Artist as Activist

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Dark City Note
Work
collage as method, collage, puzzles, dream time,humanity, creativity, work, interpreting the world, photograph, medium, message, photographer's gaze, fixed viewpoint, stationary viewpoint, posed photograph, labels, loneliness, residential schools, growth, grave markers, history of aboriginal peoples, reading a work of art, re-reading, Everyman figure, residential schools, solitary grave, re-reading artwork, juxtaposition, humanity, solitary, hard work, stones, spiritual emancipation,
description
start quoteMy works are like little puzzles, interesting little games. I play a game with humanity and creativity. I ask viewers to play the participatory game of dreaming themselves as each other. In this we find out that we’re all basically human... My work is not fabricated for the art market. There’s no market for intellectual puzzles or works of spiritual emancipation.end quote
-- Carl Beam

Carl Beam is being playful in the interview above when he describes his works as “interesting little games,” and then adds that his works tackle profound subject-matter related to our humanity and creativity. In addition, the ultimate aim of his participatory game – to have viewers of his works find out that we are all basically the same, like an Everyman  figure1.  The form of a human, an animal or a thing; most often referring to an entire human form.  2.  A person of note (i.e., an important figure in history...)  – has been the goal of many poets, writers and artists down through the centuries.

In the two works from the Mendel Art Gallery presented here, Beam has used a  collagePainting and/or gluing a variety of materials on a prepared surface to create a work of art.  approach to bring together images from the past, and give them new meanings in the present. By using the  collagePainting and/or gluing a variety of materials on a prepared surface to create a work of art.  method Beam also sets his work apart from the  one-point perspectiveA form of linear perspective in which all lines (describing straight edges that go from points nearer to points farther) appear to meet at a single point on the horizon. (Artlex.com)  that has dominated art practice for hundreds of years, since the Renaissance. By placing very different images beside each other and giving them equal prominence Beam is challenging his viewers to “read and re-read” his collages in different ways.

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“I use a  collagePainting and/or gluing a variety of materials on a prepared surface to create a work of art.  working method as a way of interpreting the world – which is not a stationary viewpoint,” Beam once said. “The artist has a unique chance to say something in the  collagePainting and/or gluing a variety of materials on a prepared surface to create a work of art.  format – it is actually like a dream time that exists in your mind.” Carl Beam, in The message in the Medium

In Dark City Note Beam presents us with an old photograph of an Aboriginal man holding a rifle. The photo appears to have been posed, suggesting the man is following the photographer’s orders. Along the bottom of the  frameSomething made to enclose a picture or a mirror; or an enclosure composed of parts and joined together; or to make such things. (Artlex.com)  Beam has painted “WARRIORS” in black letters, like a label. This is one image from the history of Aboriginal peoples, as it is portrayed in history and popular culture. By  paintingWorks of art made with paint on a surface. Often the surface, also called a support, is either a tightly stretched piece of canvas or a panel. How the ground (on which paint is applied) is prepared on the support depends greatly on the type of paint to be used. Paintings are usually intended to be placed in frames, and exhibited on walls, but there have been plenty of exceptions. Also, the act of painting, which may involve a wide range of techniques and materials, along with the artist's other concerns which effect the content of a work. (Artlex.com)  the word over the photograph, perhaps Beam is suggesting the label needs to be updated.

To the left, in the background, Beam has reproduced a newspaper clipping headlined, “Island man sues for sexual abuse,” likely referring to one of the many cases of abuse that occurred in residential schools which were operated by various church organizations and funded by the federal government. The news clipping reaches back to the history of the residential schools, but also puts a new perspective on the story as it continues to unfold today.

Over the clipping Beam has painted a patch of red with the title of the work, and the words, “where is FREUD now that we don’t need him…Carl Beam.” He is referring to Sigmund Freud, the originator of  psychoanalysisA branch of psychological therapy based on the observation that individuals are often unaware of many of the factors that determine their emotions and behaviour. For further information, go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychoanalysis.  who popularized ideas like the unconscious mind, repressed memories and dream symbolism. Beam, perhaps, is referring to the fact that many of the children abused in the residential schools repressed memories of those incidents until they were much older. Perhaps Beam is suggesting the people who are now stepping forward to talk about the abuse they experienced are the new warriors, rewriting the history of the schools.

cat photo

In Work, one photo fills the centre of the collage, with smaller photos above and below. The title is placed prominently in the upper-left in white letters against a black background, so there is no mistaking that this work is about Work. The  collagePainting and/or gluing a variety of materials on a prepared surface to create a work of art.   techniqueAny method of working with art materials to produce an art object. Often implied is the sense that techniques are carefully studied, exacting, or traditional, but this is not necessarily the case. Examples include basketry, blotting, carving, constructing, découpage, embossing, encaustic, exquisite corpse, firing, folding, hatching, kerning, laminating, marbling, modeling, necking. (artlex.com)   that Beam uses makes it difficult for the viewer’s eye to settle on one point in the work. Instead, he appears to be presenting a collection of views for a cumulative effect.

