Category Archives: Prospectpark

When art won’t let you go, you write a book.

Sometimes when I finish a piece of art, I’m not finished. The ideas or inspiration or designs are still in my head and they still have something to say. I think this is why many artists do things in a series, like Monet’s variations on haystacks. The piece itself might be done, but the art is still trying to say something.

This doesn’t happen to me often. Usually, I am done and ready to move on. But the art for the recent public art/utility box project that I did is one of those that stuck around and wouldn’t let me go. Before I had even finished up the final technical details of getting those pieces ready to be installed, I decided that I wanted to write a book.

The beautiful thing about making a book from this project was that most of the hard work was done. Because I was already making print ready files for sticky vinyl coverings, I already had high res files that were perfect for printing. And I had a lot of “leftover” photos. When I started the project for Prospect Park, I took about 500 photos so that I had options to work from. I wasn’t sure what I would need and I knew I didn’t want snowy winter pictures, so I shot a lot last fall.

Screen Shot 2016-07-28 at 9.42.17 AMThe story for the book I wrote at about 2 am one morning and it started with pictures of feet. The book has a very simple story; basically it’s about taking a walk with an artist and looking around you for art. Exactly what I did when I took the photos to make the collages. I realized that I had several photos that had my feet in them, because whatever I was photographing was on the ground. I was planning to just crop out my feet if I used those photos, but what better way to illustrate a walk and bring me into the story a little bit?

It’s a “kids book”, because I think there is a lot in it that kids would enjoy. Did you know that I snuck in a few pictures just for me? My dog, Leo, appears on one page. (I’ll give you a hint: it’s just his fur, and he’s wet.) There are lots of things to look for in the photos and I continued the I Spy game with thumbnails of things like colored pencils and faucet handles to look for in the photo collages.

IMG_3667I decided to publish this book myself. The great thing about that is that I got to be the writer and editor and marketer and designer and proofreader. The terrible thing about that is that I got to be the writer and editor and marketer and designer and proofreader. But I really think that was the best fit for this kind of a book. And I love how it turned out. I used a service called Blurb to print the books. It is a print-on-demand company, which means I can get as many or as few printed as I want to. They had a template set up for InDesign, which I use all the time, so the setup was really easy. And thanks to my sister Beth, who is my best second pair of eyes. She always sees the stuff I missed and doesn’t hesitate to tell me when something looks dumb.

Of course, I would like to sell a few, but more importantly for me, I want people to know the story. How many times have you run into art out in the world that was without context? Sculptures in parks, murals, mosaics. There is rarely an artist’s name and there is almost never a story. And don’t you always have things that you wonder? Why are there whales painted on the wall under the bridge? What’s the story? There is something fun about making up your own story, but I am curious. I want to know the artist’s story. I want to know the connections and I want to make my own connections beyond just thinking “I like those whales.”

So this book has several different stories. It’s about the art that’s in the book. But I also included a page about the art that I made first, the art that’s on the boxes. If the world is kind to them, the installers tell me that those wraps can last for several years. And I hope people wonder about them and have questions. I wasn’t allowed to put my website on the boxes (lest it look like advertising) but maybe through the magic of Google, someone will be curious and find the story.

And don’t think I am forgetting about fabric in all of this. I collected lots of photos of circles, thinking I would use those for making some part of the designs. They didn’t make the final cut for the boxes, but I used them for the cover of the book and to design this fabric:

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I made a dress from it to wear to the walking tour the neighborhood association did for the boxes. You can see a little bit of that here in the article that the local paper wrote about the project and it’s available at Spoonflower.

Members of the Prospect Park Association take a tour of utility boxes in the area that have been wrapped in art by local artists. The project was completed in an effort to stop graffiti and bring beauty to the neighborhood. - photo courtesy MN Daily

Members of the Prospect Park Association take a tour of utility boxes in the area that have been wrapped in art by local artists. The project was completed in an effort to stop graffiti and bring beauty to the neighborhood. – photo courtesy MN Daily

Screen Shot 2016-07-05 at 4.33.35 PMIf you’d like to get a copy of the book, you can get them at:

Public art in Minneapolis. The boxes are here!

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My utility boxes have all been installed! Andy and I took a field trip this morning to walk the neighborhood and see what they look like. I am so happy with how they turned out! I have created a whole new page for the project here on my website: I Spy Utility Boxes

IMG_3667I will add more behind-the-scenes posts, photos from the walkthrough and more to that page in the next few weeks. I also wrote a book to accompany this project! You can see the details of that there too.

Here is a press release about the project that went out today.

If you’d like to join us for the walking tour, we will be meeting at the corner of 29th and University Ave at 6:00 pm on Thursday July 14th. We will walk around to see all 3 boxes and then go over to Surly for a drink. I’d love to see you there!

 

Work in Progress: Everyday Objects from Everyday Objects

Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 11.24.05 PMI’ve been wrapping up two huge projects this week and this is my favorite one. I started working on this “I Spy” artwork last year as part of a grant from a local neighborhood. Together we are creating wraps to cover 3 sets of utility boxes; I make the art, they get the permits and approvals. I have told you a little about the program that makes these art-covered-utility-boxes happen and my original concept for these designs, now I can tell you a little more about where that ended up.

I collected hundreds of photos from the neighborhood and started playing with the designs I could make from them. I use photos in my work all the time. One of the designs I put in my proposal to the neighborhood was something like this one, which is created from a photo on pencil erasers.

