First in a series of three (so far), The Ballad of Randall Carter tells the strange tale of young Charles D. Ward (pictured here), and his boyfriend Randall Carter, who mysteriously vanishes from his Jeep on a country road a cold rainy night in November. These works continue my exploration of fine detail as a means of layering multiple narratives within an image.
Some details follow:
This work was generously supported by a grant from the Ontario Arts Council, to whom I am eternally grateful! Thank you!
(update: these works will be on display throughout august at Nathaniel Hughson Gallery, which is at John and King William in downtown Hamilton. The “opening” will occur during the Art Crawl on August 9th, 7pm-10pm)
In a perfect WordPress world, these would be alongside each other as a two-panel presentation, but I can’t seem to figure that out.
Anyway my friend and colleague Stephanie Vegh asked me to join her in a group exhibition at Nathaniel Hughson Gallery, I believe showing in August of this year, which was fairly last-minute but a fun opportunity nonetheless. I always have a few side-project and prototype ideas running around, and as serendipity may have, a newly “spare” room, so I decided to execute these two works which, originally, were simply stepping stones for other works, but have come into their own independently.
Lacking, at present, a formal statement for these works, I’ll say very little, but narratives of divination, unanticipated trajectories through history and the “monster” that is the forgotten past certainly pervade a lot of my thoughts regarding the work. They are both composites of around 50 images each, so the detail in the final works is quite pristine. They are currently being printed and mounted, hopefully I’ll see the fruits of my efforts sometime next week. I’ll be sure to update when I get specifics on the exhibition itself.
Seven years ago, when I first started work that would become The Jacket Series and “Friends and Family at the End of the World“, I sourced most of my vintage military and military surplus items on eBay. I was delighted to find a literal surplus of items – I acquired jackets dating all the way back to WW1, rarely for more than $10 a piece, I think the most I ever spent on a jacket was $30. There were many sellers on eBay with whom I developed a wonderful relationship – one in particular, now gone, it seems, from Texas, sent me 10 of an item of which I only purchased a single unit, simply because I’d bought so much from them.
How I regret not spending ten times more back then – seven years! – now. I can’t find a m65 or even a contemporary BDU jacket for less than $50, let alone the more unusual items I used to get.
And worse – eBay seems now inundated with scammers and people looking to make an extra buck. Of all the auctions I bid upon, which was a good dozen, only one went to completion – the rest “cancelled early” for no apparent reason. Doing some research, it seems it’s now common practice to use eBay to advertise your product, and then sell it privately.
The straw that broke the camel’s back, however, was the auction I did win – the seller pestered and inundated me with requests to cancel the transaction, sell privately, even AFTER I’d paid for and received the jacket in question. On the site they represent themselves as a business – branding, statements, quality assurance, everything – but conduct business in the most unprofessional, childish manner I could imagine. Looking into their feedback history, their response to negative feedback – which was admittedly very few – was to pester the buyer, ridicule and accuse, and end the sentence with “SHAME ON YOU!!!!!” … I can’t read those words without thinking about Klaus on American Dad!, which is a shame. Ha.
Nonetheless I got my jacket, a Levi’s piece with a bizarre assortment of military and trucker patches stitched onto it in a strange configuration.
The sum total of this experience: I am done with eBay, and it seems the golden age of eBay is also done. This is why we can’t have nice things.
Meanwhile – if you know a good source on military surplus clothing, and vintage military, that you’ve done business with, please let me know. Local to Ontario is a plus, but anywhere that’ll ship here in a reasonable amount of time with little fuss would be most welcome!
Shooting for The Ballad of Randall Carter hopefully starts in June!
I hesitate to call it a ‘prop’ at this point because it feels so much more like the ‘real thing’, but the object itself is complete, it’s just waiting for the text to be written inside. Two more layers of stain ‘finished’ the job, a little bit more crimson paint, but I’m fairly satisfied with the final product, it has a slightly aged look, with suggestions of things that might, or might not, be blood stains and fire damage.
Hoping to work on and maybe even execute a prototype work for this series that will give the book some “screen test” time soon, we shall see.
Base layer of stain down, metal-leaf done, all that was left was a few more layers of stain and some other adornments. As seems to be typical, once the leather is wet, the “look” goes quite dark, so I had to let things dry over a day to really tell how strong the effect was.
