Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Moldy Jell-O White House is Topical

I'm so sorry, Jell-O Art fans, but I just haven't been able to make any Jell-O in the longest time. A couple of weeks ago I had more surgery, this time to take the metal out of my poor right foot, which made for several more weeks of sitting with the foot propped up and no mobility. It all went fine and is almost healed up again, but now Holiday Market is about to start and I doubt I will pick up the Jell-O again until January.

 It's sad, but that's the way life goes. Things get in the way of other things. January through April is the traditional time for Jell-O and I'm sure when the time is right I will find the thrill again. 

In the meantime, go here and see some excellent photos of masterful gelatin sculpture by Liz Hickock. She has much more fame and a much more substantial budget than I do, and I admire her and her work very much. After you admire, make sure to google Jell-O Art and click on some images of mine, so I will mount in internet fame and not lose any more ground. Maintainingfame is not so simple, and requires a lot of effort.

One piece I did manage to complete was of an orchid and butterfuly inside a glass jar, which was a nice way to package the stuff so it can sit on a shelf without getting dusty. I used some of the leftover pieces from my book construction to make the wings and other parts and it was quite lovely. This I gave to the wonderful George Filgate who took the charming photos of me and my Jell-O.

Of course as you can see, photos don't really do justice to Jell-O sculpture, certainly not the photos I take in my kitchen with no preparation. Still, it was a fun piece to make and it looked quite lovely in its jar.

Hope you all are making your Jell-O without my encouragement, and  I promise to let you know as soon as I start back into the process. 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Quick Update

And from April to August I made no Jell-O! With my broken foot, I found it challenging enough to keep up with the work of healing and making my Saturday Market/Country Fair retail work. My trays of brilliantly colored petals and leaves sat and gathered dust in my project room, and most of the Jell-O Art Museum was packed away. 

But then I was invited to be a Celebrity Judge for the 30th Annual Slug Queen Competition! I was invited in my celebrity persona, the Queen of Jell-O Art, and thus I entered into a mad dash to costume myself appropriately for the occasion and do my best to promote the silliness. I will add to it by my very presence!

My costume is red and black and I had a new apron custom-made to enhance my look. I re-borrowed the magnificent cape and embellished my crown with yet more Jell-O in the form of a gigantic slug sculpture that had apparently been made for this purpose as it fit perfectly atop my head.

There will be many pictures, you can be sure. It will be a grand occasion and even though I am not the focus, not at all, it is still a huge 15 minutes of fame for me.

I made two public appearances yesterday, in costume. One was at breakfast for my dear friend Pamela, where because I am too cheap to figure out a present that doesn't involve Jell-O Art or t-shirts (and she is expressly forbidden to accept any more tote bags) and many in the young crowd were dazzled by my regal presence. Who doesn't admire ruffles and shiny things? 

The other was a brief sojourn down to Seven Stars Childcare where the children are not phased by me by now, having had many Jell-O Art visits over the years. I went in search of better socks (alas, my still-not-finished foot requires padding and really carefully chosen shoes) as Deb is the source of most of my really cool socks, and I came back with crinolines, which I badly needed to hide my bike shorts which will serve as a slip. 

I am not naturally very glamorous, as you might have guessed from my choice of town, Eugene, which is at best a casually dressed small city. I had to go buy mascara and look into the Halloween stuff for lipstick (will fake blood work?). I'm not going to get very far into it, as I tried out the lipstick and looked far more like a clown than a Queen. Don't want to confuse anyone. But I found the right socks, and will wear a smidge of eye shadow I suppose, if I can manage to get it all together in time.

So tonight, at the Park Blocks, I will be very showy and you will want to see the show. As far as I know I will not be called upon to display any talent or wit but you never know what the occasion might bring. I may be castigated for upstaging an Old Queen or two, but I hope to mollify them with my Jell-O Art slugs of which I have made quite a few new ones. I made a lot of roses too and might give some of those to the lucky winner and her court, or not.

Who knows how it will go? I confess I have a favorite (come on, she knit her whole costume! It took over a year!) , but will remain as objective as possible  until the moment I cast my vote. (I also find other candidates intriguing.) There are seven candidates, quite excessive sliminess, so it should be a wonderful show. I plan to appear to be rapt the entire time as I fidget with my costume details and wonder whether or not to take a pain pill when no one is looking at me. My foot, my foot. 

Come down to the Park Blocks with your lawn chair! You will laugh your socks off if you wear any. You will go home lighter unless you decide to try the Slug Trap. If you have any questions about the history, etc., the Slug Queens have a very well-written website. Join me for my most glorious moment for which I actually had a chance to prepare! 

You will not be disappointed. Unless you are one of those people who looks around on Christmas morning and wonders if that is all there is. Keep looking, if you are. There is almost always one more present somewhere, under some leaf, in some garden. 

And of course there is always Jell-O Art, which by it's very nature, can not disappoint. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

Our Swag and Other Things We Deem Cool

We love our crown, scepter and bouquet so much! Leave it to women artists (and a few men) to always perform brilliantly whenever called to anything.

The multi-talented Kariana Diana Supreme (in her more sedate life, Karen Perkins, retired art teacher recently famous for speaking for student artists everywhere in the face of the misguidedly patriotic/irrational complaints about using The Flag in a mural. Excuse me: Art! Embrace the concept) made our crown and we love the brilliant use of romex cable to form the ring which fits any (even a swelled) head and is comfortable and adjustable in aspect. She even put dried Jell-O on it for feather-and flower-like decoration and the attached emptied boxes and copper-wire boingies plus fabric flowers are artfully arranged in perfect framing. It's as if it were designed for our silver head (but of course it was!)

We're particularly grateful for the romex idea because now we realize it is perfect for mounting those Jell-O wings so that they can be more easily worn. Wrap with ribbon, et voila! Thank you Karen, for this treasure we will probably wear rather more often than might be advised. We had to be reminded to take it off when we got home but it is close at hand for any state occasions which might arise if we do.

The bouquet is similarly inspired for long life and uses perfectly planned contrasting wrapping paper and ribbon, with a plethora of box blossoms, including the sought-after Royal brand gelatin whose lettering works perfectly for our additional "Royalty" page in the book, allowing us to only have to fake one letter. There are lots of details made with pipe cleaners and beads and we love the way it uses space and is again boingie which is about as jiggly as you can get with paper. We love it!

