Sunday June 07 - Monday June 08, 2015 - We slept late on Sunday morning (having been up late for the concert in Talsi the night before). I spent much of the day working on the blog, organizing photos on the computer and working on the big print design in photoshop.
Dad and Ojars were planning to go into RIga to get his steel, sand for molds (and my remaining print supplies) but some car trouble / car inspection delayed this trip (they finally managed to go Thursday). Since they couldn't go to Riga - Dad spent a lot of time on Monday helping me lay out the grid (I'm working in 5 cm squares) and draw the central circle and concentric rings using a string held at the center point (couldn't have done this solo, that's for sure). Transferring the drawing took some time - I emailed Laura a jpeg instead of the photoshop file (which had the grid on it) to print out for me, so I had to draw the grid in by hand. Since the source images for the figures are all gesture drawings I had a lot of "finishing" to do while enlarging them, but am pleased with the result.
(Monday we also ran into an unexpected issue. Shellac is available here, but only as dry flakes, requiring mixing. On top of that, the stores don't have the quantity we need, and the price is absolutely outrageous! Carl believed we could find a substitute in the hardware store in Sabile - his suspicion was proved correct on Tuesday when we walked into town for supplies - lacquer rather than shellac, but available in town and at a reasonable price, too!)
Tuesday June 09, 2015 - SInce the Riga trip had to be put off again, Carl and I walked into Sabile to see what supplies were available at the local hardware store. Almost everything we needed, but thought we'd have to obtain in Talsi or Riga was within easy reach!
Also, first official carving done today (just the two concentric white rings - will start figures tomorrow).
Ojars worked in Jurmala today - but that allowed him to make a run into Riga and he picked up the felt, canvas, ink (to test before we order more), and the new German rollers - printmaking Christmas!
One of the performers from the Talsi concert visited the park and sat with us at dinner - Victoria Grebezs:
On the evening of June 9 we "smoked the fields" (a traditional way of protecting seedlings/newly planted material by lighting fires to create a layer of smoke to block the frost) - in this case we smoked the stone planting field to protect the wishes on the planted stone seeds.
Wednesday June 10, 2015 - Another day of carving, got started on the figures today (did the largest two in the center foreground) - the work is progressing well.
The concrete mixer arrived and the Pedvale workers poured the pad for the steamroller printing - glad to have that accomplished!
Dad and I tested the lacquer (in Latvian, "laka") which dried really quickly in the sun (and absorbed well into the wood) - we may want to lightly sand the blocks between first and second coat to nock down a little of the tooth, but a good substitute for the ridiculously over-priced shellac. I cut a few different sizes and depths of lines into the test board before the lacquer was applied - once it was dry we were able to test the industrial printing ink (another substitution for traditional relief printing ink) and the new German rollers. I was able to get a solid image transferred to paper using a stone as a burnisher.
Thursday June 11, 2015 - Dad and Ojars were finally able to go to Riga (by way of Jurmala to drop off workers and so Carl could see Ojars' landscape architecture project at the summer home of a wealthy client). They were able to get Carl's laser cut steel sheets and sand for George Beasley's mold as well - so work can begin in earnest tomorrow!
For my part, I carved all day - finishing three more of the largest foreground figures in my composition - only 11 more to go! (I'm working from the front to the back, so each figure gets a little smaller and is easier/faster to cut.)
Friday June 12 - Sunday June 14, 2015
Big days for Carl! He and Ojars picked up the laser cut sheets of steel (314 steel, to be precise) in Riga on Thursday. On Friday Carl was able to create the dynamic wing forms he's envisioned by using ratchet straps to pull the bottom corner toward one another, creating compound curves in both horizontal and vertical aspects of the steel sheets. A first attempt at stick welding (with the wrong electrode) didn't hold - but on Friday Ojars took Dad into Talsi (with no time to spare before the shops closed) to get the correct electrodes. The first sheet was welded into its permanent form by Friday night, and the second was ready early Saturday. Dad spent part of the middle of the day Saturday using a grinder to create a textured, linear/circular pattern on the "insides" of the two pieces and then welded them together. He'll need the help of Pedvale workers on Monday to position the sculpture so he can grind the "outside" planes and attach the anchoring system - but the piece is really close to done, really quickly!
I got another two figures completed on Friday.
On Saturday, Ojars drove to Latvia to pick up the woodblock by the Lithuanian artist Simona Bogdanaite (she is getting married/going on honeymoon the weekend of the printing/iron casting so will probably come to see Pedvale, meet me and discuss process either before or after the event). He'd planned to drive late Frida night, but we're all glad he chose to go early in the day Saturday for safety's sake. [Here's the link to the facebook events page https://www.facebook.com/events/851292648297954/ - the five printmakers included in the event are: Benjamin Billingsley (ASV), Peeter Allik (Igaunija), Simona Bogdanaite (Lietuva), Paulis Liepa (Latvija), Laura Feldberga (Latvija) - we'll have techno music courtesy of DJ Mr. Ikazz!
