Scott Kolbo Domestic Futility – Anacortes Arts Festival Installed 2015
It has been a busy summer in the studio. In addition to settling down for the long term in the Loyal Heights neighborhood of Seattle (yes, moving is the worst…) I completed a number of new pieces and started work on even more, resulting in a pile of exciting new projects that will be exhibited in the next year.
Scott Kolbo Domestic Futility Cat Intaglio, Stencil, Charcoal, and Watercolor 9″ X 12″ 2015
Anacortes Arts Festival
I was honored to be selected to exhibit new work in the “Allen Family Focus Gallery” at this annual ArtsFestival. After a few years of working on the “Alley Kids” project I decided to do something different for this show. So… I went with cats. As my long-suffering students will testify, I spent years railing against the lameness of cat art, but hey… they rule the internet, two of my favorite bands put cheesy cat images on their latest album covers (Built To Spill and Wilco), and everyone I know spends half of their day staring at videos of these creatures. Rather than fight against our new overlords I decided to just give in… The pieces I exhibited are a part of a new series I am calling “Domestic Futility.” These works are about the small little battles most of us have in our “domestic” settings – in this case I was inspired to poke fun at my ongoing battle with our family cat. I created a huge new video projection/drawing and three new monitor pieces telling the story of a cat who refuses to drink out of anything other than a running faucet – and the tragic consequences for a “Heavy Man” and his toothbrush. There is a limited edition etching on the way soon so keep your eyes peeled on my website if you want one of these to commemorate your own domestic battles.
Domestic Futility Toothbrush
Take Three Film Screening
I am going to be showing a short animated version of my “Domestic Futility: Cat Hair Toothbrush” piece at this wonderful little annual film screening in Seattle on September 17th. It’s always a great time – get your tickets before they are gone. https://www.facebook.com/events/679266028893306/
I also managed to get over to Spokane for a short artists residency with Lance Sinnema, my collaborative partner in the Escalation Project. We were graciously awarded a Grant for Artists Projects by the Washington Artists Trust, so we bought a surveillance drone and went to work satirizing the absurdity that continues to surround the political culture in the U.S.A. The Surveillance Project utilizes drone footage and a “Spy vs. Spy” narrative strategy to ridicule our desire to see other people (who we consider to be untrustworthy) placed under constant surveillance – yet expect to have our own privacy protected. The project also pokes fun at how little real energy we are willing to put into fighting against our pervasive culture of surveillance, especially if it means giving up any of our precious glowing devices… You can find the first teaser trailer for our project here. We will be having an exhibition of this work at Saranac Art Projects in Spokane in August 2016.
The Elements Collaboration
I will be collaborating with my colleague in the Music Department at SPU, Brian Chin. We are cooking up some exciting new pieces that will involve his music and my video projections, with performance dates scheduled for May 2016. You can find out more information about this at the Universal Language Project as the year goes along.
It will be a full year – keep on the lookout for propaganda from me with more details. I have been neglecting these more formal updates in favor of social media (I’ve even started using Twitter! Who knew it would be so much fun?). So if you are a part of that madness feel free to follow me on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.
Lance Sinnema as “Escalation Blue.” Archival Digital Print, Charcoal, Ink, and Colored Pencil on Paper. 22″ X 22″ 2012.
I’m pleased to announce that the Stinktown 2 Collective has received a 2014 Artist Trust Grant for Artists Projects. The collective is composed of myself and my great friend and collaborator, Lance Sinnema. I am so pleased that the work that Lance and I have been engaged in for the last few years is being recognized and that we will receive some funding to make the political nastiness of this world look even more ridiculous than it already does. Here is a link to the on-line announcement:
The Stinktown 2 Collective is one of the best things I have even been a part of, a true collaboration in every way. Make sure you say congratulations to Lance as well, and keep your eyes peeled for more Escalation projects in the next year…
I thought I would post a late summer update about my art activities and a few other matters… Most importantly I have a new website. I started my old site in 2000 with a Dreamweaver manual and a lot of luck… and updating that thing was torture. So like many other creatives out there I have switched over to a new platform that will make it much easier to add images and videos. The old domain will continue to work for the next year or so, but this is the place for the latest and greatest. Don’t worry, I will do my best to keep it boring and simple just like the old one, just with more frequent updates. The links are on the left, images and videos can be found under the “Portfolio” page… It even has an e-commerce feature I plan on trying out soon. Keep your eyes peeled.