The scepter also features the empty box (Cherry, presumably to signify our eternal virginity and purity, set off with bright red spangles to refer to our flapper era) and some lovely silk flowers appropriately vintage in appearance for contrast and in homage to our advanced but never faded mature beauty. We always say that women grow more attractive with each passing year and we love the subtle shadings of the silk and the hidden bird which we identify as a Bewick's wren, a bird that has brought much pleasure as we watch it look for insects in the crumpled bark of the butterfly bush outside our essential chairside window. The scepter cleverly uses recycled materials such as a CD on the back which can double as a mirror to check our make-up if we ever form the habit of wearing any, which is of course unlikely at this point. If there were a time when we should have had some on, it would have been Saturday night, but as it happens Larry had quite enough on for several Angels and we seemed to glow and blush most adequately without it. And we love the blue and gold polka-dotted ribbon decorating the (what? We can't just call it a stick) holding apparatus and the clever spool at the bottom. All beaded and ribboned of course. Any number of the actual graphic artists and multi-media artists in our midst could have crafted these items, but since Radar Active does everything else, she probably did it. Our one goal is to somehow wrest that cape out of the hands of the Court Curmudgeon because really, how often will he use it at Burningman if he doesn't even go? We desire to at least get a chance to perspire in it.

Of course the photos are inadequate, but you try taking pictures on your lap folded into a recliner. We couldn't wait any longer for the allotted "up time" today to pay homage to the brilliance of these artists. Oh and while we're on the subject, there was some Jell-O at the show besides that made by the royal we. A few pieces of note:

Big Diva of course got lots of press with his comely mustache and pringled wall piece, which was rumored to be made with the assistance of several real potato chips. Representing his 16 years of participation, which can never match the 24 of at least two of us, alas, this piece showed the high level of technical expertise he has learned and the commitment it takes to buy gelatin by the 25-pound lot. He told us about some experiments with balloons that we can only hope to try at some point, which sound brilliant. You might remember him for his past pieces, some of which can be found on his Facebook profile where he goes by the pseudonym David Gibbs, presumably because he has some kind of a job outside of his Jell-O Art career. He has done magnificent self-referential pieces such as representations of his kidney stones, his goatee (now eclipsed by the mustachio-full bearded look, and he is to be admired or reviled alternatively for only gelling his mustache and not the whole dealio) and his Thanksgiving dinner, among many fabulous and sometimes theme-related pieces. I suspect he invited that Deen woman, with his zest for life and ability to make gravy and all. Since he has gotten quite enough attention with his front-page appearance in our local paper (He lives in Portlandia, so he is naturally more press-famous) here we see him stealing my images for his own personal use with some kind of big-city electronic device. His leisure suit is both authentic and tasteful though, and he donated items to the Jell-O Art Museum, for which we are eternally grateful and do hope won't mold in the bad way. One word, Diva: lampshade! Balloon lampshade!

Julie Sannes bravely dressed herself, her not-yet newborn, her girlfriend, her husband and his partner (speculate as much as you like about their family constellation, but let us warn you she makes no secret of her politics, as is entirely appropo) in turq-wazz (as Mildred Hodittle always says) which matched David's self-adornment as if planned. She always makes Jell-O and dresses in tandem and her brilliance is more quietly stated. The rolled-up supports for her piece even looked tasty if stale, and we love her contributions to the show every year. It is lovely to have people to count on and she is one. And she of course did promote the show,as we all do, and we're sure it was her idea to invite Sarah Palin, and Newtie's wife, whom we soundly defeated for the title. We mean really. Not many public quasi-officials have what it takes.

Because of our propensity for Jell-O names and our inability to properly view the show this year from a scooter, we don't quite know whose piece is whose in some of the photos. We saw Miss Mary Clare bring something in and it might be both of these. The layered pie and all the symbolism are more than pleasing, and we do always love to see the theme addressed with thoughtfulness and the appropriate level of rage. Let me take this opportunity to state for the record that the Jell-O show, despite the unfortunate purchases of corporate food-like substances, is anti-corporate as hell and has always been. That's kind of the point. The political is personal, etc, etc, and if you knew what some of us did in our younger days you would be appalled, not to even bring up our proto-feminist grandmothers. Mainstream or even liberal we are not! So maybe people didn't really get the connection between Occupy, the End, and a notoriously inedible Kraft product, but if art has to be spelled out to you, maybe you need to fetch a freakin' clue. We shall stop.

Our personal favorite piece (besides our own, and we know we will be forgiven for that) was the waffle breakfast by Leah and Jeff, who also get credit for the Etch-a-Sketch we believe. The suspended syrup bottle (hopefully also a Kraft product, certainly a corporate one) was beyond inspired, and we don't even need to know how many tries it took to execute. And this was not dried Jell-O folks, which provides the opportunity for leisurely exploration over months. We poked the egg and waffles and they were still jiggly. The colors were perfect, the use of the menu and props were excellent. This was world-class Jell-O art, partly because the perfection might have even led you to pass over it as something normal to view. While not strictly tromp-l'oile, it did fool the eye and we just loved it. And the guffaw factor of the etch-a-sketch, not to mention it's timeliness in current political news, was stellar.

This is getting too long but we do want to mention that one of our Old Angels, if we have such a thing (admitting that all of us are of somewhat advanced age) sent a piece from The East Coast! It was appropriately slightly moldy as one would expect after making its way through the halls of the USPO all the way from Rhode Island, but if we had prizes this would certainly have won one. It was small but well-conceived, as would be expected from this spicily-seasoned artist who is missed every year. We were thrilled to have her contribution and tempted to put it on the Tacky Food Table as it contained beef, which is as tacky as it gets.

We must go. We do so regret pretty much missing the Tacky Food due to immobility and lack of hunger since we brought a lunch.We assume there was some, and we got a glimpse of a radical version of ambrosia with peanuts? There is an artist who reliably prepares actual Jell-O recipes from real cookbooks and we have no idea what she brought, to our dismay. Perhaps she will let us know. This is just one more example of "If you blink you will miss it" which ought to be one of our slogans. We are afraid the Jell-O company itself seems to be remiss in creating the annual slogans and in even advertising their classic products, having converted predictably to the wasteful but oh-so-tempting single-serving-wrapped-in-lots-of-non-recyclable-petroleum-product-toxic-waste stuff they are trying to foist off on the overworked parents and kids of our modern world. Plus the fact that they are too small to even satisfy the American stomach, necessitating the brilliantly conceived over-consumption of multiple packages, they taste reliably like crap (not that we would know, except for in the hospital when we did eat some tapioca and several cups of custard because that was the only choice we thought we had until we heard about the sandwiches. Needless to say we consumed no Jell-O.)

