Wednesday, May 25, 2016

and now summer

Today I slept late.  All the way to 7 am.  Then I made waffles.

This was the beginning of my summer break.  

Commencement was way back on April 30.  I did a gallery talk in Greenville the next day.  The day after that I got up at 6 am, ran, did PiYo and headed down to the basement studio to make sculpture.  Almost every weekday since, I've got up at 6, ran, did PiYo and sculpted until the family came home at dinner time.  Then I'd do my best to stay awake until 9:30 or so and I'd crash.  

If it sounds like a sin to have a more rigorous work schedule when you're supposed to be out on summer break, there's a good reason for it.  Two actually.  Blue and Violet get out of school for summer break tomorrow.  After that I'll be the full time daddy daycare until mid August.  So if new sculptures were going to be created, they needed to happen in the 3 1/2 weeks between the end of my school year and the end of theirs.  

I'll still be working on art after their summer begins, but not in the same way.  I have about a month to get stuff ready for my annual summer studio sale and then I'll need to work on some new drawings for the rest of the summer.  The drawings can be done upstairs in the air conditioning and it's easier to keep an eye on the kids there.  And there are vacations to go on and we have to have summer fun days at least once a week to keep us all entertained.  

Getting up early and working hard has paid off though.  In those 3 1/2 weeks I've created 7 new sculptures, one of which is a large scale public sculpture to be installed in June.  It's been a productive time.  My back hurts and I've got a lot of steel splinters in my hands but it's all worth it.  

Sunday, May 22, 2016

GCMA Exhibit extended!

I'm thrilled to tell you that my exhibit at the Greenville County Museum of Art has been extended through July 3, 2016.  That's an extra month to go by and see some colorful, goofy drawings and sculptures on your summer break!  Thank you to everyone who has made the effort to go by and see the exhibit already.  It is wonderful to have work in the art museum I grew up visiting and it truly means a lot for my friends and family to go by and see the show.  

 On Sunday, May 1 I gave a little gallery talk for the "Sundays At 2" event at the museum.  G had to work that day and Blue got to skip out for a friend's birthday party, so Violet and I drove into town by ourselves.  You never know what to expect at these things and you always fear that no one will show up.  I was prepared to talk to Violet for an hour if I had to.  Luckily, people actually showed up.  And a good number of people too.  I was honored to have Mom and LJ there, along with several of my students.

 Katertot (with arms crossed) came too!  She graduated a couple of years ago and is applying to grad school soon.  Winston brought his family too.  He graduated from our MAT program a couple of years back.  

 And there were lots of friendly strangers too.  Many of them spoke to me and asked good questions after my talk.  

 Lander's president and his wife also came out to show their support.  Can you even process how cool that is?  They're such good people.  I tried to sneak a selfie with them in the background but I messed it up.  

 During the talk I explained a few things about my process, from idea generation to the technical parts of using the materials.  People often seem to be very interested in the idea generation part.  With abstraction, there are often a lot of questions about why things look so weird and why I don't just portray things realistically.  I enjoy working through the steps of abstraction and explaining how images become meaningful and how they can be blended together in ways that allow them to have meaning that stretches just beyond the reach of words.  
 I talked a little about how many of my ideas begin with very ordinary things I may notice in everyday life.  Things my kids say, doing the laundry or cutting grass may inspire a thought that eventually becomes an important image artistically.  Metal Megan came and took that cool photo of me during the talk.

 Violet did great during the talk.  She even listened.  She vouched for me that the word "underwear" was funny as we discussed the importance of undergarments as one of my thematic images.  I also explained how one of her kindergarten "boyfriends" caused me to have a dad-crisis that directly led to the drawing below.

Oh and I shaved my long beard the night before so I previewed my summer face at the talk.  I even wore a shirt with a collar!

I am so thankful to everyone who came to the talk and everyone who has already seen the exhibit.  I'm also grateful to the entire staff of the Greenville County Museum of Art.  Everyone from the director to the curatorial staff to the education director to the security guards has been wonderful to me.  They are all top notch people.

If you haven't seen the exhibit yet, please go by and have a look.  Admission is free and you can see some really famous things while you're in the building.  The museum is located at 420 College Street, Greenville, SC 29601.  Take goofy photos while you're there and post them and tag them with #dougmcabee and #gcma.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

awesome student work, spring '16

This semester Braden wanted to design and create a typographic sculpture to install on campus.  He spent a significant amount of time researching different examples of typographic sculptures as well as different sculptural media and processes.  He eventually settled on using the power of a word to inspire viewers.

He then started listing words and phrases that would be considered inspiring and he kept working until he had something that he felt would fit the Lander campus and communicate something about his experience here with us.  He decided to create a sculpture using the word "achieve".

Then it was time to make a decision about the material.  Braden was already skilled at welding and had even created his own welding alphabet for a graphic design project.  Once he realized he could combine a functional feature with his sculpture, he decided on using concrete as his medium.  This was an interesting choice since neither he nor I knew anything about casting concrete letters.  But that's how we roll in sculpture.  Exploration is the key.

Braden put his graphic design skills to use while designing each letter.  He also got to put his Photoshop skills to use when he created a spiffy public art proposal to explain where and how he wanted to install the sculptural bench.  This proposal was sent directly to the president of the university for approval.  See, not only did Braden want to make this huge thing that neither of us knew how to make, but he wanted to permanently install it on the front lawn of the brand new residence hall.  Aim high, right?  