OUR ALLEY DE-BRIEF
I was honored to finally have the chance to put all of my Alley Kids Artworks into one exhibit. It was a great way to achieve some closure for that project, and the Spokane period of my life. The Gallery 4Culture People were amazing to work with and the response to the exhibit was really positive. The show got some good PR, it was recommended by the Stranger, and positively reviewed by the Seattle Weekly. The coolest thing ever was opening the Seattle Weekly print edition and seeing that “Our Alley” won a “Best of Seattle: Gallery Show (Native) award. I always feel embarrassed to highlight this stuff, but I keep hearing that it’s important so here you go… Achievement Unlocked!
CONTRIBUTIONS TO WEB JOURNAL
I used to work with the really cool guy named Fred Johnson. He’s a genius English Professor and has great taste in music, art, and most importantly comics. He wrote an essay about using the language of comics to understand rhetorical communication strategies, and he asked me to contribute some of my work to help illustrate his ideas. We worked on this thing forever and it finally came out in the Web-based publication Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy. It’s a huge accomplishment and Fred did all the work to make it happen, I’m just honored that he squandered so much of his time looking at, and thinking about, my work…
….plus got to draw “Heavy Man” as Batman. Another Achievement Unlocked!
Last thing is the publication of an essay about my work in Image Journal. My old friend and one of the best mentors I have ever had, Cameron Anderson, wrote an insightful essay about my work and generally embarrassed me with praise. I have loved Image Journal since I was a fresh-faced undergrad looking for some way to be an artists and stay engaged with the life of faith, and I so respect their ecumenical and multi-faith approach to engaging with the literature, art, and creativity of our time. Get your hands on a good old fashioned print copy if you want the real-deal-experience. Final Achievement Unlocked!
It’s been a busy and fruitful period of artistic life, but I’m exhausted. Forgive me if you don’t hear from me for a few months, I gotta go lie down somewhere….
I spend most of my time in the visiting artist studio at the Doel Reed Center, but every once in a while I wander over into Doel’s studio (preserved as a museum for research and visitors). Doel had a custom built press and it has been sitting in his studio mostly unused since he passed away in the early 80’s.
Printing on Doel Reed’s Press
One of my tasks over the last two weeks has been setting up the new half of the studio for printmaking and this required reconditioning the press. I’m happy to report that I pulled my first etchings on it recently. I am working on some new plates and printing a few old ones as well. Everything has to be small to fit into the makeshift acid bath and my checked baggage, but so far things are looking good.
First proof on the press. An older “Heavy Man” self portrait.
We finish up the residency on Tuesday, with a large collaborative drawing with the OSU students yet to come. I will post some photos and videos of our final project next week.
I have had a great first week at my residency in New Mexico. I’ve been exploring the area and working with students from the Oklahoma State university Art Department. This residency allows me to use a part of the studio built by legendary printmaker Doel Reed. One half of the studio is set up as as a museum dedicated to Doel and his legacy. His workshop is left exactly as it was when he passed away, with his press and aquatint equipment on display so visitors can see his working processes. The other half of the studio is there for use by visiting artists, and since it was essentially an empty white box when I got here my first few days were spent helping the director set up equipment and collecting materials so the space can be used by artists going forward. When we started the space looked like this:
Empty Doel Reed Studio
Just getting Started working in the studio
View from the Doel Reed studio toward the main house and Doel Reed Center.
View from the Doel Reed Studio – not to shabby.
