Standing in the shadow of the moon

I was vacationing with my family in Oregon during the total solar eclipse this summer (08.21.17). We took advantage of an eclipse-related festival and attended educational / cultural events at my alma mater, Oregon State University, for a couple of days.

It was wonderfully nostalgic -- here's a photo of me in front of Fairbanks Hall, the art building, which seems almost entirely unchanged since I graduated. The atmosphere, with smells of paint and views out the old glass windows, is just as I remembered. The gallery inside was hosting a really well-conceived show, titled "Totality."

On the morning of the eclipse, we positioned ourselves in an open plaza area where we could see shadows cast by the trees and watch the sunlight project the eclipse through those openings and onto the ground, as if through a pinhole camera.

I was totally enchanted by the cast shadows that were the reverse of what we were looking at in the sky (with our special glasses on, of course).

Adjacent to the plaza was a sports court with a smooth blue surface. The images were even more distinct there, some of them looking like marbled paper. Even our shadows began to have some of those eclipse shapes in the negative spaces.

I was alternatively looking at the sun with my glasses and then taking them off to see what was happening on the ground. All the while the air was cooling as the sunlight diminished. (The white stripe bisecting the image with blue/green background is boundary line on the sports court.)

Below is a photo taken right before totality, when all the shadows of the trees went away as darkness fell mid-morning.
Just before the eclipse became total, shadows on the ground appeared that wiggled like snakes, kind of like the heat wave you see over the road when driving on a hot day. It was the glowing activity of the corona very briefly projecting itself onto us and the ground… an odd, almost dizzying sensation.

Suddenly it seemed like the moon snapped fully over the sun. I felt that I heard a sonic boom. Then it was dark above, with a glow 360 degrees around the edges of the horizon as if the sun had set not long ago... simply gorgeous. We were able to look up without the glasses during that time and try to absorb what we were seeing.

The image of the moon in front of the sun was so powerful. We were awe-struck. I feel like the image is imprinted on my brain -- I can be recall it in a very clear way. The eclipse tinted us and everything around us a metallic gray color. The shimmery glow around the moon was beautiful. Totality lasted less than two minutes and then the moon began to move off the sun. We put our glasses back on and watched the remainder of the eclipse until the sun shone fully again. I have a whole new recognition of the three dimensionality of the moon and sun in space now.

I'm wondering how experiencing the eclipse might affect my work in the future. I've always loved circles and have taught myself how to rip pretty good ones, if a little ragged, to use in my collages.

I was struck when I got home from the trip and looked anew at this collage, "Replay," made in 2012, which hangs over my desk. The correlations are rather interesting... it has a painted background with salvaged and painted papers applied on top. And yes, I ripped all those yellow-gold circle shapes and the half circle negative strips.

While the rest of the family has declared themselves to be total umbraphiles, I'm still processing this stunning experience... not sure if seeing another would diminish or enhance the power of the first experience. If you've never seen a total solar eclipse though, I believe it’s worth making the effort to get a location where you can experience totality... as my favorite commemorative t-shirt read, "Totality Worth It!"


The envelope(s), please

Background texture for my artist statement made of discarded envelopes. Handwriting contributed by my Dad... nice counterpoint to the commercial mail!As part of the "Overlooked Archives" exhibition, I incorporated a wall of envelopes as a background for my artist statement (a short explanation of the work). I wanted something textural as a counterpoint to the collages, all under glass this time.The envelopes also served as a visual reference for where some of the collage elements originated. I love the patterns in security envelopes and wanted viewers to stop and consider them. I even included an envelope addressed to me by my Dad, in his amazing backhanded script, as an unspoken nod to him. One realization I had while working with all this mail is that very little of it is personal, most of it is commercial — so I loved it when something with actual handwriting arrived! Thanks, Dad :)Here is the actual text from my statement about the show...Overlooked ArtifactsAn exhibition of collages made from each day’s mail during a three month period.We are subject to such an assault of visual input that it’s no wonder the printed materials in our lives, many of them unrequested, become a blur.Delivered... I’ve attempted to transform the remnants of discarded and unanticipated  mailed imagery into elegant little jewels. This series of 75 collages is intended to capture the incremental passage of time and encourage a fresh look at the incoming paper stream.Dissected… Exploring the inherent beauty of salvaged color and form that’s been liberated, literally ripped, from its original context has been both a joy and a challenge. Some days the postal pickings were slim, other days potential ingredients were abundant, and on a few sad days (and Sundays), there was nothing in the mailbox. No mail, no collage.Reimagining form… On March 1st the only item in the mailbox addressed to me was a postcard from Bed Bath & Beyond—perhaps you’ll recognize it!Enjoy,Janice McDonaldThe wall of envelopes in context at Spark Gallery.

Final touches: collage commission 4

Adding the root structure and bridging the pattern across panels.Getting the roots to align well from one panel to another was challenging. They needed to intertwine and anchor the composition. Each root was put down separately so the process was additive. I ripped lots of curving pieces (many of which were rejected) before I got the look I wanted.I also added ripped rounds of rice paper and a metallic silver paper to punctuate the roots and symbolize the energy of nutrients and water droplets. The placement of each little element was carefully considered, piece after piece. The metallic paper adds just a bit of sparkle but is hard to photograph, appearing whiter than it looks in person.Root detail with applied circles of metallic and rice papers.Once I thought that I was close-to-done, I still didn't have an adequate place to hang the four pieces together. So they were evaluated in this carefully stacked position multiple times as I tweaked details.Eventually, they were deemed finished and received multiple coats of protective varnish before being carefully wrapped for delivery.Collage panels stacked in the studio. 

Seeing possibilities... collecting collage ingredients


I'm often asked where the bits and pieces of my collages come from... I have a habit of looking at the negative spaces, the spaces BETWEEN and AROUND the featured items in a photograph. It's often there that I see the patterns, color gradations, and subtle imagery that I find most intriguing and useable.


The large photo above shows a recent photograph from the newspaper that had ingredient potential. (Caveat: It's very dangerous not to finish the paper before I get to it, if you want to be assured of reading the complete story!)

At left is a detail of the photo where I've indicated, with green outlines, the areas that I will rip out for future use.

I was recently explaining how I gather materials during a demonstration to a local art guild. Afterwards one fellow said, "You sure see things differently..." Yep, and I took that statement as a huge compliment!