Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Show Week: Half over!

Crunch time. My sculpture is not finished yet, and this is as late as I have ever been since I started doing the dried gelatin pieces. It's almost too late, but I have lots of parts and a pretty clear vision of what I want, so it's a matter of getting it glued together and dried so it can go into its bell jar and then make it to the show intact.

I may have to take a repair kit, as it is a long way across town. Not a few pieces have failed to survive getting from kitchen to gallery, as many legends will tell. Someone should collect tales about the Jell-O Art Show, before we completely forget our history. Maybe next year for our 30th show we should do that! I'll put it on my list.

My Jell-O Art Show list is long, full of details about things I need to remember for that concentrated day. One year I got halfway there without my that's one aspect. I have three Queen costumes planned for this year, with accessories to swap out and strict timing requirements. When the show itself opens at 5:00, I will have been there for many hours setting up the stage, props, staging details, my t-shirt table, the many headpieces I will bring in case someone wants to own one ($25) and display for those. Sometimes I bring an archival piece or two but probably not this year, since somehow I have to fit a throne into my car. 

Quickly, since many of you are working on pieces or still planning to, I will remind you of a couple of pro tips. It helps to make your Jell-O stronger than the package directions for any kind of stability in your piece, and to keep it from melting at room temperature. Any extra amount of clear gelatin (like Knox) will help. Those little packets have about a quarter ounce in them I think, so you will need a lot of them to make a difference, plus you can decrease the amount of water to help. If you are using Jell-O brand, you have a lot of chemicals and sugar in there too, which you don't need, since you are presumably not going to eat your sculpture. I buy plain gelatin powder online in bulk to make mine, adding only dye, but some artists believe that the sugar in Jell-O brand helps add strength. I use up to 3 ounces of powdered gelatin per cup of water, but you may not need that much.

The other thing is to know that gelatin has to absorb water a little (called "blooming") before it is ready to get to a liquid state. Mix it up in cold water, even though the package directions on the edible kind say to use hot first. Use hot first if you are not adding any extra gelatin, but if you are, let it bloom in the cold water for about ten minutes and then melt the whole mess. I use the microwave but you can do it on the stovetop as well. Stir it a lot. Get all the graininess dissolved and then skim off any foam that forms on top. 

Molds are best for quick work and if you make it strong enough you can pry the pieces out of the mold with your fingers, or try the slight melting technique of sitting the mold in hot water for a few seconds. You can glue broken pieces with molten gelatin but it's best if you plan for intact pieces with few seams, as the pieces tend to separate along their natural lines of formation. Anything can be used as a mold, but flexible plastic might be the best. Scour the goodwills for odd things to use as molds. I've found tons of old molds too, as people don't tend to value them as they used to. You can use glass and harder containers but be warned that gelatin is strong and can chip glass by pulling it that hard. It's truly amazing.

You can also use anything for color, including food coloring, dye, or candy ingredients. Be creative. This is supposed to be fun. As far as making a statement goes, I like to do that, but I don't always connect with the theme. So far my piece does not connect with fools, but it could by the time I finish, and be reflected in the title. Strange artisty things happen when I work on mind flows in directions unknown and sometimes unarticulated. We'll see!

I finished the shirts on Friday and am still working on a few props, plus still learning lines and songs for the performance. I must say this Queen position has been an opening to so many levels of  the Jell-O Art Show that I did not appreciate in the same way before I was crowned. I've always done the art and shirts and promoted the event, but now I have a kind of maternal or benevolent view of the happening. I feel responsible, and the pressure to be clever has been hard on me. 
Those Slug Queens use more glitter than I do

Being able to act from a persona is very helpful, though. I do what the Queen of Jell-O Art wants to do, speak like she would speak, guide like she would guide, and try to empower my public and my fellow artists. She's not autocratic or demanding, unless that furthers the fun of the narrative, and she is a very human queen. She wants to be loved (from a distance) and wants to serve well. She needs no King and never will, in fact she resists power even while trying to use hers for the forces of good. It's a position that is open to interpretation but at the same time somewhat circumscribed in that many things are expected of her. 

This is a Knight of my realm, being far too resplendent.

I do find that when I rise to those expectations through her, the results are generally pleasing. I got to receive an award for the Radar Angels from the Mayor last year. I get to be as royal as I please as long as I ignore those who don't take the whole thing seriously. And I also get the option of not taking the whole thing too seriously!

And it is supposed to be fun! Repeat that when you have gelatin all over your kitchen and your piece keeps slipping away from you. If  Jell-O makes you her fool this year, no matter. It will be over quickly, and you will get another chance next year to be in similar straits. Don't worry about it. Bring your failure and put it on a pedestal, and you will find it looks a lot more successful in context. Art is not supposed to be perfect, it's supposed to be creative. Do your best to open your synapses and let your brain tell your hands and eyes what it sees. 

