Monday, March 25, 2013

I Never Thought I'd Say This but I Used Up All The Pixy Stix at Woodman's

I don't know if last week's Spring Break Art Bootcamp efforts were as fruitful (candyful?) as I wanted them to be, but I know that I at least made some progress, so I guess that's all that matters. I have made a very significant discovery in my quest for kitschy bad art, and it is Vista's Marketing Products > Promotional Materials > Mugs:

VP also offers key chains, stress balls, and USB flash drives (to name a few) with your custom images on them. This is a dangerous website that could allow me to take faux-National Park memorabilia to a whole new level. I am now envisioning a gift shop-like installation of foodscape memorabilia rather than a pretty, organized, everything-hung-at-the-same-level exhibit that I had previously imagined. I even had a suggestion to put these items up for sale. After seeing some undergraduate work for sale at Madison this weekend and feeling slightly repulsed at seeing undergraduate work for sale, I don't think I will be doing that. That is all.

Now, whenever I put up a new foodscape, picture it on a mug.

I think that this rendering of DVNP in Pixy Stix is actually pretty bad (bad bad, not good bad), but I finally figured out how to make clouds in Photoshop, so I can die happy now. I also made this version of it:

...which I think works better with this particular foodscape, because of the whole "Death" Valley thing. DVNP definitely needs a lot of work because it is harder to make convincing photographs with this flatter subject matter, but I like it better than my Badlands attempt, which gave a new definition to the term BADlands. Instead of giving National Parks Fun Facts this week, I wanted to give some Pixy Stix fun facts.

1. The main ingredients in Pixy Stix are Dextrose and Citric acid. (Hyperreal sugar?)
2. Pixy Stix were originally sold as a drink mix called Frutola but its creators found that children   were eating the mix right out of the package, so it was instead sold as the little (or big) straws that we know today, spoons included (I will admit that I sometimes do this with hot cocoa mix - reminds me of that weird show, "My Strange Addiction.")
3. Pixy Stix are owned by Nestle, which has a sub-brand called Wonka (a man who semi-inspired this project).
4. Pixy Stix are useful for things other than creating art projects, like maintaining a balanced diet.

I made that last one up.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Keeping the Water Levels High and the Sprinkle Prices Low

Well, it is still freezing in Appleton. In fact, it is colder now than it has been for the past four weeks. Today the high was 9 degrees, which is a lovely spring break temperature, as generally agreed by absolutely no one.

Although the balmy temperatures are tempting me to do nothing more than lay outside in a swimsuit, yesterday night I stayed in and had yet another adventure with corn syrup, sugar, and of course, frosting. What could be more appetizing? The inspiration for the latest sugary wonderland was American Samoa National Park. This is not a very commonly-visited park in the U.S., and in fact, most people (including myself), probably don't know much about it. American Samoa is an unincorporated territory of the U.S. located in the South Pacific Ocean. It is the southernmost territory of the U.S. and the only National Park south of the equator. Although I have my reservations about the U.S. territorialization (that's not a word, I made it up) of American Samoa, the park itself was created to preserve tropical rain forests and the surrounding coral reef, so I really can't complain about that. And, of course, it gives me something to look at while the Appleton temperatures continue to plummet. I mean...rise. Steadily. Into the 80s.

Check it:

The main ingredient was these lovely things:

WHICH WERE ON SALE (!!!!!!!!!!$$$$), which is awesome because, obviously we need our sprinkles to be provided in copious amounts AND to be dirt cheap. I know I sound totally anti-sprinkle here, but, I am actually 100% pro-sprinkle, especially when they add that extra sparkle to this newest candy_sugar_food_scape. This _____scape was executed rather quickly, as I am becoming more and more comfortable finding materials and arranging them in a way that will allow them to appear to scale in the camera. The added "lens flare" in Photoshop truly completes this photo. Without it it would be flat, and the lighting would actually make sense (check out how the light source is not illuminating the lighter side of the mountain), and that wouldn't be fun at all.

I thought that American Samoa was an appropriate addition to the parks collection because, despite the valiant efforts that are being made to preserve coral reefs, they are projected to disappear by mid-century if the ocean temperatures and carbon dioxide concentration levels both continue to rise.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Why See the World When You've Got the (Fake) Beach?

Instead of choosing a traditional spring break this year like the majority of my peers, I opted for the still frozen streets of Appleton, Wisconsin, and my 40-hour a week library job to entertain me. Despite my tone and a general consensus from almost everyone I know that I am wasting my life, I am perfectly content to relax and work on art over the break. I wouldn't have felt comfortable on an amazing six-day backpacking trip through Canyonlands if I knew there was one less candy landscape sitting in the back room at Wriston, right? (...?).

