Thursday, May 13, 2010

Keeping it Light

Cup of the Day #22
by Gwyneth Leech 2009
colored India ink on white cup

I am sitting in the front room of my 5th floor walk-up on West 47th Street between 9th and 10th. The air is clear and a fresh breeze is blowing in the windows, carrying the scent of irises blooming in the community garden a block away.

I am in digital mode today and another New York artist Ula Einstein is assisting me. Ula is being  objective and helping me to complete a delayed drawing project which involves scanning, manipulating and uploading 150 images to my website. To set us up I have made a pot of Scottish Blend tea, which she drinks black with honey and I take with just milk.

While we work we discuss our preferred art-making methods and materials. Making art on the go comes up. Time was I used a sketchbook, but for some years now I have been focused on the ubiquitous cardboard cup as my favorite drawing surface. Ula uses a wider range of ephemera and cast-offs in her stitched and burned artwork. Trader Joe coffee cans and the round aluminum skins that seal the ground coffee are useful to her, as are small odds and ends, such as napkins and balloons that she can carry in her bag. So, as she says, she always has something to work on while traveling from place to place. Ula's process is described beautifully in a recent article in Dvisible magazine, online here.

My mother Louise Leech, also an artist, made sculpture incorporating cast-off objects in her younger days, so I come by my impulse to recycle honestly. However, when my parents moved in 2004 from a large house they had lived in for 50 years, my sister and I cleared her basement work rooms. Out came broken umbrellas, candelabras, heavy picture frames, dismembered chairs and tables, trunks and boxes, bicycle frames, doors, and a chipped bowling ball, heavy as lead.

I think it was the bowling ball that finished me off. As I hauled it last of all up the basement stairs I resolved then and there to be an artist who travels light. Being inclined to paint on stretched canvas, I am still working to keep that resolution. But with cardboard coffee cups I am definitely on the right track.

By Ula Einstein
mixed media sculpture installation
©Ula Einstein 2010

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