The photo in the top left shows what appears to be a group of stones – likely grave markers – stacked up in storage. In the larger photo below it a man appears to be engaged in the hard work of dragging the stones into place. A freshly dug grave lies at his feet.

Two smaller photos frame the bottom of Beam’s collage. One shows a lone  figure1.  The form of a human, an animal or a thing; most often referring to an entire human form.  2.  A person of note (i.e., an important figure in history...)  standing in front of a building – a school, perhaps – while the other shows a building under construction. No construction workers can be seen, however.

The overall mood of Work is one of loneliness and bleakness. A solitary  figure1.  The form of a human, an animal or a thing; most often referring to an entire human form.  2.  A person of note (i.e., an important figure in history...)  stands outside a building and a worker labours alone in a graveyard. The only signs of life and fertility are evident in the top centre photo, which shows luxuriant plants growing. However, Beam has painted a black stroke over this photo, suggesting growth is not permitted in this world of work.

additional resources Things to Think About
  • A photograph is a snapshot of a moment in time. Does Beam’s use of old photos in his works give you a sense of time passing, or of past history?
  • A newspaper clipping is also like a snapshot in time. If the news item is important, historians will examine it later and try to place the event in a broader context. Does the news clipping in Dark City Note help you understand what Beam is trying to say?
Advanced Activity

Image transfers methods

Gel medium:  A safe and easy method that does not reverse the image/text

Gel  mediumAny material and technique used to produce a work of art (paint, glass, clay, fibre, video, sound, etc.). It may also refer to the liquid with which powdered pigments are mixed to make paint. Note that the plural form of “medium” is “media.”  works on magazine images, photos, laser prints, postcards, cards etc. This works well as long as you don’t smear the image on your first application.

Materials: Gel medium - found at art supply stores, a foam brush for applying the gel, water.

Procedure: Apply layers of gel medium on top of the image and then remove the image backing.

  • Place your image face up. Apply the gel medium evenly across the image using a foam brush. Work carefully so you do not smear the image.
  • Repeat the above steps five times. Making sure that between each coat the gel is completely dry. Allow the final coat to dry overnight.
  • Soak the image in warm water. Carefully rub away the paper on the back of the gel covered image.
  • Once you have rubbed all the backing off, allow the image to dry. You can put a heavy book on top of the image if it shows signs of curling. You will be left with a  translucentQuality of material which allows diffused light to pass through it.  copy of the image in gel.
  • Use the gel medium or another adhesive to attach your finished transfer to the paper.

For more detailed information on gel medium transfers go to:

Other methods: remember images and text will print in reverse as a mirror image of the original due to the fact that the image is printed face side down.

Oil of wintergreen: works best on heavy black photocopies (oil of wintergreen may be  foundAn image, material, or object, not originally intended as a work of art, that is obtained, selected, and exhibited by an artist, often without being altered in any way. The cubists, dadaists, and surrealists originated the use of found images / materials / objects. Although it can be either a natural or manufactured image / material / object, the term readymade refers only to those which were manufactured. Also known in the French, objet trouvé. (Artlex.com)  at drugstores).  Caution.  OilSlow-drying paint made when pigments are mixed with an oil, linseed oil being most traditional. The oil dries with a hard film, and the brightness of the colours is protected. Oil paints are usually opaque and traditionally used on canvas. They can have a matte, semi-gloss, or glossy finish. To look at examples of works in oil paints, see the articles under the names of every period from the Renaissance onward. (Artlex.com)  of wintergreen can be irritating to skin, eyes and mucous membranes and therefore should be handled and used with caution. Not recommended for classroom use!!

Procedure:

Natural citrus oil cleaner: (natural citrus oil house cleaner such as Citra Solve or Goo Gone) - works best on newspaper images.