Someday, Utah, someday.

But not today. Today I made this:

Using these:

It was a sticky, smelly, and disgusting mess, but totally worth it to make an homage to the place that was my home for the majority of the summer: Yellowstone National Park. If you haven't gone, you should go, dummy. Also, if you haven't gone, you probably don't understand this latest concoction. Here's a reference for you:

Grand Prismatic Spring, the largest hot spring in Yellowstone. It only looks like this on a clear day, and you can only see it if you have your own personal helicopter, or a set of really strong legs to climb up a nearby hill (Fairy Falls Trail). Or, if you have a couple bucks and a Woodman's nearby, you can buy some really gross mint jelly and make it for yourself. Happy Spring Break, y'all.

Monday, March 11, 2013

This is What Happens When You Have Too Much Input and You Don't Know What's Going On or Where You Are or Who You Are

If you read my last post (which, who am I kidding, I know that only Josh reads my blog), you will know that I have been engaging in artistic self deprecation lately. I decided I was going to use these feelings of extreme self loathing to (ok, here's the part where you think I'm going to say that I channeled my anger into making better art) create a completely sarcastic, kitsch, over-the-top border-lined B.A.D. art project. If I can't be Evan Baden, if I can't embrace the idea that digital photography isn't real photography, and if I can't rebuild all my foodscapes and then re shoot them in analog like I should (I should, I should, I know I should) then I might as well not even be doing this project. However, I'm going to do it, because a small part of me remembers why I wanted to do it in the first place, and that I had a message, or an idea, or something, a long, long time ago, that seemed really important. And if I can't do it right then I'm going to do it so wrong that it hurts a little bit. Anyways:

If there's one thing I now know it's that this project is going to end in post: postcard, poster, or something like that. The new idea is to mimic the cheesy National Park memorabilia such as the mock vintage posters the parks use for promotion. This one is particularly awesome:

The posters will act like screenshots of a film that I am going to create of the foodscapes (I'm going to create it, I swear). In the end everyone will be confused, like, "Is this about advertising food, or parks?" And everyone will be hungry. (Fingers crossed). I'm debating whether I should make postcards in Moo or make posters in Vista Print. Maybe both? Either way, it's going to be superbly, awesomely, beautifully bad.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Art Therapy is Torture

I used to think art was my "release," my escape from the everyday, the mundane, the stress, the work. Now I realize this is just a myth about creative people that I have believed for way too long. Making good art is not a therapeutic activity, much like writing a good paper is not a therapeutic activity. If making art is a calming activity then you are not making good art. Also, if you like the art you are making it probably isn't good either. I currently have no affection for what I'm making, and I think about it all the time and wonder why I was even doing it in the first place. What is the point of liking my own work? It's never going to get better if all I do is sit around and like it. Sitting around and hating it just makes me want to make it better, and do a lot less sitting, as well. Unfortunately, I can't get off my butt until spring break comes around, so until then I'll be engaging in some more art torture instead of patting myself on the back for a job well done. In a critique yesterday with Evan Baden, I almost started to cry- a first for me. I guess sometimes people cry during therapy sessions, but the point of that session wasn't to help me accept my flaws or get over a trauma. It was to emphasize my flaws and subject me to even more trauma. That's the difference between art therapy and real therapy, I guess.

Enough Said.

Saturday, March 2, 2013


Running out of ideas of how to use candy, I switched to something that actually has some nutritional value (I am starting to sound like a foodie). Incorporating broccoli into my most recent foodscape felt a little bit like a cop out, however, it does make some pretty enticing fake trees. This week I received a grant for materials, so I was finally able to resupply on food, and I guess I decided to "splurge" on the broccoli (although it was considerably cheap given that it is out of season at the moment-Woodman's strikes again!). I enjoy the result because it looks organic, much like the last foodscape (Redwood National Park). This week's park of choice was Everglades National Park.

Here is my poor, massacred broccoli.

And my setup before half a gallon of syrup was poured onto it.

And, a cool, accidental photograph.

And, finally, the finished product.

The process of creating the finished product felt much more like I was "making" a photograph, a concept I am slowly learning in the darkroom this term (although the process is 100% different in Photoshop than in the darkroom). The foreground was copied and pasted onto a gradient background, which I then had to blur heavily to make it look like it wasn't copied and pasted. I then had to pick a consistent tone for the entire photo to make the gradient background look natural, and to give the whole photo the impression that it was taken at sunset (Impression: Sunset- ART JOKE). This project is starting to feel a lot less like photography and more like a digital and physical construction project.