So yes, anti-corporate to the extreme, full of punditry and derision, we remain your quietly jiggling eminence, reviewing for you some of the highlights of this year in Jell-O. We have barely begun to expound, but remember, you encouraged us. Oh, and if you still want a t-shirt, we have a few left, which are free at this point, though donations are encouraged. Even a couple of the pink camo. To Jell-O!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The April Fools

I thought my piece was finished and the gallery show is over for a year, but there was one piece of flat Jell-O left and now I know why. Those divinely silly Radar Angels made my night legendary.

Indi set me up right in the main hall with my table of shirts and all of my Jell-O that I had been selling at the Market last season. I had shirts from previous years too (thanks Joanie), and hung my wings on the wall, had my foot on a pillow and Jell-O in my hair, and I joked many times that I felt like a queen. Just an ordinary queen, though.

For a year they planned a skit based on *Jell-O Queen for a Day* and put four lame candidates on stage last night. One was Newt's wife, quite whiny, one was a pushy Sarah Palin in a red suit, who kept trying to monopolize the mike. The third sang a sweet song on the ukulele but still couldn't get any votes, and the fourth was a wonderfully-made-up version of the Deen diabetes character (barely recognizable as Larry), who swore she lost weight on a deep-fried Jell-O diet. (I expect to see that particular item on next year's Tacky Food table, if I have to make it myself!)

I was sitting right in front with my poor foot on a pillow, and I remember thinking it a little odd that Angela got a chair and sat right next to me. No one ever gets a chair, but as it happens 8-months pregnant Julie got to sit too, so it wasn't that odd. Then as the skit went on, and we voted with our uptwinkles in a perfectly entwined nod to the Occupy theme, I said to Angela, "They need more candidates!"

None of the four got many uptwinkles, mostly down, though plenty of laughs. Finally the lovely assistant and the guy on piano (aka Rico Suave) announced that there was no clear winner. "No clear winner!" (obvious Jell-O reference.)

Well, you have figured out the tale already: they crowned ME! For a year they kept the fabulous secret and brought me the royal crutches and a box of tissues and put me on stage in a throne with a cape, scepter, and bouquet of Jell-O boxes, and I babbled some sort of a speech in my giggly confusion. I didn't stop grinning for an hour at least.

They proceeded to sing a special song, (Time Warp) and I got to sing along, fulfilling a lifelong dream to actually be one of the performing Angels, something I'm always too chicken to do. They made me sit there while everyone took pictures, many pictures, and posed with me. The actual Slug Queen even bowed to me! This was a moment supreme and I am still suffused with pleasure as I sit here at five in the morning, ready for my April Fools Day.

I'm only Jell-O Queen for a Day, mind you, but I take this to mean an entire 24 hours and what better day to bask in my glory than this. Sunday after the show is always a soft entry back into what passes for a normal life in my part of the world, as the creative year is launched and as we have all now blinked and the Show is over for another 365 or so days.

I've said before how essential Jell-O Art is to my self-concept as an artist, how seriously I take the free self-expression it has opened for me. I sincerely doubt I would even be a real capital-A Artist without it. Somehow though I never expected that it would bring this much satisfaction as a person in a community. I'm such a hermit and iconoclast that I seldom feel an integral part of a group, and tend to hang on the fringes wishing. I think this has changed now that I am in my sixties.

This level of friendship and honor is a wonderful, dreamy and for the moment, very tangible gift. I want to keep repeating "I'm not worthy" but I'm dropping that poor-me attitude every time I hear it come out of my brain. Apparently I am. I respect and admire the Angels and associated Angels in training so much, that if they think I am royalty, well, I would be quite foolish to argue. In fact, that would be insulting. And now I have the crown, scepter, and bouquet for the Jell-O Art Museum, a slew of photos on Facebook, and a roomful of people as witnesses.

Twenty-four years of Jell-O Art dedication is a symbol of how I've lived my life, trying hard to be authentic, loyal, dependable, and giving. My subjects have seen me, and they have crowned me. Once my day is over I will have to get back to the mundane work of being an ordinary hero, but for one glorious night I sat in a throne and felt so humble and deserving that my brain didn't have a poor-me thought in it's recesses. I was so proud. I was so ecstatic. My heart was so full, it was flying around the room spreading glitter and flakes of gelatin everywhere.

So I will make one more page for my book today, and luxuriate in the peak life experience of 2012. Is it the end? Did I Occupy my soul?

I think it is the beginning. I think I can put self-deprecation aside and keep that moment on stage in the front of my mind. Yes, there was a Jell-O Queen for the blink of an eye, and I was her. She! Me!

There is certainly no bigger honor, no more appropriate designation. And now we have 365 days to figure out a way to top this. I'll be testing recipes for deep-fried Jell-O if anyone wants a taste.

Thank you, thank you, thank you very much. Long live gelatinous glory! Long live Jell-O Art! Long live the Jell-O Art Show! Maybe tomorrow I will be able to sleep.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Finished My Piece!

Here is an inadequate picture of my Jell-O Art. The base is about a foot square and the leaves extend out in all directions, making the thing about the size of a two foot cube.

It's a book, a book about my life as a Jell-O artist. The first page is titled Jell-O Art and gives sort of an introduction, and the following pages are about the Radar Angels, the creative process, metamorphosis, and other things that are significant to my artistic experience.

A few of the pages are printed, which as far as I know is a new technique to our group. I just did them with existing screens since making new screens is still very difficult with my broken foot. The fractal one hangs off the back and is drooping a bit much, but we'll see how it curls, since random effects are usually fine. The tree page needs something more behind it but I need to be finished with piece. I drew and collaged a bird on it, and since customers are constantly telling me that tree is the Tree of Life that is what it represents. I seldom argue with my customers. If I were ambitious and had more time I would probably add more creatures to it. I might just do that because I'm not quite satisfied with it the way it is. I tried making one more leaf to put behind it with a collaged fish on it, but it just didn't fit right.