I finished another 2 figures on Saturday.
Saturday night we drove to see the Devil's Footprint - a stone with impressions of various kinds that look like human and animal feet - including one which looks like a devil's cloven hoof! We left offerings of salt, pepper and extinguished/broken matched to help ward off evil effects. I've included a photo of the information sign at the Devil's Footprint to help explain the historical context - Laura told us that on the night the local baron (who owned the Pedvale property) died the devil was seen dancing on the stone! We also drove to the Hill of Hawks, a pagan ritual site still actively in use (primarily by women, it seems) - clearly people are getting ready for midsummer night rituals!
Sunday was a long working day - I finished another 3 figures, leaving only the four smallest left to carve! The Beasleys arrive Monday - and our events happen this coming Sunday - pressure is on!
Thursday June 04, 2015 - I spent the majority of the morning working on the blog and downloading photos - there will be a lot to sort through when we get back to the US! I also went through all my figure drawings, primarily focusing on the gesture drawings, to select poses for the figures for my large scale print. My initial concept had to do with figures circling a fire - but I want the fire element to be less literal, more symbolic. When dad and I hiked to the far side of the park to refill water bottles from the spring I had a break through about using concentric rings to suggest the radiating light of the fire - now we're cooking!
(We've also planned for printing outdoors AND indoors - the first option requires pouring a concrete pad outside the barn/work building, while the second option will require enlarging a door to accommodate the steamroller!)
Friday June 05, 2015 - Spent a good portion of the morning working with photoshop to create the layout of the geometric/circular aspects of the design (I decided on a horizontal format early on, as the board is 1 meter by 2 meters). I've selected 8 female poses and 8 male poses (all from gesture drawings) and have decided to place them on opposite sides of the center of the design - the figures will be laid out in an elliptical shape, as if the viewer is looking into space straight ahead at them, but the fire element will read as a geometric circle in the center with two radiating rings (which the figures will overlap in a spatially surreal fashion). I also want birds and trees at the outer edges of the design, so dad and I hiked into the park to look specifically for birch trees (for the female side) and oak trees (for the male side of the design). We found some great source material on site - and also explored the buildings at the second estate - I found a way into the ground floor level of the main house there, and got some great photographs for future us in paintings or monotypes. As it was Friday, Laura decided we should have movie night - so we watched the most American movie she could find on TV - City of Bones - we later sampled Ojar's apple wine, and a good time was had by all!
Saturday June 6, 2015 - Another long day on the computer - I finally got the figural elements sized properly and placed in photoshop in layers so I can see the entire design at once and/or isolate a single element as I work on the drawing and carving. I got the entire composition mapped out, with the exception of the tree elements!
Our working time was a little shorter today - we made a cultural excursion to Talsi (about half an hour away) to attend the opening receptions for two shows (one of paintings by Ieva Vitola-Lindqvist called "It's all about the flow ..." the other was photographs and paintings made on site in places a Latvian painter [Frederik Fībigam] had lived and worked in France and Italy).
This was followed by the amazing annual outdoor concert "The outside world music Tiguļkalnā" organized by Raimonds Tiguls - the concert is the 4th annual, featuring artists Tiguls has worked with over the course of the past year including Victoria Grebezs (from the UK, her father was Latvian), who, like the composer Tiguls, plays the amazing "hand pan" instrument, the hang. Other acts included the L. Jansson Trio performing the composition "Zarbugans"; youth choir "Voices", conductor Inta Teterovskis; "Sinfonietta Riga" string quartet, and vocal group "Framest" - also featured were bagpipers Edgars Kārklis and Kaspars Bārbals, as well as harpist Lyme Jansson, singer Biruta Ozoliņa musicians Mara Upmane-Holstein and Goran Gora.
Talsi Regional Museum Website - http://www.talsumuzejs.lv/index.php
Raimonds Tiguls - http://www.tvnet.lv/muzika/latvija/560674-arpasaules_muzika_tigulkalna
VIDEOS - Tiguls (playing the hang) - https://youtu.be/3S1TTx3inaQ
Victoria Grebezs (also playing the hang) - https://youtu.be/0lX0lU1Wb_o
Framest (at Eurovision) - https://youtu.be/y5RhIg0kXQU
Monday June 01, 2015 - I spent part of the morning getting the blog up and running (and messing with our various tech/electronics - and we didn't even remember the swanky cannon rebel until Wednesday). Meanwhile, Laura and Ojars were working on updating the Pedvale image galleries on Facebook [here's a link to opening ceremony images https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.905358882858211.1073741861.100965273297580&type=3
and the delivery of the metal church roof (among other images of works at the park and behind the scenes stuff) are under the "photos" tab https://www.facebook.com/pages/Pedvale-Open-Air-Art-Museum/100965273297580?sk=photos_stream&tab=photos_stream] - internet was running a little slowly with all of us on at once!
