MESSAGE vs. MEDIUM
This week’s workshop challenge asks, “How can a message be enhanced through the medium in which it is implemented?”
We are challenged to communicate an emotion you perceive your city or location is about, then take the word and use an appropriate material, form or medium – 2D, digital, 3D or immersive.
My city is San Francisco, and the word I chose is contradiction. While I am a recent import to the city, and am having quite a grand love affair, I am privileged. Not everyone is as fortunate to hold this lovely city in the highest regard.
Since the first tech boom of the 1990s, San Francisco has been on a course of contradiction. San Francisco has always been a city of pioneers, progressives, freaks and geeks, artists and academics. All together in a community stew of vibrant discourse, advancement, social exploration and evolution at the edge. With the tech booms — past and present — a shift has happened where the city has become less vibrant, dynamic, and diverse. The economics and extreme wealth associated with this new San Francisco is changing it from a city for all to a city for the one percent. The middle class is disappearing and the homeless population grows at a rapid rate.
I chose to illustrate this tension of contradictory emotions about San Francisco through something tactile: a linocut carving and subsequent print. I’ve never done linocut before and opted to again challenge myself to do something experimental and take some risks.
My inspiration was Käthe Kollwitz, prolific artist who utilized lithography and wood cuts has her medium to express herself and her observations and storytelling of the human experience. Her work is haunting to me. She reveals the struggle of the human condition and class through deep cuts that are minimal, but at the same time so very expressive.
I started a sketch, then built my illustration that would serve as my linocut carving.
Next up: let’s get cutting! Progress shots…
I had to make some adjustments based on how the vinyl material responded to my inexperienced hand as well as the amount of detail in the original drawing.
This image shows the final piece, the ink transferred to a lovely Strathmore printmaking sheet. I like how the entire piece can serve as a metaphor for the contradiction that is San Francisco: while some are in the one percent, some cannot even carve out a living and are left to the streets. The inking and carving proves permanence that this situation as it is will remain until truly and empathetically addressed. The transfer of ink to paper via a pressing and peeling tracks to the pressure of the city to acknowledge this shift as well as the literal scraping of human shit off of one’s fancy shoe.
It turned out a lot rougher than I’d imagined, but like how that furthers the imperfection of my commentary on San Francisco.
Heshmat Ph.D., Shahram. “What Does It Mean to Have Mixed Feelings?” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/science-choice/201603/what-does-it-mean-have-mixed-feelings.
“Käthe Kollwitz: MoMA.” The Museum of Modern Art, www.moma.org/artists/3201.