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'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 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.