After the president met Braden and talked with him a few minutes, he was sold on the idea.  He loved the inspirational context of the sculpture and he even walked around campus with us to see if there might even be a more prominent location for the sculpture.  Once we all agreed it worked best in Braden's original location, he gave us the approval and told us not to mess it up.  

 Braden purchased several pieces of plywood and then he sat down and did a LOT of math.  Neither of us are very good at math.  But we figured it out and in just a couple of days we had the plywood forms built for the entire word.

We connected the letters in two sections and attempted to load them into my truck to transport them to the site.  Someone (who we will not name here) dropped their end of the plywood form and several pieces of wood broke off.  This minor setback delayed our transportation a little.  (Thanks Oscar!)

 When the plywood forms finally made it to the site safely, we attempted to line the letters up and secure them with braces and stakes.

 We anchored rebar into the ground inside the forms to secure the sculpture in place.

 During some of our math lessons, we tried to figure out how many cubic yards of concrete we would need.  Those numbers were outrageous and we realized they couldn't be correct.  Then we got a better estimate using a concrete slab calculator which told us we'd only need to mix 18 bags of 80 pound concrete mixture.  In the end it took 24 bags and just under 2,000 pounds of mix.

 Our concrete mixer was Rashaad.  He won the friend of the year award for mixing almost all 24 bags.  I had to help him near the end but he did very well.

 Oscar took a nap in the background while Drinkwater did homework and cheered us on.  

 Braden worked the concrete into the forms as we mixed.  He did his best to level and smooth the tops.

 Drinkwater did some work too and Erica came by to support us.

 The backs got sore as the shadows got long.  The sun was setting on us as we mixed the last few bags.

 The braces held and there were very little bowing.  We were relieved that the forms held.  Braden and I had visions of the forms tearing apart and concrete oozing onto the pretty new grass.

 But it all held together and as the final bit of sun streaked across the grass, we covered it all up and called it a day.  

 We all slept soundly and early the next morning I took the plastic off to see how we did.

After another day we arrived back to pop the plywood forms off and to see the sculpture for the first time.  We had no idea what we were going to find under the wood.  Luckily the air pockets were worked out by the hammer and we had straight smooth sides to the letters.

 The concrete expanded a little which left some of our interior pieces of wood rather tight.  We had to do some precision hammering to get all the pieces out.

 But look what Braden did!  It turned out great.  

It's an inspiring sculpture that our students will see several times each day.  It's also a bench where students can gather and hang out in the courtyard.  I was so proud of Braden that I let him graduate.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

brand new adults: graduation 2016 or the four year hug

 This week we said our farewells to another great group of artists and sent them out into the world.  This group really bonded together as a family during their 4 years as Lander Visual Art majors.  And with their big personalities and truckloads of talent, they also bonded together with their professors during that time.  The photo above is from the Senior Exhibit reception the night before graduation.  That's Lee, Tara, Laura, Erica, James, Megan, Caitlin, Oscar, Krysten and Braden looking proud.

 The next morning they all walked across the stage and became official adults.  After the ceremony, we always gather to take photos and offer our official goodbyes.

 My beard protected me from feeling emotions.  I sent Metal Megan off with a smile.  Not having a heart comes in pretty handy in moments like this.  It also helps that she'll be working in Greenwood so she not really leaving us completely yet.

 I think Rashaad was feeling all the feelings though.  He didn't say so, but he's the only member of his "Firesquad Family" who has one more semester with us.  His goodbyes were probably even harder than ours.  But 'Shaad always plays it cool as you can see from this pic I got.

jon wasn't able to be at graduation this time, but here's the rest of the Dream Team.

 That's Oscar.  We like Oscar.  I like Oscar.  Heck, I like all these goons more than I'll let them know, but this was a very special day for Oscar and for me.  

I have space issues.  I don't like people touching me or getting in my space.  But if I'm the South Pole, Oscar is the North Pole.  He's a hugger.  A chronic hugger.

Four years ago as a freshman, Oscar tried to hug me.  (About 400 times.)  Each time he tried, I repeated my rule to him.  "I'll hug you at graduation".  That's the rule.  Sure, there may be the very rare exception to that leaving the country for a year or winning a super great award, but that's the rule.  I'll hug you at your graduation.  Not a moment before.  

Of course, there are plenty of students who don't care and they'll slip by with a smile and a wave and we can both feel good about that.  But there are others who come to feel that with their four years of blood, sweat, tears and lack of sleep, they have earned not only a diploma, but also a hug from the non-hugger.  

Oscar has literally chased me around campus trying to hug-attack me.  I've had to threaten to fail him multiple times.  I may have been forced to wave a hammer at him (joking).  But he didn't get a hug.  Not before graduation.  That's the rule.  

The Oscar hug has been building steadily over time.  This semester you could see the hug wave building higher and stronger with each passing month.  Oscar and I both started working out to get ready.  I've been doing arms and abs for months to prepare.  Friday night at the Senior Exhibit we gave each other a knowing look before we left.  Oscar whispered under his breath, "Soon McAbee, soon."

Saturday after graduation we all met near the art building.  I dropped my hat and program on the ground and started stretching.  Oscar gave his phone and camera to designated photographers.  Family, friends and professors gathered with their recording devices to capture the moment.  When everything was perfect, it happened...

 That was a hug four years in the making.

Thanks to Singletary for capturing the still pictures and sharing those with me.  This was an epic moment.  Oscar really did earn his hug.  

And yeah, everyone got a hug.  Congrats to them all.