Shortly after staining, first layer after the metal leaf:
And sometime the next day after it dried:
And the second layer of the day, still wet:
For these layers I also added a few embellishments, some very faint traces of alizarin crimson acrylic paint, and just a touch of india ink in some places. The wet surface nicely suffused these tints into the grain of the leather and the end-product (eventually) had some subtle suggestions of burn-damage or blood stains.
Final pics in a day or two, and hopefully some test-shots “in-studio”.
Woefully un-updated, a few pics and notes on the book I’m binding for a prop for some future work.
Previous to this – undocumented, because I’m forgetful – I sewed the signatures together (the bundles of folded paper that make up the body of a book), and ‘aged’ them by soaking the whole sewn unit in a vat of tea. It was a bit of a gamble – a few pages tore in the drying process, which took the bulk of a week – but it eventually dried and came together nicely when I glued the spine. Here’s a few pics of the signature block:
The effect was fairly good, enough of an aged appearance without looking overly stained. It’s a bit rippled but nothing that can’t be worked with – I guess the real test will be once some handwriting goes inside. We shall see!
I was unable to photograph the process of making the case, the glue was drying way too fast, but hopefully the pics will show some evidence of the process. That being said – I wouldn’t be redundant in over-explaining anyway, as it’s easier to link the fantastic video I use as a guide to this process:
I used a soft hide leather for the case fabric, really the wrong material, too thick, but improvisation is definitely a factor here and it had the texture I was interested in. Proper davey boards for the cover boards, and some simple paper to help line the spine. Neutral ph glue, although I’ve heard wallpaper paste works well.
The corners are a tad messy but it’s meant to have the appearance of being hand made, and a little sloppy at that.
The case dries with the signature block inside as a bit of a guide, and that’s where it’s at now. A few pics to show the almost-finished product:
After it dries, I’ll put on the end-papers and mount the block in the case. And then it’s down to ‘decorating’
This is the first post I’ve made from my ipad. I’m curious to see how much of a disaster it is.
Edit: horrible. Just horrible. Didn’t include most of the images, all of them uploaded tiny, bits of code mixed in with the text. Manually fixing it on my computer was equally bad. When did WP go downhill this way? ugh.
This will be pretty dry and technical but some of my former students found this useful and perhaps someone else will as well!
The composite method I use for piecing together large-format prints with a high degree of detail relies heavily on planning out what parts of the ‘scene’ will be in focus and where the crucial areas of interest lie. This is also a distinguishing factor and plays into the conceptual creation of the image, and why a single frame (for instance, from a large format 8×10 film camera) won’t achieve the same effect – fundamental to the ‘readability’ of these images themselves is the rather neurotic control of depth of field and focus across the composite frame. This allows for a ‘flexible’ depth of field that can be essentially deformed across the image, allowing the simultaneous sharp focus of several elements at once that wouldn’t normally be possible with a single-frame image.
The second work I’ve planned for The Once and Future King is tentatively titled “The Impact”, and it’s just easier to copy and paste the narrative description from the proposal here to give a sense of the final product:
The Impact (Reunion: Prologue)
On a dark rural road in Ontario, the wine-red Jeep of one Randall Carter is found abandoned, door open, several large stacks of books balanced on the seats. Carefully folded on top of the books was found a military uniform, embroidered with Carter’s name and a series of unidentified insignia. The Jeep was discovered by Carter’s boyfriend, Charles D. Ward, after Carter’s protracted absence prompted Ward to retrace the route to Carter’s residence. Ward claims he found the Jeep by following the sound of music on the radio. The combined weight of the books was found to be 167 lbs, which coincidentally was approximately Carter’s own weight prior to his disappearance.
Instrumental to the work will be the ability to “read” a lot of the details of the “stuff” piled into the Jeep – literally read the book titles, but then also a lot of the signifiers and symbols present in the rest of the ephemera spread throughout. So the first function of this test shoot is to map out the focus points / depth of field across the scene, and make sure that everything that needs to be in focus, is in focus. The second function is to test the viewing angle with respect to the composite – rudimentary at this point cuz my tripod head sucks – but because we need to be able to see “inside” the Jeep the angle of the shots, and the Jeep with respect to the camera, is somewhat crucial and does complicate the composite somewhat.