I printed the word Imagine as well and wanted to print a few more of my hat images, such as fear less and YES and those would be great, but the screens were hard to find and I ran out of shop time. I probably could manage doing those without an assistant but now it is wet outside and although I just crutched my way out there to get something I needed, it seems like too much effort to go out there again for such small details to add to what is essentially a finished piece.

I know I have a tendency to amass too many images and as you can see from the picture there are many layers and this will be a piece you really will have to study from all sides to fully experience. The photograph presents a sad mishmash of what is an elegant and intensely meaningful piece. The greatest piece of Jell-O Art ever made! I wish.

The rest of the pages are hand lettered with markers and drawing pens and I hope the colors don't turn out to be fugitive. This piece might have to be stored in a box for long-term life. I poured some clear gelatin into the bottom of the box, which is just a plexiglas picture frame I found in a drawer, so the piece might transmit light from below for an interesting effect. I took some flowers off of last year's dress (intending someday to restore it to the simplicity of Celeste's original conception) and put them in there, added a flower and a shell from my current retail stock, and some grass from another part of last year's piece.

I asked Maude Kerns management if I could display and (hopefully) sell my retail Jell-O Art at the show this year along with the t-shirts. It hasn't been the case that any individual's art has been for sale during the show, so it might not even work, but my medical bills are frightening and I don't know when I will have a regular income again. June I guess.

I researched physical therapy for this kind of break (calcaneus and part of the ankle) and it turns out that although I will be able to put weight on my foot after twelve weeks of rest, that doesn't mean that I will be able to walk. I'll still need crutches and eventually a cane and will have to rebuild the muscles of my leg and convince my brain that it is safe to put the foot down and use it. That means another month or two of hard going. Since my main income is from the grueling 12-hour day of Saturday Market and the screenprinting I do standing up, I'm not going to be fully back to work for a really long time. So now's your chance to collect a little piece of some really unique Eugene history, the living, breathing, quarter-decade old Jell-O Art Show, and to support a local artist who needs your cash.

I will of course gladly accept your admiration if you don't want to own a collector's item or a fairly useless but gorgeous piece of gelatin made permanent. I understand living simply and not accumulating stuff. I do hope you take a good look at my piece though. I'd be glad to talk technique and give tips to other artists who want to try the dried stuff. It's much more simple than it looks.

Even if it did take me twenty-five years to make it. See you at the show! Don't blink and miss it!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

T-shirts! Next week!

Here's a preview of the t-shirt design. It's not easy to make art and take photos in a recliner with your foot up, but I couldn't just sit here and do "nothing."

I love the theme. I (obviously) love starting my creative year with a completely open, ridiculously self-referential project that has no enduring value on its own, but an astounding one from the perspective of living a creative life.

I bought a few pink camo shirts which will look so good. The rest will be gray. Begin to covet one. If I sell enough to pay for what I bought (and oh yes, I got tote bags) I will be able to make a contribution to the gallery and to the Radar Angels fund for doing it again next year. This is like the 24th annual show!!!

Everything depends on the level of participation from the public, though we will have fun no matter what. It's rolling like a giant rock downhill. Make some Tacky Food! Come to the Show! Buy a t-shirt to show off and prove you are among the hip-oisie.

Be the artist clamoring to come out. Anything goes at the Jell-O Show. You know I mean you.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


Today was the thrilling illustration of the creative process which keeps me so engaged in life and Jell-O art. Back in December when I heard myself telling someone you couldn't even make flat dried gelatin, and that little smile took the corners of my mind, I set this part in motion.

Today I actually screenprinted on it. I know there aren't very many people working in gelatin art, practically none in fact, but I am fairly certain that this is a technique that no one has tried. It's hard to express the satisfaction of pulling it off.

I owe a huge thanks to the intrepid Radar Active, aka Indi, who came over today to give me a couple of hours so I could try my first day back in the shop. I thought I would sort some shirts and maybe get ready to print them tomorrow when another friend is coming, but the shirts went fast (actually were a print of a design F.A.S.T. for a local school program) and before you could blink I printed up three scraps of really flat Jell-O trimmed from the pages I cut last night for my book project. Indi was as excited as I am even as she firmly insisted that I stop and go put my foot back up on its elevated pillow.

They look amazing. They curled up a little so I'll have to flatten them (Indi suggested putting them between sheets of waxed paper which shouldn't stick to them, not that they are wet). They will add color to the project which I was thinking I would hand letter mostly in black sharpie although now that I think of it, I do have some colored sharpies somewhere.

I'm still all giddy. I got the t-shirt design more-or-less finished, not the best one I've ever done, but I bought some pink camo shirts to print it on, which look like pink lemonade Jell-O with swirls of cool whip. The other ones are grey, because I'm only doing a one-color print so I don't have to use white shirts to achieve good Jell-O colors. They were a little expensive, but perhaps this year I will insist on selling them instead of giving most of them away. Seems like after years of free shirts some people might be able to part with some bucks for my considerable medical bills. I hope so.

But they will all get to see my innovative, fabulous printed Jell-O for free. It's impressive.

And yeah, my foot does hurt a bit. It was totally worth it, though.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

This Year's Jell-O Art

For me, each year's exhibit has to explore some new technique (which gets increasingly difficult) and also say something about me, now, this year, in my life. Because I have found it to be my highest level of artistic expression, it begins my creative year and sets the tone while bringing renewal and all of the promises of spring. I stuff a lot of meaning into a three-hour show.

I've been concentrating a lot on writing this year, and have noted earlier that I heard myself saying you couldn't make flat dried gelatin, so I had to try. I have several oddly-shaped pieces of relatively flat gelatin in pale colors, some slightly patterned, and I decided to make them into a book.

Artist's books have always intrigued me and they do not have to take any conventional *book* forms, so I considered the box I made a few years ago to be one...but this will be more recognizable. I think I will make it as an open book with the leaves standing up fanning out so all can be read at once and no one will be tempted to try to turn the pages. Thin gelatin is breakable.

All I've done so far is look at the pieces and let my visual mind get a handle on it. I've brainstormed some of the content, and as I'm reading a book now that includes story theory I'm looking for a narrative arc and some thematic continuity. I hesitate to write on the pages because I probably only have one chance to get them right.

