Saturday, November 29, 2008

Marxhausen - Working Out The Details- Part Two (Art Talk series)

Being an artist means you have to work out the details. Whether I am working on an outdoor landscape, doing a portrait, or composing a scene for a wall mural. There always is homework involved. The mural I did for the city of Carrollton in 1997 had all kinds of particulars. Split rail fences,choice of garden vegetables, settlers on foot, a covered wagon, a team of oxen,folks building a log cabin, a farmer behind a one mule plow, all of which needed drawings, color studies, transparencies---really a lot of work. The Land Of Opportunity is 37 feet wide and 20 feet tall. It is located one block east of the downtown square, on the NE corner of Virginia and Washington.

Carrollton is located north and east of Kansas City, MO about 80 miles. About an hour's drive west of Columbia. About an hour's drive south of Chillicothe. About an hour's drive north of Sedalia. Go to Hwy 23 at the Concordia exit on Interstate 70. Go North on 23 to Waverly. Turn North on Hwy 65-24 to Carrollton about 10 miles. At Hwy 24 Exit, take a left over via duct, down hill to stop sign, up the hill to downtown stop sign, circle around square one way (counter clockwise). The south side of square is Washington Street. Go one block east of square, look to the left side, Maxine's restaurant has fenced in parking there. The south side of Maxine's has the mural. Stop and take a picture!

In 1996 I was doing research on the western murals in Toppenish, Washington. I checked out all the vacant walls around our city. I came up with a design and even drove to Kansas City to meet with a Bank Midwest representative to ask permission to paint on their bank branch wall in Carrollton. They were more interested in a dominant bank logo. They declined. The idea sat on the shelf for a whole year. One day Don Lock of the Lock Steel Company expressed interest in the project. They agreed to provide the wall and the paint. I did the labor--200 hours of it. The work I poured into that wall landed me a contract with the Chillicothe Industrial Developement Corporation. In 1998 I completed a 100 foot by 60 foot mural in Chillicothe, Missouri and was paid two thousand dollars for supplies and labor.

Chillicothe Business College mural 1998

Ten foot illustrations outlined by brush atop scissors lift.

For the Chillicothe mural I researched the Business College yearbooks at their city library. Every time I drove up it was was a 30 mile commute one way. The CIDC approved large illustrations which depicted classwork offered through the school during the 1800s. Telegraphy and the railroad,
penmanship and bookkeeping, and a chapter of students from every state of the Union and several foreign countries. Ten years after the mural was completed, the CIDC hired a new artist to paint over the entire wall with a new design.

With the help of the computer and the wonderful equipment in the Conference Center at the Carrollton Public Library, I showed a 36 minute
film documenting the making of the Carrollton mural.

The old peeling paint was power washed off with water to preserve the soft red brick. The wall was given two primer coats with a power sprayer (that tended to clog up and needed frequent cleaning). A local man showed me that all the colors couold be hand mixed from red, blue, yellow, white, and black. But there came that moment of truth when that THEORY was tried out---and it did work. I used a glossy oil enamel paint. The color were hand mixed in two liter soda containers and reused milk jugs. To mix green I used black and yellow.

If you have plug-ins added you can view this short video clip. Click on triangle above. This shows where the Marxhausen mural is located in our village.

The sorrel mule comes down the wall towards the viewer. This was a challenge since most photos of mules are either a side view or head on. I looked at Thomas Hart Benton lithographs and numerous sources to solve my problem. Here, you can learn more on painting sorrel mule.

Several outline transparencies were made. One for the mule. One for the farmer. One for the builders on the hill. One for the covered wagon. At night by street light the image was projected on the wall atop a scaffold. I up on a ladder, using a black marker, to drawn the outlines on the prepared brick surface. Angels must have kept the projector from falling over. Answered prayers for sure.

It was cool to be working at night. Teenagers driving by saw me working, pulled in to the parking area, and were asking me what I was doing. What a blast. I loved it.

