Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Pink Coalition

In late November a friend texted to ask if I was going to the Women's March on Washington.  Not having heard about it, I did a quick Google search and responded with a "Yes, let's go!". What started as a carpool quickly turned into chartering a bus, knowing that I would have many friends that would want to come along too.  

Our bus could accommodate 56 people, so I initially factored in 6 scholarships wanting to allow some young female students to come along at no charge. The scholarships went like hotcakes and young women continue to ask if there were any scholarships left. Not wanting to turn them away, my mother and I started sewing pink fleece hats, and selling them for $20, with all proceeds going to more scholarships.  Friends and complete strangers gave many straight donations ranging between $20 and $200, sponsoring a total of 15 scholarships.  

All together we raised over $4000, more then we needed, and were able to give a $1000 donation to Planned Parenthood.

Just after the New Year our bus, "The Pink Coalition", was filled to capacity. I called the bus charter company to ask if I could reserve a second bus, but there were none.  If there had been, I'm sure we could've filled a second bus because the requests kept coming!  Instead, I steered those interested towards other bus companies and Sister Marches in Maine.  

The next step was to host a Poster Painting and Pin Making Party in my Rockland studio.  Over the course of an eight hour day, about two dozen people came through, and 60 bright pink posters were painted by women and men, teenagers, neighbors, old and new friends.

Then, on their first day of class, my Kinetic Sculpture students at the Maine College of Art dove right into a collaborative project creating a 12 foot long giant hot pink cat in five hours flat!

 One team built the head, 

One team built the body, 

While others created the tail and legs.

By the end of class we had a giant pink cat puppet.

At 8:30 PM that night we loaded the big pink cat into the luggage compartment beneath the bus and crossed our fingers hoping to get it passed security in DC.

We picked up passengers in Rockland, Portland, Biddeford and Portsmouth along the way, drove through the night (trying our best to sleep) and arrived in DC at 9 AM.

We had good intentions of staying together, but soon found that to be impossible and ended up breaking into smaller groups, marching with fellow protesters from around the country.

To our delight, we were able to march all day with our giant pink cat, who fellow marchers referred to as "The Pussy Dragon". 

I personally had the pleasure of being "The Pussy Dragon's" head, enjoying every opportunity to turn towards people (especially kids) and open its mouth, so I could see them smile back.

The DC police, National Guard and residents welcomed us, all one million of us.  As we marched peacefully and protested in support of women's rights and other causes including immigration reform, health care reform, protection of the natural environment, LGBTQ rights, racial justice, freedom of religion, and workers' rights.

We departed DC on our bus about 6:30 PM, drove through the night and all returned safely, both exhausted and exhilarated to have been part of this HUGE (5 million) international event.  We made new friends, solidified our convictions, made our voices heard and committed to being activists from this day forth...


Saturday, December 31, 2016

COWS - Clean Ocean Wave Sculpture

COWS - Clean Ocean Wave Sculpture at the UNE Marine Science Center

One of my big projects as the artist in residence at University of New England for the fall semester was to create a clean ocean waves sculpture, otherwise known as COWS. The idea came about when I learned that September 17 was International Coastal Cleanup Day.  Susan Farady's Marine Pollution class was scheduled to pick up ocean debris at local beaches. I caught them just in time and asked that instead of disposing of the trash properly, they give it to me for a sculptural installation. 

Work-study students Gillian, Mackenzie and Ben.

My work-study students and I painted a COWS trash bin with a wave on it. We placed it on campus and encouraged other students, friends and strangers to pick up ocean debris and deposit the trash in the COWS bin. 

Next the students diligently collected data on what we'd gathered. In total... 88 plastic bottles, 71 cans, 18 lobster trap pieces, 8 shoes, 7 glass bottles, 4 golf balls, 4 shotgun shells, 3 hats, 1 dog toy, 1 horseshoe, 1 plastic tarp, 1 pink kitty pool, 1 scarf, 1 CD case, 1 portable scale, 1 iron pipe, 1 gift card and lots of plastic bags, food wrappers, fish line and nets.

Ben, Gillian, Lena and Brad shred trash.

The next step was to color sort, clean and shred all of the material into weave-able strips.  

Shredded plastic bottles

We then hung a “loom” of stainless steel wire on the Marine Science Center lobby stair rails.

For three days we engaged the UNE community in a big trash weaving effort:  
UNE students, staff, faculty and even some of my friends and family participated.  

Ben, Galicia and Laura weave trash.

The goal of the project was to engage the UNE community in a hands-on creative project while raising awareness about the amount of ocean debris that washes up on our shores and how vitally important it is for us to keep our ocean clean.  The Clean Ocean Wave Sculpture is now on permanent display at the Marine Science Center. 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Henna Tattoo Project at UNE

What an exciting first few days as the Artist-in-Residence at the University of New England.

I decided to kick off my semester with a Henna Tattoo Project to give me some quality one-on-one time with the student community.  Little did I know how popular henna is with the college crowd.

Me, Grayson, her K-tape and henna tattoo.