Then I expect to use some type of hinges or gelatin tape to connect them to each other. It will be somewhat painstaking so of course I am procrastinating, which is part of the whole role of blogging in my life...if you don't know what you're doing, write about it. Fortunately we're having a giant wet snowstorm so all of my mundane plans for the day were scrapped.

First thing I'm going to try is transferring a copy from paper onto gelatin with water and maybe with alcohol. I've read about it but don't feel like doing the research. I think it will work or give me some random effect I can use.

I've already got some patterns in some of the sheets...I can't really make any more now because of my foot, so I'll have to make do with what I have. With the open pages I can insert some 3-D objects such as fish and flowers or other significant items as I develop the content.

I've already used a lot of technique I learned from paper-making such as laying the gelatin out on blank screens that I use for screenprinting. I had thought I would print on some of the flat gelatin and I still might, but I'm not supposed to be on my feet so that seems a little like self-torture for the sake of art which I promised I would not do. Because I don't want to end up back in the surgical ward.

The t-shirt design references my broken foot...I have the design mostly laid out but I don't like it so I'm setting it aside for a day. I ordered the shirts though. Mostly grey, a few white, and a few pink camo. I have to do a one-color so I thought I'd just use black ink and keep it simple. I cribbed most of the images off Indi's poster. I'll probably print them even if I don't like the design, because otherwise we won't have shirts.

So I'm going to get to work and make the book today if I can. I can write later if the electricity stays on. I want to welcome Grace Mitchell to the Jell-O Art universe. I got a message from her this morning from Adelaide where she is finishing up a sculpture degree and found me and my art online. I can't wait to hear and see what she will do with the medium!

Get to work on your pieces, everyone. There is always room at the gallery for your Jell-O and today is the perfect day to play with it, since all of Eugene is stopped in its soft tracks.

The fractal is one of my earlier pieces...someday I'll tell you how I did it. Took forever. About 6x6" and still looks perfect.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Make Some Jell-O Tonight

I don't know what I was thinking in my last post offering to pay for people's entry fees. I'm worse than broke, I have tons of medical bills to pay! But don't not participate because of money. Get some kind of patron.

I hope everyone has a pretty good idea of what their Jell-O is going to be like, and is gathering the molds, props, and colorings they will need. I probably talk too much about the dried gelatin I like to do, because virtually all of the other Jell-O will be the jiggly kind.

You can't do it too far in advance because it will mold, though you can refrigerate it if it fits. A lot of times I do practice pieces and remelt them, or make components and leave just the final details for the day or two before the show. You can freeze it too, with interesting results. Old Jell-O does odd things as it slumps into itself.

Using molds is probably easiest. Any kind of plastic container can work. I used to cruise the goodwills for interesting props or things to use for molds for odd things like fish or tiny tents. Barbies are sort of traditional, also legos and such. Purists don't use props, but again, there are no rules. It's fun to surprise people of course.

I've attached some photos of books I have to get you in the mood. The big one is a really cool book filled with details of the history and life of Jell-O, and there's a little three page spread about our Show and the Radar Angels. One of my Tacky Foods, Jell-O sushi, is pictured. That stuff was tasty, real sushi with jell-O strips substituted for the veggies. I'll bring my copy of the book to the show if you want to take a look at it, or you might be able to find it online.

I love the old slogans. They did one for nearly every year, and Jell-O turned 100 a few years ago. A few that might relate well to this years theme:

1909 The American Dessert Everything is ours, right?

1910 The Fairy Dessert who knows what they were thinking, some pop culture thing

1946 Jell-O Again right after World War Two

1952 Now's the Time For Jell-O as opposed to some other time when it wasn't

1967 The Best of Everything The giddy mid-Sixties

1968 How Sweet It Isn't Oddly prophetic end of the peace and love dream?

1975 Don't Say No, Say Jell-O Hell No, We Won't Go...

1987 What Being a Kid is All About As if...

1988 You Can't Be a Kid Without It Getting desperate

1990 Jell-O Gelatin's Place is a Kid's Face Rude

1995 It's Alive No, it's really dead cows skins and other offal. But it is pretty.

Maybe some of these will inspire someone. What might the slogans for these years be? I don't know any current ones. Someone ought to be able to translate some protest signs into Jell-O speak.

Whose Jell-O? Our Jell-O!

Banks took the time, we got the slime.

It might be a stretch.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Occupy Jell-O Art

I've been thinking what a big and wide-open theme the Occupy part is: what started at Wall Street has gone literally everywhere. I got the most juice out of a speech by Michael Meade about Occupying Your Soul. It was "Be Here Now" taken to a personal, political contemporary reality.

Free your creativity, your fears (let them melt into a sweet colored puddle), free yourself from the restrictions that tell you that you can't be an artist. Everyone is occupying everywhere...I just heard that the Irish will occupy the Vatican and call all the pedophilic priests and other religious criminals to accountability. Maybe we will soon be free to end religious domination of our culture and it will be up to us to cut the chains that we impose upon ourselves in trying to be good, to make it to heaven, to never sin.

Dessert is sinful, isn't it? Jell-O is so sensually delightful and gorgeous. Free the desserts! Free the dieting people everywhere. Make dessert your art form. Free Jell-O Art and Tacky Food for the taking. Oh yeah, you are supposed to pay $3 for your display but if you can't afford to put your art in the show talk to me and I will make sure you can get it in. You are also supposed to pay a donation to get into the show, to support Kerns Art Center. (Not really both...if you bring an exhibit don't also pay at the door-it's voluntary) If I get the t-shirts made, and I think I will, I have the opportunity to make money at the show. I generally sell so few that I don't even make my expenses, but if I sell them I will donate for you if you can't. I can't really speak for the Radar Angels or the Gallery, but I'm pretty sure it would be wrong for someone to be turned away for lack of $3. It's not supposed to be for the elite.

The beginning of the Jell-O Art Show was as anti-Art...an art form that is legitimate in itself, without evaluation of its goodness or badness, taking a common kitchen material and transforming it with pure artistic creativity. Putting it in a gallery elevated it, and us, into the world of real, capital-A Art, and it can't be sold or graded. I know I've broken out of this with the Jell-O Art I've sold at the Market this season, but the show is still pure creation. I think the decision to charge the artists and the public was in the spirit of supporting the gallery overhead and staff, so that they didn't have to do it for free just because we wanted to. There's always going to be a little cognitive dissonance when artists interface with *the establishment.*

But it isn't about money, and to be honest I usually end up giving the shirts away, even though I am worse than broke now that I have these awful medical bills. But since Occupy is a people's movement, I just want to make sure it is accessible to people.