An essential task for Monday was the inspection of the facilities and equipment for the various projects. Carl will be running an iron casting event and needed to inspect the furnace (which is in better shape than expected, thankfully). He is in communication with George Beasley about the requirements for his mold, but we're confident we have enough iron on hand (just need some Pedvale workers to bust it up for us).
We discussed the size of the concrete pad we'll need to print the large-scale woodblocks with a steamroller - blocks are 1 meter by 2 meters (I know metric is easier but I always have to remind myself what the sizes would be in feet and inches - 3 by 6 feet give or take). Another concern, as always near Midsummer, is wind and rain - so if we can't print outside there is a large workroom with a new concrete floor we can use (all we have to do is remove part of the wall to enlarge the door to accommodate the steamroller!) Looks like we have enough space to roll up blocks with ink AND run the steamroller inside if need be - of course, everyone wants the inking to take place inside and the printing to happen outdoors - we're hoping to attract an audience!
At the end of the day, Ojars ran us to Sabile quickly for food supplies. [He has a solo sculpture exhibition at the Synagogue building at the moment - really impressive wooden pieces - abstractions of different aspects of nature and weather, somewhat similar to some of his stone images, but these are also painted.]
Tuesday June 02, 2015
Ojars spent the day in Jurmala, working on a commission. He asked me to help Laura Miglone with a biography he needs to submit for an event in Scotland in September. As a result, I learned a great deal more about our amazing host. (The park is magical and amazing - but that is only part of Ojar's remarkable story.)
When Ojars Feldbergs was born, Latvia was under the control of the USSR; he attended vocational construction/builders college (his brother runs a monument and commercial stone carving business today) and did compulsory military service before attending the art academy's sculpture program (he graduated in 1976). He bought the Pedvale property in 1991 and has been organizing special events and symposia here since 1992 (he's published a book about the first 20 years of Pedvale's history).
In January 1991, the Baltic states were trying to achieve independence from the USSR, and the military moved in to intervene. After seeing the Soviet tactics against Lithuania, people in Riga erected barricades to block tanks from accessing primary targets (like the Parliament House, media broadcast buildings, etc). Ojars built one of these barricades with large stones from his Riga studio - and was later awarded a medal for his defense of the barricades. Info and images available here https://latvianhistory.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/386209_big.jpg
Ojars' other awards include Pedvale being honored with the UNESCO Melina Mercouri International Prize for the Safeguarding and Management of Cultural Landscapes in 1999 - http://whc.unesco.org/en/activities/514
as well as being named an Officer of the Three Star Order (the Three Star Order is the highest civil distinction Latvia bestows; the stars are a reference to the three stars on the Freedom Monument) - http://www.president.lv/pk/content/?cat_id=1279&lng=en (and unless the internet is lying to me, Hilary Clinton was made a member of the Three Star Order [for her work as Secretary of State] in September 2014, she visited with Bill Clinton, first US president to visit a free Latvia, in 1994).
SO - I've had scotch poured for me by a freedom fighter and cultural hero of the Latvia people - not too shabby!
Wednesday June 03, 2015
A big day for me, especially - we traveled to Riga to get crucial supplies for the large-scale steamroller woodblock printmaking event. First, we met up with Laura Feldberga and went to a felt factory in Riga. Beautiful old machinery for making felt! Laura F. and Laura Miglone helped translate for me so we could find the right size and thickness - we got two pieces of felt, each should last for multiple uses (in the hopes that our event is successful and can be repeated easily in future). Next we went to the art academy (a truly beautiful building) to buy fabric from the art supply shop at the school. We got a lightweight canvas - more light gray than white, but not too heavy!