Here's your chance to do real art,to take it to any level you like. It's all up to you. I will love it no matter what. So when you see an old lady in a funny outfit come to ask you about your piece and your artistic process, don't be afraid. I am not going to make a fool of you, although you are welcome to that option. And don't mistake me for one of those other slimy Queens, the Slug Queens, though there will be several of them there trying to be important in a realm that is clearly that of Queen Gelatinaceae of the Jell-O Art. 

Just kidding, they're not slimy. I am truly grateful to those who show up, costumed in style, to honor our show.  If there were not Slug Queens setting a graceful example, I would not have my own position, very likely, and wouldn't know what to do with it. And anyone who goes around in lime green and chartreuse gets accolades from me. I am lucky in that I get all the Jell-O colors, which I interpret to be all the colors. My slime comes in a rainbow.

We will see what our designated Slug Queen representative, Sitara Slugshine, brings for our delight. She will appear around six to give her Benediction, so come early. It's also best to see the pieces if you come early. At 7:00 when the Radar Angels perform, it is a bit hard to see the art, and at 8:00, the big trash cans come out and everything gets put away. So see you there! 


Saturday, March 18, 2017

Telling Secrets

The Radar Angels have always tried to keep the performance details a secret. This comes from the Olden Days, and at the 29th year we are qualified to have Olden Days. It is not the 29th Annual, to be precise, because one year was skipped, but anyway that's a lot of shows.

The secrecy is from the other big Radar Angel activity, being a part of the entertainment at the Oregon Country Fair. It seems, according to legend, that if the details of the show got out, the Vaudeville people would steal them and scoop the Angels by putting them in their own shows. Imitation is not always the sincerest form of flattery, but it makes for some lively fun, and probably there were leaks. Leaks are inevitable with secrets, of course.

And details of the performance are fun, and I can't resist. The idea behind the pictured prop came from newish Angel Michael Hall, bless his heart and his aorta too. I loved the idea of Borscht-flavored Jell-O and it works with the theme. I was going to save it for a surprise at the show but then, in agony for a better t-shirt idea, I decided to base my shirt on it.

It won't look quite like this full-colored giant box but the Fool's Jell-O theme makes sense here. Like if Cherry Jell-O was gold, this would be fool's gold. Pretty obvious that anyone who eats it would feel kind of foolish...really, a dessert made of beetroot? 

I don't know why not. I plan to make some for the Tacky Food Buffet, actually, because I'll bet it will taste as good as any of the other flavors and concoctions that people bring to the Buffet. It certainly won't be the strangest thing ever eaten in that room at Maude Kerns. If you are very lucky someone will bring something even more unusual and you will get to taste it. It depends. All the food is supposed to be legally edible which means made in a commercial kitchen with all efforts to not make anyone actually sick. It's fine to gross people out. You know when you see that fake kitty litter with the tootsie rolls you get a little thrill out of eating a tootsie roll. If you like them. People always love biting the heads off the icons, after all. We live for some safe risk.

So yes,  a teaser prop like the pussyhat was, and maybe I'll post more if I actually get down to it and make some. I have a brain full of ideas and somewhat less will to manifest them. I hope I'm only procrastinating because there's a fantastic idea in there trying to find the way to the light. I'm certainly not a lazy person...but I do admit to taking my time to get around to some things. Deadlines help.

And April Fools' Day is fast approaching. It's practically here, really. I have a lot to practice today, songs I am not quite to the harmony on, costumes I have to figure out how to get in and out of. Props that would be nice if I would put in the time to get them made. T-shirt art that must be drawn. There's no turning back though, as the shirts arrived and await me. 

I had to write a post though. I know there is at least one artist out there thinking and stirring. A Slug Queen or two is dusting off a crown and many people are thinking they might attend if they don't have anything more fun to do at the end of spring break. 

It's a fun day, usually, April Fools. Lots of people have great pranking abilities and we all need a laugh. There will be that short window of opportunity to do it with gelatin, and many wild ideas are crossing minds out there. They have certainly not all been done before. Yours hasn't, that's for sure. Do it. Fool us. Fool us twice. No shame will be involved, and how many places in your life can you be sure of that? Not many these days. Plus, you can find out all the secrets and decide for yourself if they are worth keeping. 

That zeitgeist, she is hard to grasp. We're trying to pin it down, but that might not happen until the very last minute. You might want to see it, through the Jell-O lens.


Friday, March 3, 2017

It's Jell-O Time!

Oh, gosh, I am having such a hard time getting the World of Jell-O Art launched this year. I got out the pieces and made some more pieces and made a few flowers 
 for gifts and such, but I have had no luck getting into my piece. I gifted myself this big bell jar 


and have a few ideas of what I want to do, but I am making very little progress. All of this protecting human rights and calling out liars is taking up a lot of time. At least I did make a hat. It isn't quite finished but it will be fun to wear as part of my costume. I mostly do things to see if I can and this one was a fun challenge. I used the plastic sleeve from a bag of potatoes as I thought it would expand and stretch well but it mostly contracted and shrank, so it was fun to have some technical problems to deal with. For things like this I use a rim of romex electrical stays stiff but can also be shaped to fit your head, and I sewed the plastic mesh to it around the bottom after it was covered with the gelatin. Then I made a hat to go inside it out of one I had around, because dried gelatin is scratchy and hard and not comfy to wear like that anyway. I try to make the headpieces comfortable by the way I attach the bands and mostly succeed with that. But you can happily deal with your own technical challenges, as that is definitely part of the fun.