And I want to make sure it is fun and easy. I don't know if I will manage to get a piece finished. I'm trying to get the shirts done and whatever else falls in place after that. But I will brainstorm and work over ideas on the theme while I wait to be mobile, and I hope you are working on your ideas too. If you have questions about technique email me at dmcwho@efn.org. or read back in the posts to see if you find answers. Or just experiment until you get the results you want. You can remelt it endlessly.

I got a plastic sandwich box at the hospital which will make awesome tiny tents. You could easily carve one from a square block too. You are of course allowed to use props and things that are not Jell-O. And if you can't find a way to interpret the theme or part of it, just do what you want.
Play. Enjoy. Create. Get lost in the flow. Embrace the jiggle. Put your soul into it.

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Poster!

Indi Stern did a fabulous job on this year's poster. I love the way she pulled up so many related images and made them make sense of the theme. This particular theme takes some creative thinking, since at first take the purported end of the world/Mayan calendar speculation seems fairly unrelated to the nascent political movement umbrellaed under Occupy.

But artists interpret and they often take seemingly unrelated subjects and lead us across bridges between them. So there may likely be many rich interpretations of the theme.

Or not. People may focus on one aspect only. It doesn't matter so much, as in this art show pretty much anything goes. Sticking to the theme is certainly not mandatory; it just provides a starting place for those who need one.

All my Jell-O is now shoved into the project room, out of sight though not out of mind. I just can't do it in the days between now and Thursday when I have surgery, and for the two weeks following the surgery I will have to be extremely careful not to injure myself. The flat sheets worked out sort of well and I might try writing on them instead of printing, since I can't get out into the shop. I could make an illustrated book-of-hours type of thing. That might be quite doable in my current condition.

Another idea is to let some other interested Jell-O artist or artists come over and play. The piece I really want to do is a diorama of the Jell-O Art Museum, and what I don't think I can do is hobble between the two rooms fetching art supplies and managing all the different pieces of it. What I might be able to do is construct the various pieces, but maybe with some help I can get it done in the couple of weeks between surgery and the show.

No Tacky Food for me this year I guess. I can let go of that piece. There is always plenty, and if someone wants to borrow my molds, I have tons of candy molds with which I make the little molded jigglers that are edible. It can be a lot of fun.

T-shirts are iffy, but I can work on a design. I kind of have one in mind. There I have the same problem of having art supplies and stuff in the next room, but I can be organized about that. I had just finished setting up my project room with shelves and got all the various arts accessible: sewing machine, silk painting supplies, paper arts, etc. I've started using baskets with handles to help me ferry things on my little trips to the bathroom and bedroom from the living room...I'm able to navigate fairly well on the crutches using the baskets to carry. So if I convince myself I can do it, I will be able to do it.

Not taking any chances though. I looked at some pictures online of what happens when people don't follow doctors orders regarding pins and plates in their bodies...just like fixing a door or something, if you tear out all the supporting substrate, you will not be able to get a hinge or hook to stay in the wood...it will just tear out more until there is nothing left to hold onto. It is a rather sickening image when applied to one's foot, so I WILL stay off my foot and let the bones completely heal. Even if this means missing all of the usual things I do in April, May, June and July, I will. No taking chances. There is way too much at stake.

So. Poster!

Monday, February 27, 2012


I broke my foot. My main job for this month was Jell-O: making an entry, some t-shirts, and some tacky food for the show. I do not know what I'll be able to do; it's too soon.

I won't be standing up a lot if at all. I can get around on crutches a little, but it's my right foot so I won't be driving. I go to the doctor tomorrow so I can get a prognosis and some idea of my real limitations.

So since I had no real direction with the sheets of dried gelatin I will probably have to abandon that exploration. I do have several pretty flat ones so maybe I'll find a way to use them. I was going to work in miniature which might still work just fine.

The show could go on without t-shirts, but maybe by the time the show happens in four weeks I'll be able to do a few. I never make more than a dozen or two anyway. Not extremely likely, though I'll probably go ahead and design them if I can.

We'll just have to see. People traditionally do Jell-O art about their lives and kidney stones and such, so I might find something amusing in my situation. For now I just have to Occupy my chair. With my foot propped above heart level in a big plastic cast pumped up with air. It's sleek and attractive. Life on painkillers is just great until you try to taper off and stop them and find out how much a broken bone really hurts. Should be an interesting month.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


When I heard myself telling someone it was impossible to make flat dried gelatin I heard myself accept a new challenge. Sometimes I think I have tried everything...but there's always somewhere else to go.

As a screenprinter, I have a surplus of old screens and have used them to make paper, which works admirably to make smooth flat sheets. I tried it with Jell-O, which is of course way more liquid than paper pulp, so presented some extra problems.

I leveled and covered a card table, first trying just a sheet of plastic and then deciding to pad it with cardboard and newspaper for a more resilient surface. The screen is a wood frame with polyester fabric stretched on it, and most of my old ones are a bit warped and the fabric slightly loose, so I thought I would weigh down the frame to press the fabric tightly against the plastic to keep the gelatin from flowing out the sides.

That resulted in the gelatin staying on top of the screen instead of under it, between it and the plastic, so I took off the weights and created more space under the screen. It seems that the thickness of the gelatin is crucial and will take some control. Part of the reason it doesn't dry flat is the difference in thickness and subsequent drying time. I took a plastic scraper and tried to remove all the gelatin from one side of the fabric, leaving a thin flat plate of it on the other side.

One I dried with the sheet of plastic peeled off, and one with it left in place. When it is left in place the gelatin won't dry, but my best case scenario would have been for the gelatin sheet to adhere to the plastic and not the screen, for easy removal. Ha ha. I was amazed to find that this worked on one piece, when I happened to hit the exact time it was ready, and carefully peeled it from the fabric. This did result in a few stretched places where it was still too wet.

Over a few days I tried many variations on the process and discovered that releasing the gelatin from the fabric was the biggest problem. If I gently misted the underside with water, I could get some of the gelatin to peel off the fabric, if I tried at the exact right stage of softness. This did result in some distortion with the final drying of the piece. I kept trying different things and made a lot of interesting discoveries.