Students arrived with some familiarity of the beautiful markings of henna tattoos, also known to some as Mehndi. I started off by explaining that this body art was developed in the Middle East and India where it is now used in preparation for celebrations like at weddings and religious holidays in many cultures.  More about the history here.

My intentions with the project were to give students an opportunity to understand history, customs and traditions of another culture. As well as the botany, chemistry and biology of this natural dye.  Since UNE has exceptional science departments, the students were able to teach me much about the science of henna.  I encourage students to choose a design, symbol or imagery that would have meaning or significance to them personally.

I explained that henna is first grown as a flowering shrub before added to other elements and able to produce a dye.

Applied as a gooey substance, the henna mixture is made containing 1/4 cup henna, 1/4 cup lemon juice, 1 1/2 tsp sugar, 1 1/2 tsp essential oil with term.  Recipe & instructions.

The lemon juice acidity helps break up the henna leaves and also helps preserve the hydrogen atoms in the mixture. When the mixture is then exposed to oxygen it will darken the dye. The sugar acts as an essential oil that helps keep the henna sticking to the skin along with the added moisture. The henna will seep into the skin over time, which is why we allow it to dry and flake off on its own. Eucalyptus or lavender also aids in the process to temporarily dye the skin.  More about color here.

The darkness of the dye depends on many different factors. For example, some mixtures may have an increased level of dye content, as well as individuals' skin having an increased alkaline level making it darker or different parts of the body may absorb the dye better.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Square Wheeled Boat Building

When I first caught wind that there was going a People's Sculpture Race in Cambridge I proposed the idea, to the Wednesday physics lunch gang, that we put our heads together and come up with a design that we could build together.  "Think people+sculpture+wheels" was the pitch.  

After much banter, brainstorming, and abandonment of seriously ridiculous ideas we came up with the notion of a square wheeled boat (I think it was Wolfgang that we can mostly credit) that would ride with a pulley system over an inverted catenary track. 

Once our proposal was accepted and I mocked up an 1"=1' scale model which we exhibited with our 'competitors' at MIT.  

Wolf crunched the numbers, created templates, then left to go watch Dancing with the Stars live in LA while we...  

cut up the luan with a jig saw,

used a hot wire to cut the rigid insulation,

created triple-decker-luan-insulation sandwiches,

set up an assembly line for gorilla gluing,  

slid the stack into a long Polyethylene bag, sealed it, 

applied atmospheric pressure by evacuating the bag with a vacuum pump while the glue set up,

and repeated the process five more times for three sets of tracks.  

Next came the wheels...

four more triple-decker-luan-insulation sandwiches, 

evacuated in a vacuum bag while the glue set up,

a test roll...

a forstner bit to drill the holes, 

times four.

While we had the drill press revved up and running we cut the holes in the tracks with a hole saw.  

Wolf returned from LA to work on the drum... 
a 30" diameter sonotube with plywood on the sides, an aluminum axle, 

bushings made of high density polyethylene, U-bolts, flanges and an aluminum union, which serves as a "stop" 
(the union snugs up against the polyethylene bushing to prevent axle from moving laterally).

All the while Rob was working on the flanges, for the tubes that support the tracks, 
on the Shopbot CNC machine, made from 1/2" thick PVC sheet, hole diameter 1.915" to make a slip-on fit to the 1 1/2" sched 40 PVC tube. 

drilling holes in the PVC tubes and sheet and pinning for easy assembly.

Nils was cutting the platform, 

David was painting the wheels and drum, 

Daniel was painting the cycloid track, 

and I was wondering if we were going to pull off this crazy project.  

There was buzz of activity and everyone had their areas of expertise.  We agreed to divide and conquer.  We were working together, towards a common goal, putting our heads together when we hit a snag and problem solving collectively.  

Things really starting to look like they might work out when we put the wheels and drum together.  

We set it all up in the Science Center and gave it a push.  

Next came the pulley (a spliced line), wrapped around the drum 2 1/2 times,

the stays, the 'rigging', the sail, 

and the sign for the stern.  

 "Sisyphus", who in Greek mythology, was punished for chronic deceitfulness 
by being compelled to roll an immense boulder up a hill, 
only to watch it roll back down, repeating this action forever.  

Yup, that sounded fitting.

We gave her a test roll again and were all delighted that everything worked!

We were ready to take on the competition!

Thanks to our enthusiastic 'wave slaves' we were not short-handed the day of the race.  


As we rolled along, they picked up the tracks, and laid them down ahead of us repeatedly...

ad nauseam.

 Before we were 1/4 of the way through, 
we realized that it would take us an eternity to roll Sisyphus to the finish line. 

So, we carried the boat around the race course, 
laid down the tracks and rolled to the finish line in grand style, dead last! 
Did it matter?!

We may have lost the race but we had a boatload of fun, 
not to mention the fact that we were a big hit all afternoon with the four years olds.

Does Sisyphus struggle in vain, still?
Rolling his rock up that same hill?
Applying some physics
to problems of mythics,
We roll up hills without rolling uphill.

Click here to see lots of great pictures (courtesy of Greg Cook and WBUR) 
of all the other zany sculptures on wheels and read about the People's Sculpture Race.