‘listening’ to the process
Since we bought the Cyrus Allen Building last July 2012, we have accomplished much work and have experienced many delays. Many things were left in the building by the former owner to sort through and discard or recycle. As we did this, we dreamed of possibilities for the building. We investigated electrical circuits, as they were not marked on the panel, and we assessed our needs for the future. Previously we had been renting space for storing our art, so we promptly moved these works to the newly acquired building saving monthly rental fees.
Purchasing the building had interrupted the process of working on some pieces for a show of my work at Oakland City College nearby. Moving our pieces out of storage with daughter Rachel’s help became a process of rediscovery of work I had done over many years. Now I had space to spread it out to look at it. The show for Oakland City simply fell together becoming a small retrospective of the last 20-30 years. This became valuable for me as well as the students at Oakland City University. However, it was necessary to spent time making bases for several sculptures that might otherwise have been a hazard for viewers.
Once the OCU Show was up, we turned our attention back to planning our studios and a gallery. Already we had decided to call the place ArtSpaceVincennes. Space was the essential thing we missed for many years of art making, so the name felt natural. Including the name of Vincennes indicated our commitment to contribute to a positive cultural climate for the City of Vincennes and the surrounding region using our professional experience to bring quality art to the area.
In September our three main tasks were to empty the garage, replace a floor in the breeze-way and order a strip of track and lights to test against the art that would be shown in the galleries. We emptied a great deal of junk left in the garage and removed some large space-hungry shelves left there from a former UPS business. We then moved some of our things that were accumulating in the breeze-way to the garage to make way for installing a new floor there.
We found a company called Solux Lighting who claimed to have designed light bulbs specifically for illuminating art objects. These bulbs have a high color rendition index (CRI) compared to LED, fluorescent and incandescent lamps. In their advertising, Solux uses an interesting story of art experts in the Netherlands loaning Van Gogh paintings to a museum in New York that uses Solux lighting. When the Dutch experts came to New York to view the show they accused the museum officials of cleaning the Van Gogh paintings without authorization. However, the museum had not cleaned the paintings. Instead, the high CRI and color temperature rating of the bulbs balanced the colors of the spectrum better than any other light source previously used, enabling the Dutch officials to notice things in the Van Gogh paintings never obvious to them before. We decided to see for ourselves what the lights could do for our gallery. We bought a range of bulbs with different color temperatures and different angles of spread to test out the lights.
We thought we would go to a color temperature closer to what many advertise as sunlight. Bulbs with this color temperature produce a cool, bluish light. We found that to the detriment of the artworks we illuminated, under this light the warm colors lost their brilliance and literally turned gray. Conversely, when we experimented with the warmest bulbs, the cooler colors in the paintings deadened, also turning gray. We found that the Solux bulbs at 3500 K worked the best, revealing wonderful warm AND cool colors. This is not surprising because photographers have often preferred morning and late afternoon sun light for photographing landscapes because of the slightly warmed and richer color range seen at those times. We were sold on the Solux brand of lighting, which was truly balanced for rendering the full spectrum of colors in art. Based on our experimentation, we created a lighting plan that would give us maximum lighting efficacy and flexibility, with layouts individually designed for each of five potential exhibition spaces and for three studio spaces.
After September, continued interruptions came with the autumn leaves, delaying much progress on the building until January. In October our first grandchild, Rosalind, was born in England. Naturally we had to visit there to help the new Mama and play with the new baby and help the new father deal with this beautiful creature who invaded the house. We returned home in November and installed a sink with a special trap for debris produced in sculpture-making that might clog pipes. We also installed a heater/airconditioner unit in the garage. I also finished a second book that I had been working on for two years, entitled Darling My Own, WWII Letters of Robert DeLap and Lucille Jensen, Amy’s parents. Then Christmas came and guess where we HAD to go?
In January 2013, immediately after returning from England, we began working with our electrician, Dan Joyce. We added circuits for the track lighting and for the installed heater and AC. We added others for equipment to make sculpture. We managed to easily run wire to the desired locations, though we had anticipated it was going to be much more challenging than it was, since the building has very thick brick walls. After Dan helped us install track lighting in the first room, we installed the rest ourselves in all the gallery rooms, the breezeway and the studios, where color would be important.
In February we began the process of insulating the garage, adding windows and drywalling it with fire grade drywall. A friend, Woody Cardinal and his grandson helped us with the ceiling and framed up the spray booth; Amy and I did the walls, with help from our artist colleague Jim Pearson. Before we did the mudding, however, I needed to establish the size and location of the hole for the spray booth ventilation. I spent a couple weeks making the bell-mouth, which gave me the size and dimensions for the support needed.
Meanwhile, flooring was installed in the four upstairs rooms. Amy finished that job by adding the woodwork and repaired areas of the ceilings in the two rooms upstairs that we will use for storage. They now just need painting. So, aside from making racks for the tons of art created over many years from our two careers as artist/professors and for the art we intend to create as two “independent artists”, moving art into those rooms is the last thing to do there. This will free the downstairs galleries for our first installation of an exhibition, perhaps as early as June. It will be a rehearsal to see what problems may develop with the walls when we hang the art.
We have shifted our energy now to completing sculpture studio. After working for a while on the bell-mouth, seeing progress in there is refreshing. We have refined the design of the spray booth and are mudding the drywall. Tools have been taken out and a large make-shift table was dismantled to create work space for the mudding, sanding and painting of the ceiling and walls.
Delays in progress, while frustrating our urge to finish immediately, have enabled something positive. It has reminded me of sensitivity exercises that we now do in Tai Chi Chuan class taught by Dr. Walter on Tuesday nights at the university. They consist of pairing up with a partner and engaging in gentle contact exercises leading to push hands. They are designed to help us ‘listen’ to an opponent’s body, especially to the other person’s back foot while in a Tai Chi stance. Learning to anticipate the opponent’s move prepares our own bodies to react to the opponent passively until we find the opportunity to turn the opponent’s power against him. We do not actually engage in combat, but the contact with the other person helps us to understand and practice the form of Tai Chi Chuan better. Increasing our ability to do the form well is supposed to improve our overall health and teach us to gather energy and use it more effectively in our bodies.
So, too, we have learned, while building the studio, to accept the delays passively. We are “listening” to the process, and using the time as opportunity to redesign and refine our ideas about the studios, the gallery and the idea of ArtSpaceVincennes. We are ‘listening’ to the process as we work during our daily routines, adapting, refining, trying, eliminating, combining, elaborating, ad analyzing, just as we do with our art. In fact, I think we are creating art with ArtSpaceVincennes. There has been nothing quite like this in Vincennes. As it is finally taking shape we are getting excited. Like Tai Chi Chuan, which gives us untapped energy, ‘listening’ to the process and holding to excellence in form has given us enormous energy to continue working on this concept we call ArtSpaceVincennes.