I got one pretty flat, pretty smooth piece about a foot square (the top picture.) It's uneven in thickness and some parts are glossier than others, but it's flat and it's thin. The picture doesn't show it that well, since I tried to use a low angle to show the flatness. I'm going to try printing something on it with screenprinting ink for my next development.

That's right, I'm going to make printed Jell-O! This is quite exciting.

The problem will be controlling the amount of ink and getting a good print with no chance of do-overs. I'll probably find an old Radar Angels t-shirt image to use for the experiment. I visualize selling gelatin sheets instead of shirts, since no one really wears most of the shirts from the past. That's one of those ideas that will not fly, of course, but if I went to the trouble of shadow-boxing the art and making it into a high-value product, I'll bet it could be some actual fine art. Mayor's show, here I come.

When the gelatin did pull off the fabric, it took a faint image with it of whatever had been in the screen originally. The gelatin seemed to pull out the traces of ink that were left in what is called the ghost image. On the pink pieces this came out as an interesting texture kind of like fish skin, mottled spots. There were also interesting bubbles from spraying with water and not smoothing out the drops.

I tried to find more deliberate designs to use, by using a screen that still had the stencil on it, but while I did get some small areas of pattern, the release problems were worse with the partially stenciled pieces. You can kind of see the fractal pattern on the purple pieces, kind of a wavy watery pattern to begin with.

This would more properly be described as embossed, which of course is easy to do by just putting the gelatin on a textured surface, but it opens some possibilities too. I have hundreds of screens with lots of interesting designs and textures on them. File notes in "pending uses."

The flat gelatin is the most exciting thing I have come up with so far this year. I had been wanting to combine papermaking and printing with Jell-O art in new ways, and this is a step forward into new territory. Just a small step with no clear direction, but yay!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Theme

The Radar Angels performing group is kind enough to start meeting early in the year and develop a theme for the annual show. I don't know how they come up with them year after year...it's a brainstorm of an advanced form. They consider songs to parody, costumes, who they can include and spotlight, and come up with a starting place in the creative process. It's a big help!

So they refined the idea and it seems to be graphically portrayed as:


2012...The End?

I don't know quite what they are thinking, but I'm guessing the end refers to the world and not to the Jell-O Show, though there might be somewhat of a retrospective in there. With the great slide show running in the side gallery there is always some history present, and the piece I am thinking about includes some archiving. But as usual the theme leaves things wide open to interpretation. Thanks, Angels!

Political Jell-O Art is fantastic. The irony drips like melted art as you try to make essential life statements in a silly food medium. The colors and transparency and joyfulness of the gelatin make it a great vehicle to talk about politics and passion and life and death. The Occupy movement is rich with life-affirmation and I am quite sure people will be able to Occupy the gallery and free up their enslaved wage souls with some ridiculous sculpture. I'm serious.

I take my Jell-O Art very seriously and devote my whole winter to it on many levels. I have not progressed very far into my ideas for this show...I'm in that messy gritty period when there are too many possibilities and none of them look very fun or attractive.

I heard myself telling someone it was near impossible to make flat dried Jell-O so of course I have to now try to make that, even though it amounts to a distraction, though you never know. I tried pouring some nearly gelled gelatin on a blank screen from my screenprinting shop. It is producing some thin flat sheets but not in a useable way yet. I may have to put the screen in the bathtub and soak off the remains. I was kind of trying to merge paper-making and Jell-O Art, which is a direction I will continue in, in a vague way.

I've done a lot of research, writing and thinking about Occupy so have lots of ideas about what I might say, but none are concrete. Sometimes it works to find a prop of some kind to center the project, like the copper-fronted breadbox I found the year I wanted to do something about remodeling my house. It made a good project for Fish-head Barbie to work on. (Yes, a Barbie doll with a fish head was my "avatar" for years, representing me in my pieces. She fell apart and was too limiting anyway, but the fact remains that Barbie is usually present at the show in someone's art.)

I used to go to the Goodwill As-Is store but any trip to Bring or any kind of re-use store could be productive. I've been sorting through my many boxes of little things I've collected to see if anything comes up. Cleaning is usually a good way to get started on creative projects, if for no better purpose than making some space for them. I've been doing a lot of cleaning.

For graphic ideas I go through books and magazines and sometimes the internet, though that is kind of like going to the library without a plan. I know I need to see a picture of the Mayan calendar stone and learn a little more about the cycle's end, and I'm always looking for cool lettering to use on the t-shirt. So I will sort through the art books and fill my brain with images. That's another part of my creative process that helps to firm up the ideas.

Sometimes people give me random ideas or items that seem Jell-O-like to them but usually this is far too early for most people to start thinking about it. It's also too early to get worried about it, so I trust my process even though right now it is unfocused and not productive. It will happen.

Usually I do spend a second or two thinking I won't do any Jell-O this year. Thinking I might do the miniature model of the Jell-O Art Museum is like that...it won't actually require very much Jell-O, and I have about 25 pounds of it. I know I don't want to do a giant thing like I did last year, or a lot of small things like I did the year before, and the year before that. It is always a fallback to just bring some objects from the past shows and call it a display...but that wouldn't be all that satisfying for the artist struggling to express.

So, thinking about it and playing around with a jar of gelatin. Hope you are too.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Jell-O Show details

Maude Kerns hasn't updated their website yet but it's fairly safe to assume that most things about the Jell-O Art Show will be the same as always. It is a one-night show, Saturday March 31, from 5-8. Note the early time. There is a performance at 7-ish by the legendary Radar Angels, and during that it is sometimes hard to see the art as it is jiggling too much from the laughter of the crowds. It is a small gallery and does fill up most years. If you really want to see the art at its best, come at the beginning.

To display your Jell-O creations, you have to bring them to the gallery at around 3:30 and pay a $3 entry fee to register. Nothing is juried; there is no bad Jell-O Art! People from toddlers to elders make entries. If you need tips on how to tame the medium, I will put some in the blog in the future. If you have a pedestal you can bring it, but the gallery has a goodly number of them for you to use. The lighting is pretty good in there, and if you are very special you might be able to use some electricity, but that is usually grabbed up by David Gibbs because he is definitely special.

