s ideas rather than exerting my will from the outset). The resulting drawings have similarities in subject matter, but emphasize the difference in our process and style. In the examples below Hannah’s drawings in graphite, ink, and watercolor come first, followed by my pencil drawings. In the cases of the small drawings–pages for a collaborative Gumbo book featuring the exhibition’s artists–my drawings are on the opposite side of Hannah’s.
Following the drawings are progress photos of the key block for a multi-block linocut I’m making to be printed at UNCP with Brandon Sanderson’s students. The block is boldly ripping-off Hannah’s recent watercolor series as it addresses fracking, water safety, and our concerns about bringing another energy consumer into the world. NOTE** IT IS NOT, IN ANY WAY, AN ANNOUNCEMENT THAT WE ARE PREGNANT!!! Ultimately, the piece is a prototype for a collaborative installation we will be starting shortly. It gives Hannah an idea of how I envision the project, while paying homage to her work that inspired the collaboration in the first place. She likes the block, but hates that I got to make it before her. The struggle continues!!
H: Portrait of Blake
B: Portrait of Hannah
H: Portraits of Tom Christison and Hermes (my brother’s girlfriend’s dog)
B: Portrait of Hannah and Melanie Yazzie
H: Bigger drawing of Hannah’s aunt Pat and the Macon critters
H: Detail of Pat and Puppy (the cat)
B: Portraits of fellas in my family with accompanying dinos. Using red iron oxide tracings and graphite.
B: Detail of Trevor flanked by Darin and Brandon
B: The drawing on the linoleum, pre-cut
B: Cutting in progress
B: The block cut and ready to print!
That’s all folks. Stay tuned for more experiments in collaboration!