After lunch we saw an amazing exhibition at 5th RIGA INTERNATIONAL TEXTILE AND FIBRE ART TRIENNIAL -
On Thursday May 28, 2015, my father, Carl Billingsley, and I left the US bound for the Pedvale Open-Air Art Museum in Sabile, Latvia, owned and operated by sculptor Ojārs Arvid Feldbergs. Both Carl and Ojārs have lost track of how many trips Carl has made to Pedvale; this is my second trip (in summer 2013 I installed Spirit Trees in the park, a temporary outdoor installation combining aspects of sculpture and printmaking). You can read more about the history of Pedvale here http://www.pedvale.lv/35/
We were met in Riga on Friday by our friends Ojārs and Laura Miglone (Pedvale's currator); Ojārs had official paperwork to file for the park, so we drove into the historic city center for business, a little site-seeing, and a drink in an outdoor cafe. (We saw at least two British bachelor parties in progress, seems Riga has become a quick/inexpensive destination.) Pedvale is about 2 hours from Riga, a long enough drive for us to catch a nap. The friendly staff at the Dare cafe had dinner waiting for us, and then we were able to walk through the central section of the park. Always amazing how long it stays light in this region at this time of year, and as we are in the country, the sky (especially at sunset) is vast and beautiful. We're staying in the three-person room at the front of the manor house, so a bit more living space (although we didn't really unpack/organize until Sunday), and our windows face into the park. Carl had the presence of mind to drive into Sabile to get water, coffee and some breakfast items, so we well set up rather quickly!
The official opening ceremony for the park's new season was the following day (Saturday May 30). We slept until noon (Latvia is 7 hours ahead of North Carolina, and neither of us slept much on the plane) but were ready just in time for the start of ceremonies at 1:00 p.m. Ojārs showed a film about his stone seed planting ceremony in Costa Rica (part of an on-going performance piece he does on his travels and at symposia around the world), then removed black fabric panels from the windows to let the light in and officially open the photography exhibition of works by Dainis Kārkluvalka. There were also readings (at intervals throughout the rest of the ceremony) of poems by two of Latvia's most celebrated poets,
Rainis and Aspazija, who'd lived in exile in Switzerland for 15 years following the 1905 Revolution. More information about the poets and their works can be found here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aspazija
After the film and photography opening, the group went into the field behind the Dare building - Ojārs has planted many stone seeds here over the years (we planted our own near the end of our trip in 2013). The participants formed a circle around Ojārs and passed the stone he'd brought back to Latvia from Costa Rica from person to person as part of the planting ritual. Ojārs then dug a hole to plant the stone (he'd tied four ropes to his shovel, which were in turn attached to a circular rope for the audience to hold so everyone could participate in the digging/planting). As usual, once the stone was planted, a fire was lit over the stone; Ojārs proceeded around the circle handing each person a piece of greenery which were subsequently offered to the fire. The final ceremonial act was for each person to drink some water from cups Ojārs distributed, pouring the remaining water onto the fire. After the stone planting ceremony, there was a procession through the park (led by children playing recorders and clay whistles shaped like birds), pausing at various locations for more poetry readings. The final stop was at the far end of the park (on the hill above the stone monument to the poet Imants Ziedonis, dedicated at the opening of the 2013 season - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imants_Ziedonis). Here, a final stone planting ceremony was held to dedicate the site of Ojārs' new site-specific sculpture honoring Rainis and Aspazija - the piece will be called "Sun Route," and will be in the form of a steel arch between three stones (supported by elements representing stars, one each for every year Rainis and Aspazija were both alive [they were born in 1865, Rainis died in 1929 at the age of 64 - so there will be 32 stars on supporting each side of the arch, on either side of the central stone which will be directly above the stone planted on May 30, 2015].
A great opening ceremony, followed by an afternoon/evening of socializing with the team at Pedvale, including Ojārs' daughter Laura, her boyfriend and a few of her coworkers. We ended the day with a hike o the center of the park to watch the sunset.
Sunday May 31, 2015 was a bit colder, and we had rain off and on for much of the first half of the day. I went for a walk from the manor house to the "old estate" at the far end of the park (a brief rain shower included hail - temperature/weather in Latvia in May/June is similar to Wilmington, NC in February/March). Ojārs big project for the day was transporting the remains of a metal church roof damaged/rolled/ripped off by a strong wind storm 10 years ago from the church to the park to create a new art object. This involved a tractor trailer and crane and a convoy of Pedvale workers' vehicles; off-loading went really smoothly, the metal was in place just before the rain started in earnest. Much of the later afternoon was spent in meetings, discussing plans for the art events for June 21. Carl will be organizing an iron pour to cast a sculpture by George Beasley, and I will be organizing a large-scale steam-roller woodblock printing event. Laura Feldberga and I will be printing along with another Latvian printmaker, one from Estonia, and one from Lithuania. I have a lot of design/carving work ahead of me - we need the blocks to be finished at the latest by June 20 - and we also have prep work to do (ink and fabric have to be purchased in Riga and a concrete pad for steamrollwe printing needs to be poured as well). [More info on George Besley is available here http://www2.gsu.edu/~wwwork/magazine/2010winter/sculptinghistory.html