Left side - garden scene

Middle - plowing scene

Right side - wagon train and building log house

Click triangle to zoom in on mural signature

Following the question and answer time after the movie,
the guest artist from De Witt was introduced.
See next posting.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Karl Marxhausen - Being Led Elsewhere - Part One (Art Talk series)

On Saturday morning, November 22nd I gave a two part presentation for the Art Talk series. Part 1 was about works that have led my mind elsewhere. Part 2 was about working out the details. Showing a documentary making the 37 foot Carrollton mural, Land Of Opportunity, that I painted in 1997, and the kind of research that went into that endeavor. After the movie, guest artist Daniel Griffith from De Witt shared sculptures he had made ...(see subsequent postings)

It was important for the audience to view the works in silence. I believe the art did speak. After a period of silence for each work -- I shared a few points. While working on landscapes in 2005, I also did a body of work with one thing in common.....

Brother Obermuller 20 x 16 (private collection)

Open 26 x 11.5 on panel

Ask 24 x 24 on panel

Mother And Daughter in Samarkand 20 x 16 on canvas

My Mother 28 x 22 on panel

Mystery 11.25 x 25.5 on frame

Brushstrokes brought me close to sisters and brothers, mothers and fathers, some of which, have lost relatives because of their love for him.

The pavement I walked on the way to work reminded me of the particles scientists say our atoms are composed of. On a rainy day the tiny grains reminded me of an IMAX movie going down into infinity. The galactic particulate I saw in the cement sidewalk led me to experiment with sand in 2000. The grit helped create the suspended particles I wanted. In the end I had an intense vortex spinning in space. I thought about the words of one who holds all things in place by the power of his voice. The one who loved me. I named that piece At His Command 44 x 31.5 inches on panel. When I study its textures I am reminded of the one my family across the sea is in love with.

Contemplating the Rhythm and Boundaries That Your Voice Sets For Sub-Atomic Particles While I Stand On The Sidewalk And Look Down At The Asphalt On My Way To School 28 x 46 inches on panel

The "floating ice cube" pattern I began with (below) transformed into a veiled figure in light when it dried. As an author wrote, "you are surrounded by unapproachable light." It was works like these that fell into another category. Not landscape, not figurative, where acrylic paint and texture were joined. Works formed by process with experimentation in mind, and upon completion, became something more, that directed my attention past the materials to him.

The words of physicist Paul Davies reminded me,"Without gravity, not only would there be no galaxies, stars, or planets, but the universe could not have even come into being, for the very notion of the expanding universe, and the big bang as the origin of space time, is rooted in gravity. Without electromagnetism there would be no atoms, no chemistry or biology and no heat or light from the sun. If there were no strong nuclear force then nuclei could not exist, and so again there would be no atoms or molecules, no chemistry or biology, nor would the sun and stars be able to generate heat and light from nuclear energy. Even the weak force plays a crucial role in shaping the universe. If it did not exist, the nuclear reactions in the sun and starts could not proceed, and supernovae would probably not occur, and the vital life-giving heavy elements would therefore be unable to permeate the universe. Life might be impossible. When we remember that these four very different types of force, each one vital for generating the complex structures that make our universe so active and interesting, all derive from a single, simple superforce, the ingenuity of it all literally boggles the mind." (Superforce, 1982)

I invited a young volunteer to come up and investigate the materials I used. The student told the audience it "was made of rock."

In his book Nature's Destiny, 1998 microbiologist Michael Denton said the properties of water on Earth were such that micro organisms and single-celled creatures could move about freely. If the viscosity were even slightly heavier cellular life would not be able to function like it did. It was these constraints, these boundaries, these precise dynamics that fascinated me. Leon A. Housman wrote about these minute creatures in his Essentials of Zoology (1963), "they pursue and capture food or sit still and reach out

capture it, they ingest it; they digest it; they eliminate liquid wastes from the body; they respire; they produce energy; they grow; they reproduce their kind. They go where they want to go, they retreat from where they don't want to be, or they just stay still. Some scholars say they seem to exercise choice, will, judgment, memory; others that they merely react mechanically to stimuli."