 Yes, we are working on the show, and the theme, 
Fool's Jell-O, is one I am falling in love with. Everybody is a fool, and that is all I can tell you about our secret show. We keep it a secret for fun, and of course to hide the fact that it isn't ready until it's ready, and it's nowhere near that yet. We know what songs we're using, and the rough outline, but I have a lot of decisions to make about my character and what she will say and do. I kind of know what she will wear, but the bigger question is how many outfits I will try to put together. The trick for us, the Radar Angels, is that we have historically had a finger right up the zeitgeist and it makes for some really rich comedy and high amusement. This year will be no different with our fingers pointed everywhere and most of all, at ourselves. Because what could be more foolish than spending the better part of two months producing a silly show that lasts for twenty minutes of a three-hour event that somehow takes up at least a week? I doubt there IS anything more foolish. Of course, as you know, a fool is not as simple as she appears. So look out, zeitgeist.

Since I spend almost the whole day at the Gallery, I can't go to Opening Day of the Saturday Market, which makes me sad, but as Queen Gelatinaceae of the Jell-O Art Realm, I have a bigger responsibility to my art and my public than I do to actually making a living. Apparently. But this year, anything that makes me a greater fool is part of the plan. I do encourage all of you to play up this April Fool's Day opportunity as much as you possibly can. Dress up!

We all need some levity! We need a lot of it. I do find my best self in art and creating, so I'm here to encourage you to get started. It's already March! There will be many distractions, not to mention marches, so we will have to try to keep a focus on what's really important, and that is Jell-O. 

So quickly, what I make is dried Jell-O, or actually generic gelatin that I mix up really thick and dry out in really thin pieces. I then glue it together into flowers and other items with the molten gelatin as glue, so it's very simple in concept and as complicated as you want to make it in execution. I put in a little dye but you can color yours with practically anything you like. 

By thick I mean like 6-12 times the recommended amount of gelatin to water. In other words, cut the water in the directions to a fourth or less. I put mine in a quart canning

jar, filling it half full of cold water and stirring in 6 ounces of gelatin. You don't have to make yours so stiff, because I am guessing you don't buy your gelatin in 5-pound bags as I do. 

You dissolve the powder in the cold water and let it bloom for awhile, say 15 minutes, and then melt it, in the microwave or on the stovetop. It then clarifies as it cools a little and you can skim off the foam (maybe drying it for your art) and pour the melted gelatin into dishes or molds or whatever suits your plan. I use glass pie plates that I have dedicated for the purpose because the dried gelatin can actually pull chips right out of the pyrex so you can't use them for food again. It is really tough stuff.

I make it really thin in the molds, like less than an eighth of an inch. For it to dry before it gets mildewed, it can't take more than a day or two. After about eight hours or so you can peel or pry it out of the dishes, flip it over to dry the other side, and tear it or cut it or stretch it or otherwise manipulate it in whatever ways you like. It's quite fun and if you don't like what you made, rehydrate it and you can start over. That also works if you can't get it out of the pans...get it wet and wait a little and it will be flexible again. Tend it carefully and if it does start to get moldy, you can try brushing it with bleach or melt it and start over, and there is always the compost pile when you give it up. Rats eat it happily, probably possums and raccoons will even eat it. (Raccoons might be too picky, since it is only technically carrion and hard to wash off.)

But if you want the  famous jiggle you can't make have to make wet and that you have to do closer to the show. It will keep in the fridge for some time but you might want to make a practice piece and then remelt it or start over. If you like to use the Jell-O brand, go for it, but it has too many chemicals and sugars in it for me, and attracts ants, so I don't use it unless I am making edible things. And of course I don't recommend eating it though I admit I took this to a Thanksgiving dinner and we all ate it. It tasted great too.

Molds are the easiest way to get the shapes you want and plastic that is slightly flexible is probably the easiest thing to use as a mold, but I have tried many many things and generally they work within their limits. Jell-O is not a particularly cooperative medium, so try to remember how much fun you are having and don't get discouraged.

For some reason I can't comment on my own blog so don't expect a response if you comment here, but you can contact me on Facebook or by my email, as soon as I wrest it away from the phishers that conned me last night. This Fool stuff is for real, and I am susceptible. Very. 

If you aren't, take a risk and let yourself play the fool in some new ways this month. I'll try to post often, and keep a presence on my Facebook art page, Gelatinaceae, and we do have an event page as well. And, if you're curious, I have another blog, Divine Tension, where I really play the fool. Repeatedly.