Last, the test generally brings to light unanticipated problems with the shooting/composite process, and gives me a sense of “what I have to work with” – just how much detail I get straight out of the camera under uncontrolled conditions without any post-processing. As such these images haven’t been touched and a few look a little dark or desaturated for a few reasons I didn’t anticipate. Learning!
Anyway, some fairly large images and such follow, so click below to read the rest.
I felt a bit like I was rushing this post, but it being Halloween, it seemed appropriate.
The Dismemberment of a Shoggoth is the first work I’ve executed in a larger series, at present titled The Once and Future King. I would have liked to have had the full artist-statement on the series completed when I posted this image, but it’s still in the works, but meanwhile, here’s a snippet:
Referencing T.H. White’s portrayal of Merlin as a being who experiences time backwards to normal reality, “The Once And Future King” serves as working-title for a large body of work documenting a series of strange, seemingly unconnected events whose causal mechanisms exist outside of normal time and space. While we are privileged to the ‘effects’ described by these events – the disappearance of a student from an abandoned Jeep, a garage where some monstrous Lovecraftian terror emerged and was summarily dispatched, a paradox of a time-travelling book – the ‘cause’ of these events seems entirely unknowable. The events themselves play across a fictional timeline, punctuated by a system of signifiers drawn from actual reality and historical reference.
Playing with the compression of time on a narrative scale, characters stand in the moment, posing, proud, as if in foreknowledge of the future-historical significance of their present context, a hypothetical “spark event” for a cataclysm yet to come. The prophetic mode here references, inversely, the truism “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”; within these narratives, history has already predetermined a far-flung future disaster, and while the immediate causal mechanisms of these seemingly random events is unknowable, the certainty of their eventual impact becomes quite monstrous.
Ideally, when complete, the work will be printed around 60″x90″, and funds permitting, on big beautiful lightboxes. I have included some detail shots below to show the level of “readability” present when viewing the work in person, but I’m hesitant to post a full-resolution zoom.it version at present for a variety of reasons.
More props to the Propnomicon for being an essential resource in the creation of various bloods, goo and otherwise disgusting elements for the scene. Also thanks to my buddy Jer who made me a nice tub of gelatinous congealed grossness he whimsically referred to as “thickened water”. And, as always, my brother for posing for me, and my family for tolerating this level of insanity in their own garage.
Happy Halloween everyone!
I’ve had a side-interest in bookbinding for some time now – I’m even planning a large work in which something I bind is featured – but for now, I’m getting practice making little notebooks, and most recently, a journal for my sister, modeled after that of River Song, from Doctor Who, whose own journal resembles the doors of the TARDIS:
River and the Doctor, both time travellers, encounter each other out of sequence – most typically, the Doctor’s future is River’s past. Eventually both keep a journal, and upon meeting, compare notes to figure out “where they are” in each other’s timeline.
This was the first journal I’ve made that I hard-bound, and it turned out fairly well I think, given the need to emulate the distressed quality of the original:
I’ve been using clearance sketchbooks as a source of cheap, good quality paper for these little journals. It seems a little odd buying a sketchbook, removing the spiral binding (thank god for my stack cutter), and then using the paper to sew and rebind new signatures, but I like the hand-binding process a great deal and I can’t seem to find reams of paper of the same quality for that kind of price. I might be insane.
The rest was matte board and quilting fabric and various odd papers and such, with some acrylic paint to finish.
A few of the resources from which I self-taught on the subject:
Hamish MacDonald’s “DIY Book” blog and podcast – covers the complete self-publishing process from novel-writing to bookbinding to distribution. I originally stumbled upon Hamish via his No Media Kings tutorial on a do-it-yourself-book-press.
Ceropegia’s videos on bookbinding – they’re a little out of order (ok, a lot out of order), and the titles require a bit of knowledge of bookbinding language to decipher, but I learned a whole ton watching these vids.
The previously-mentioned-and-constructed work involving the killing room is almost complete, I’ll post something with a bit of an artist statement as soon as it’s finished-finished. The past nine weeks a litter of seven puppies has been destroying any and all time available for serious “work”.