Procedure: (same as for oil of wintergreen)

  • Apply oil of wintergreen to image on its reverse side
  • Place the image reverse side up on
  • Use a burnishing tool or spoon to trasfer by rubbing off the image evenly onto the paper.

Acetone transfer for the professional artist. NOTE: This process produces strong fumes. Not advisable for classroom use.

NOTE: Every image, paper and  techniqueAny method of working with art materials to produce an art object. Often implied is the sense that techniques are carefully studied, exacting, or traditional, but this is not necessarily the case. Examples include basketry, blotting, carving, constructing, découpage, embossing, encaustic, exquisite corpse, firing, folding, hatching, kerning, laminating, marbling, modeling, necking. (artlex.com)   will give different results. So before you begin, be sure to have extra copies of your images available to experiment with.

Online Activity
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Font and meaning

When using  text, designers or artists must consider the  styleA way of doing something. Use of materials, methods of working, design qualities and choice of subject matter reflect the style of the individual, culture, movement, or time period.  of lettering used. The font choice is important to the impact of the  designA plan, or to plan. The organization or composition of a work; the skilled arrangement of its parts. An effective design is one in which the elements of art and principles of design have been combined to achieve an overall sense of unity. Also [applied design], the production of attractive and well crafted functional objects. Subcategories of the design arts include: architecture, bonsai, fashion design, furniture design, graphic design, ikebana, industrial design, interior design, landscape architecture, stagecraft, textile design, and Web page design. (Artlex.com)  and to conveying the message.

  • Click on a word then click on a font type, size, style and colour you would like for the word.


  • Think about which font might convey the meaning of the word the best.

 

Studio Activity

tree

Create a mixed  mediaAny material and technique used to produce a work of art (paint, glass, clay, fibre, video, sound, etc.). It may also refer to the liquid with which powdered pigments are mixed to make paint. Note that the plural form of “medium” is “media.”  work that advocates a social cause important to you

Media: photo transfer,  acrylicSynthetic paints, with pigments dispersed in a synthetic vehicle made from polymerized acrylic acid esters, the most important of which is polymethyl methacrylate. First used by artists in the late 1940s, their use has come to rival that of oil paints because of their versatility. They can be used on nearly any surface, in transparent washes or heavy impasto, with matte, semi-gloss, or glossy finishes. Acrylic paints dry quickly, do not yellow, are easily removed with mineral spirits or turpentine, and can clean up with soap and water.(Artlex.com)  paint on paper

  • Choose a social cause that is important to you; do some research on this cause and the issues connected with it.
  • Collect images and text information from print and web media sources.
  • Decide if you will include text, and if you will, decide which specific words or phrases to include. Text should be used in a succinct manner. It should also be easy to see and read.
  • Use a photo transfer method to transfer the images and text to the paper. (See the Teacher Resources section for information on photo transfer methods.)
  • Give your work a title that helps create meaning.
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References

Cholette, Katie. ‘Carl Beam’s Iconography.’ Exhibition notes for Reconstructing Reason: The Koan of Carl Beam. Carlton University Art Gallery, Ottawa, Ontario. Retrieved from the Internet on October 20, 2008 from:  http://www.carleton.ca/gallery/beam/icon.htm

Eichorn, Virginia M. It’s All Relative. Exhibition notes. Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery, Waterloo, Ontario, 2004. Retrieved from the Internet on October 20, 2008 from:  http://www.canadianclayandglass.ca/Its_All_Relative.html

Grande, John K. ‘Carl Beam: Dissolving time.’ From Balance: Art and Nature, Black Rose Books, Montreal, 1994.

Obituary, Carl Beam. ArtBank, September 15, 2005. Retrieved from the Internet on October 20, 2008 from:  http://www.artbank.ca/News and Events/Activities/bulletin20.htm

‘Ojibwa artist Carl Beam dies.’ CBC Arts, Tuesday, August 9, 2005. Retrieved from the Internet on October 20, 2008 from:  http://www.cbc.ca/arts/story/2005/08/09/beamobit050809.html

Sehn, Tanya. Canadian Aboriginal Artists: Perspectives on Westernization. University of Lethbridge, 2004. Retrieved from the Internet on October 20, 2008 from:  http://www.uleth.ca/artgallery/exhibitions/2004/CanAbArt/CanAbArt.html

 

Canadian Heritage University of Regina Mackenzie Art Gallery Mendel Art Gallery Sask Learning