Think about it...the universe is a big, that's too big, let's just think about planet, let's just think about Carrollton...ok, let's just think about this room, that would be a lot things are set in motion, over how many years...forces are in place...things are put just so...and water is made just right...for this season on ensure that these fragile creatures have being. Have you looked at cellular biology recently? It's just amazing...I think about ALL THIS and can't help but think about him.

Above, from left to right, are four stages of an amoeba surrounding and digesting its prey.
At 37 1/2 by 94 3/4 inches, Care For An Amoeba, needed to be on a lightweight backing. Indoor paneling was my solution in 2002.

After her thorough inspection, this volunteer concluded the piece (below) was made of aggregate, white gravel, and an asphalt-like substance on wood.

During preceding week, visitors to the library cast their own guesses what this 6 x 12 inch panel was covered with.
"Rice Krispies on Gypsum Wall Board"

(Evelyn Robertson)

"Peanuts that have been crushed"

(Sue Lightfoot)

"Gravel + Acrylic Paint"

(D. Belcher)

"House winter shutter with

flooring painted scene on"

(Bettie Sawatzky)

"Aquarium Rocks"

(Viola Fisk)

"Red Cinnamon Valentine's Day Candy"


"Looks like aquarium gravel

and acrylic paint."


"Lava rocks or gravel with red and yellow paint."

(Savanna Lightfoot and Mollie Bingham)

"Crushed teeth."

(Loralu Sherman


The answer is
acrylic paint on

crushed oyster shells

(used by farmers for chicken feed)


Volunteers took similiar experimental panels around for all to see.

Consciousness is a mystery. Biochemist Stuart Kaufman asked how inorganic molecules could organize themselves into organisms with conscience? Physicist Paul Davies asked how it is that we can process complex information? Analytical physicist John C. Polkinghorne put the phenomena in perspective when he called our race the thinking reed. How was it that that we can built instruments that detect complexity in the natural order? Neuroscientist Patricia Churchland stated that research has failed to explain how the brain does what it does.
These findings directed my thoughts elsewhere.

This piece began like any other. I found a neural pattern in a book, and drew it on a panel. I glued crushed oyster shells on that pattern. Thinking back on the process, the most exciting moments came when I poured clear glue over the shells and dribbling paint on top of that. The lighter paint formed intricate rivulets I could not do by hand (see below) The way the paint broke apart, the swirls, the way it dried. That took away my breath.

I called it Wired To Hear Your Voice (40 3/4 x 64 inches).The one who makes it possible for water to be the right viscosity for amoebas, has made it possible for Homo sapiens to interface with himself. My consciousness can know his thoughts and neurologically experience his embrace.To me, it is MORE breaking in.

a viewer in the audience spoke up: prisilla: When I first saw that orange piece, it was the one I was least comfortable with. But as you have talked about the process in conceiving the work, it means a lot more to me now. You see, I have Parkinson's Disease, and have been having my own struggles....

More about this one here.

More about collages here.

When I began working on this idea I thought it was about someone younger than me. Soon after, I became convinced it was my own portrait. I do not have orange hair or nose rings, but this one phrase beat in my heart of hearts. "You love this porcupine, I am yours and you are mine." There have been issues in my life. Attitudes I was not proud of, that pushed others away from me. My own kind of piercings. Looking back, that painting was all about him - the One I gazed upon, the One I surrendered to, the One who called me lovely, the One who brought me into his presence with joy inspite of my issues, my words and actions, and a whole slew of reasons. Thus the title. "You embrace can you?" That was me at my core, whether as an artist or as a human being. Everthing else flowed out from that.

When I finished the Carrollton mural I had that same sense. There was more going on than my eyes could see. That mural was all about outsiders who came here to build and plant. Our future was about outsiders who would continue come here to build and plant. There was a yearning and a hunger for more, and a request for openness to the one who broke in to hearts and minds, and breathed a fresh fragrance of welcome on the deepest parts of our city. The one who loved the porcupine loved the citizens of Carrollton.

The location at Virgina and Washington was significant. It was Washington Street that used to be saloonville in the early years. People have recounted to me how that what not the part of town you would want to walk through on the way home from school. In hindsight, it was interesting to see three new businesses move in, and see the property value go up, after the mural was completed.