Getting the acid set up for etching. Face down in Ferric Chloride – you know it! Note the stainless steel sink wrapped in plastic to keep the Ferric from destroying the metal – its so new and shiny…
I also tagged along with the instructor of the OSU course (and my excellent friend) Liz Roth to visit some of the sites in the region. We hit the Echo Amphitheater, Ghost Ranch, and Georgia O’keeffe’s house.
So much of this areas looks just like an O’keeffe painting
Liz Roth Drawing
I’m also finally getting some of my own stuff done. I’m hoping to finish the last few “Alley Kids” pieces while I’m here — so I have been working on three videos that involve adding layers of frosted mylar over the monitor surface – allowing me to mix digital/video elements with hand drawn marks. They will go on display in July 2014 at the 4Culture Gallery in Seattle’s Pioneer Square area. I still have a week to go and I will be working with OSU students to create a large collaborative video + drawing, and I’m hoping to get some new prints started before I run out of time. It will be interesting to see what kind of influence the southwestern landscape might have on my work.
One of my favorite “happy accidents” in the drawings so far.
Video monitor drawing in-process.
Starting to mess that clean white box up.
I am currently hiding away in Taos New Mexico, at an artists residency graciously provided by the Doel Reed Center for the Arts. it is an amazing opportunity and I will be posting a ton of information about it in the next few weeks, but a tragic event at my University has made this a bittersweet beginning to the summer. On Thursday June 5th, a lone deranged gunman wandered into a public building and opened fire on a group of innocent Seattle Pacific University students who were studying for finals. One young man was killed, and several others were injured. One of victims who was seriously hurt was enrolled in my beginning drawing class, so the tragedy hit especially close to home. Thankfully heroic actions by students in the building saved many lives – pepper staying and tackling the shooter as he went to reload his weapon. Information about donations for the victims can be found here. This event has weighed heavily on all of us at SPU, and has transformed what should have been a great end of the year celebration into a somber moment of reflection about the broken state of our world and how self sacrificing individuals can make a huge difference. It was remarkable to see how the community rallied around SPU, and while this was an exceptionally evil event, it also brought out the best in people.
As an artist it’s always hard to know how to respond to terrible things like this. The SPU Art Department was deluged with terrified and grief stricken students who wanted to find someway to use art to process their emotions. Student led projects included art therapy stations, T-shirt printing, and the creation of books filled with messages of hope and comfort for the victims – even for the family of the shooter. As all of this was happening back home, I was traveling to a cushy artist residency and sitting in an incredible studio, feeling pretty guilty for doing so little to help. I have faced a few moments in my life where I wasn’t sure how my vocation as an artist could be useful – a lot of big problematic issues I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do about. Problems of entrenched poverty and crime in my old neighborhood. The injustice of war. The neglect of kids. Random acts of violence. All overwhelming problems that appear to be impossible to change. I think we often want art to have answers all figured out for us – preferably answers that reinforce what we already believe and don’t expose our own complicity in the messed up state of the world.
I am pretty terrible at making that kind of art – and to be honest most of that type of art is pretty terrible. I have to make art about the struggle of dealing with ambiguity and mystery. So when I’m confronted by some terrible event like the one we just lived through, I try dig in and explore what I don’t understand (a sort of wallowing in issues I don’t know what to do about) by making art about it. When I lived in a poverty stricken neighborhood filled with social problems that I didn’t see any solutions for… I worked on pieces that forced me look carefully at the neighborhood. For a number of years every image I used in my work was found within a short walk from my house. I learned so much through this process, and while I don’t have any big answers for the overwhelming problems I was meditating on, I did develop a deeper sense of empathy for the other humans I live in community with and that might be the best thing art can do for our world. So as I sit in the amazing studio I have been given for the next few weeks and think about the state of the world around me, I will trust that using art to explore the mysterious, frustrating, and troubling stuff we don’t know what to do about is good enough. I will be posting images of the studio and other activities on this blog and my Facebook site, feel free to check in and see what I am up to.