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But these boxes are big: 77×44 inches. And thinking about that pattern covering the whole box was boring. I like the pattern, but that wasn’t going to draw people over to look at my art. That pattern was designed for a garment (I have a dress made out of it.) and that’s what it works for. The new patterns I was playing with were kind of the same. I really wanted people to connect with this art and these weren’t cutting it.

The theme of my project was making art from everyday objects. As I was driving somewhere and thinking about it, I suddenly had an idea. (Driving is the best place to work out ideas.) What if I made everyday objects from everyday objects? Make a fire hydrant, but make it all out of “I Voted” stickers, roses, and bolts. Butterflies from coffee cups? I liked where this was going. So, I started with a blue jay.

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I noticed that I had a lot of blue things in my collection of photos and I think bluejays are beautiful and they are certainly everyday in my neighborhood. I found a photo to use as a reference and started assembling my bluejay. He is made from the wheel from a dumpster, a faucet handle, a ball of yarn, a rotary telephone dial, a latte, a pair of scissors. I thought using all circles would give him a feathery texture. His branch is made from a stack of rusted springs from the antique store in the neighborhood (also the source of the telephone). It’s all photos from the neighborhood: the yarn came from the Weavers Guild of MN, the latte from the coffee shop, the faucet from the community garden. I cut each of the images out in Photoshop, so I had just the object with a transparent background and then placed them all into a bigger file. And let me tell you these were big files (and that caused some problems). By the time I was finished, several of them were at least 1GB. A typical photo is 1/1000th that size.

More to come…

I Spy Utility Boxes Project: Collecting

everydayWhen last I posted about the utility box wraps project I am working on, I was on my way to the meeting of the neighborhood advisory group for their approval on my designs.  They loved them! (Thank goodness!)  So I can share a little more about them now that we have made it past that step.

I spent several afternoons walking around the neighborhood taking photos of things in the neighborhood: manhole covers, address numbers, bricks, peeling paint, leaves and plants.  Then I spent a couple of afternoons at home photographing everyday objects.  My idea for this project is that the designs on those utility boxes should be made up of things you might see every day and not notice them.  They might be things you have in your house or business.  They might be things laying on the sidewalk.

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I also looked for texture, like peeling paint and weathered styrofoam, that I could layer on top of designs.  I really like to work in layers.  And these are some textures from some pretty definitive buildings in the neighborhood: Pratt School, Tierney Bros, the Witch’s Hat Tower, Cupcake.  So I wanted to include those as well.  I had about 450 photos collected when I got done.

Once I had collected all of these images, I started to make designs.  These were the first two I came up with.

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The first is made from leaves that I picked up and scanned in patterns, combined with all of the circular objects I had in my photos: wheels, flowers, latte, outlets, yarn, masking tape. The second is a photo of a pink rose with a honeybee.  These roses are iconic to me as they grow all over the neighborhood in road medians and they are always full of bees in the summer and fall.  I love these patterns, but then I imagined them covering a 4×5 ft box and I thought….  snore.  It’s interesting, but it’s not enough to draw people in.  It looks like a quilt.  Which is beautiful, but not exactly exciting. And it seems cliche. I am usually a fabric artist and what do I design when I get a chance to do something a little unusual? A quilt.  Argh.  It just wasn’t working for me. It was definitely a love-hate relationship that struggled with for days until I had an idea.  But that idea is a story for another post.

 

I Spy, Public Art & Everyday Objects

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I have been working quietly behind the scenes on a new project for a couple of months.  The neighborhood that is home to Textile Center, Weavers Guild and where I spent a large part of my life during the last 15 years has a really enthusiastic neighborhood association.  And they decided to do a call for artists to make wraps for six (3 pairs) of the utility boxes in the neighborhood.  The City of Minneapolis has a program which allows artists to design these wraps and I was selected as the artist for Prospect Park.  Here are what some of the finished ones (by other artists) look like from the cover of their instruction booklet.  The idea is to bring some art into the community and to help discourage graffiti.

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I usually work in fabric and garments, as you all know, but the design skills for these utility box wraps are basically just the same.  I am making a 2-D design and shaping it around a 3-d object.  My first public art!

So, what to put on them?  My proposal to the neighborhood association was to create patterns from everyday objects.  Specifically, I spent several afternoons walking around the neighborhood surrounding these boxes taking photos of objects: flowers, bricks, signs, textures. I collected photos with a theme like circles or numbers and things that are iconic to the neighborhood. I tried to think of things that reminded me of the neighborhood, like the pink roses around the Prospect Park sign that are always buzzing full of bees in the summertime.  I also shot images of everyday objects that you might find in all of the businesses and houses nearby: clothespins, pencils, paintbrushes, safety pins. I have about 450 photos so far and you can see just a few of them up above.

My plan is to use these photos to create patterns, by cutting out, layering and manipulating the images to cover the utility boxes.  I also wanted a way for people to interact with the art, so along one side of the box, I am planning to include thumbnails of the original photos of some of the elements in the design.  This way you can play a game of “I Spy”, both looking for the sunflower or manhole cover within my design and looking for that same object in the neighborhood.  There are daycares, a school and community center all in this span of a few blocks, so I hope that the neighborhood kids will notice this.

I meet with my neighborhood committee this week for some feedback on the initial designs and I plan to post regularly here to document the progress of the project.  Just look for the “ProspectPark” category to follow along.  I am hoping they love what I have done so far and I can share some sneak peeks with you very soon.