Monday, July 14, 2014

Lost Cave Paintings of Saint Paul for the WARM Mentor-Protege Show

Women's Art Resources of Minnesota (WARM)'s Mentor-Protege Show is fast approaching. I have plotted and planned for months, and finally have taken gesso in hand to begin.

The Plan


The project will be an installation of an excavation of some of the Lost Cave Paintings of Saint Paul. I began making these paintings in 2012 after watching Paul Boecher demonstrate using gesso* on board at the Northstar Water Media Society's Art-on-a-Line. A piece of his gesso-on-paper looked like fresco, and my mind went immediately to "cave wall."

Since mid-2012, I've made more than 150 large and small cave paintings, and dozens of "friends of the cave" Pandas who inhabit the Hidden Bamboo Forest of Saint Paul.

* A Word About Gesso: In the modern era, gesso is an acrylic medium as thick as Greek yogurt that artists use to make surfaces either smooth or bumpy. I make textured cave walls with white gesso that I tint with watercolors for small works or acrylic paints for large ones. Historic gesso was made with rabbit skin glue and minerals. I am glad to be a 21st century artist who can skip boiling rabbits and simply buy gesso at Wet Paint or at Dick Blick.

The Flamingo's Last Outing:
Northern Spark at the Vine Arts Center


This 5-foot flamingo has lived in my downstairs bathroom for more than 15 years. I took the paper design to a lumber yard where the staff kindly (without laughing) cut out the bird, made a dozen sets of book ends, and 20 8-inch rounds from the plywood that I purchased.

Flamingo with Magenta-
Tinted Gesso
In the original plan for the bird, I would have covered the body with beads, mosaic-tiled the legs, and created a stained-glass-shard-mosaic for the grass and weeds. Fortunately, it was a flexible plan, and I was very happy with some-beads-and-paint. All of the other flamingo pieces in the bathroom miss their Big Birdy Buddy.

The flamingo's body is now covered with tinted pink gesso, and the weeds are covered with weed-colored-and-textured gesso.


The five aluminum boards (cut and primed with great skill by Jason Najarak), are now a taupe/gray that is a mixture of white gesso and an astonishing amount of acrylic paint. I used sepia, chrome yellow, chrome orange, phalo blue, violet, metallic bronze and gold, venetian red and probably a few more. Each panel is slightly different from the others.


1. Create the templates for the creatures. I have gone into my archive for my favorite images. The original elephant works well on a 5"x7" tiny painting. Making him into a 20"x40"paper template will use all of my cut and paste skills.

2. Paint the creatures, including the dozens of frogs and hummingbirds which will be part of the continuity for the panels.

3. Print and install the maps for the back of the piece. Because this will be free-standing in the middle of the room, it can't have an unsightly "naked" back. I will cover it with maps of Old Saint Paul made from electronic files from the the Ramsey County Historical Society Library in the basement of the Landmark Center in downtown Saint Paul.

4.  Print the "Visit Very Old Saint Paul" postcards for the postcard rack.

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