The Tacky Food Buffet is also all-comers but it is asked that everything be edible and safe to eat. If you have any ingredients that might cause allergies, please make a little sign. Creativity is great here too, and the foods do not have to include Jell-O. "Tacky" is open to interpretation and the range can be wide. There is generally a lot of Easter candy like marshmallow peeps and the gallery staff brings crazy stuff like the cat-litter-box-with-tootsie-rolls-dessert kind of quasi-food. Often people make authentic vintage gelatin recipes like aspics and molded entrees and that can be delightful, especially when you are not sure if you really want to taste things. I've had chocolate covered brussels sprouts and tuna parfait and many odd and tasty treats. One of my most brilliant entries was Jell-O sushi which was real sushi with Jell-O strips substituted for the veggies and fish. Usually I just make plates of Jigglers using candy molds, most times the Christmas ones and things like the Virgin Mary so you can bite off her head. It's all in bad taste but one of the most fun parts of the show.

You have to take your Jell-O home at the end of the show at 8:00, because no one wants to throw away your art. There are literally no rules to your exhibit. Sometimes the actual Jell-O is hard to find among the props people use but generally it is the focus. You are certainly not confined to the theme, which this year is a combo of Occupy and the end of the world as seen in the Mayan calendar, or rather the popular conceptions of those two social memes. You can take things as seriously as you wish. I take my Jell-O Art extremely seriously.

There will be a donation to get into the show, usually like $2 or $5 per family, to support the gallery. The whole thing is a fundraiser for the gallery, by the Radar Angels.

Most of the Eugene artists do not make edible Jell-O creations, although we did have someone bring down some wonderful edible ones one year. Most of us do not even really use Jell-O brand gelatin for our art, because we need a lot. You can get the 32-envelope boxes of Knox for starters, for 8 or 9 bucks, but I have been buying it online for about $7 a pound and that is the way to go if you really want to get into it. You can remelt gelatin numerous times to start over, but I like having a lot on hand so I don't have to run to the store. I also use dye instead of food coloring because the palette of food coloring is so limited. When I make edible things for the buffet I do use the real Jell-O or the kosher variety of it, for the flavors and the traditional colors.

There are lots of techniques and tips and tricks and I'll get into those as we go. One thing I finally learned is that you have to let the plain gelatin "bloom" in cold water if you don't want it to get lumpy. I used to pour in hot water like you do with the dessert but it is much easier to make it in cold and heat it in the microwave for a minute. If you want it to be stable at room temperature you just make it a lot stronger than the package directions, i.e. less water. I use 3 ounces of gelatin per cup of water to make the dried stuff. It isn't a perfect science. There are many ways to do it right. Countless ways.

So that's a start. Stay tuned for the musings and development of ideas that can be so extra fun this time of year. I'll be working on it constantly for the next two months. That doesn't seem like long enough to do all the things I have in mind. Better make some today! (not a real slogan though it sounds just like one.)
I have a collection of Jell-O photos at photobucket in several folders if you want to see some delightful things from the past. Here's the AK-47 I mentioned in the last post. I know, you can't see it. You had to be there.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Jell-O Show 2012

Hurray! The date has been set and the theme chosen for this year's Jell-O Art Show. It will be at Maude Kerns Art Center as usual, on a Saturday night from 5-8 pm as usual, but unlike the past two years, it will not be the first Saturday in April! It will be March 31, which seems like divine intervention for this Saturday Market vendor.

Now I won't have to try to do way too much in one day. The Jell-O Show is already a very big day. Not only do I "have to" make some kind of remarkable personal piece, I like to make lots of tacky foods for the Tacky Food Buffet, and I also enjoy helping decorate the hall and assist the performers if needed. In addition I make and sell the t-shirts, and they have to be brilliant, which is a big project all in itself. March is always very busy, particularly that last week.

I might even make some jiggly Jell-O for my display this year. I love the dried and will certainly do something with it, but the jiggle is a big part of the fun too. The wet Jell-O is such a frustrating and bewitching art material that I kind of miss it.

The theme is Occupy/End of the World for 2012. That should be a fascinating merge and I can just picture the Radars rolling a giant Mayan calendar replica out onto the stage and puzzling over it like the apes from the planet. (I would even be willing to help make the replica, if any Radars are reading this.) We could build it out of protest signs and turn it around into the Occupy mode. I'm sure the performers are already making lists of songs to parody and thinking about apocalyptic costumes. It's the Jell-Occupyocalypse. Cue the bongos.

Lots of us Radar Angels are political activists or were in the past at least, and are still radicals, so it will be a fun opportunity to add our humor to the political discourse. Political Jell-O can be tedious and derivative and repetitious and plebian just like any other kind of political art, and I have done my part in making political Jell-O. I once used an AR-15 (AK-47-looking rifle) to make a mold to put in a coffin surrounded by flowers and Jell-O bullets and clips and had a whole thing going about burying violence. I dressed the mannequin legs in camo.

Speaking of the mannequin legs, I had my doubts when I used them in last year's sculpture, Hope. I need them back. This winter I started taking parts of the display and putting them to other purposes. The mask can stand on its own, as can the bird. The floral panels look great on the walls of my living room, and the little seascapes with grass and waves are presently being made into little mermaid perches. The figure itself, which I appropriated glibly from Celeste, might be restored to its original condition, though the additional snakeskin will probably stay on it. For it to be a part of the Jell-O Art Museum, it should really be in its original condition, which was elegant and graceful. Hard to dance covered with orchids. So Hope will be transformed. That's the theme of the beginning of the movement.

The Jell-O Art Museum concept is alive and well and I am designing a sign for it and have in mind to build a scale model of it. I probably won't be making either one out of gelatin though I will try to work that in. I don't know how much of it will be realized in the short winter period I have for Jell-O Art.

I also don't know where I am going with the Jell-O Art retail I tried last season. It wasn't a failure, and had lots of fun aspects that could continue to develop, but it's pretty distracting at Market and cut into my clothing sales I believe. At HM it was kind of cluttered. I don't know what to do with it. Last night I dreamed I was eating all of the shells and flowers, and they were nearly all gone when I realized it. Not that I would, but it was funny as a dream. Apparently I want to be done with them. Maybe it just means I am hungry for transformation.

Make some Jell-O, artists! At least start thinking about it.