This is a follow up video showing an actual finished artwork. I forgot to create the incidentals for the music box. Those add-ons include a sharp, a flat, a tie, a couple of flags, and four beams. They are there to give music box more of a musical look that is common in sheet music. Although not as much with this artwork, all those little additions add interest and are decorative. The video discusses this and the sampling process used for the visual part of this portrait of a song.
For many years, whatever musical phrase I picked for the subject, that is what I would paint. When I added sound, I continued with that idea, painting the entire length of the music. As my musical skill and interest increased, it became apparent that I had to either reduce the size of the music that I was portraying or increase the size of the artwork. The ever-increasing length and composition of the cover music was growing. For the viewer this also made it increasingly difficult to follow the music and the visual together. The problem was that the music had involved to be as important as the artwork that was portraying it.
To get hold of what I was creating, I set a one minute thirty second maximum time limit on themusic. Then, from that cover music, I would select a piece, or a sample, to portray as the visual. Hopefully, this will keep these artworks to a length, and a construction timeline, that I can handle.
I see it this way: full-length paintings of portraits are few in numbers compared, for example, with portraits from the waist up. It is like the portrait painter is sampling the image of a person. My music paintings and now my music boxes are, and have always been portraits of a song.
In the video I give the viewer, awkwardly, an example of how the music is represented in the visual. I have nothing else to add to that except this entire process of combing the visual art with performance art is continuing to continue to be a continuing evolution. So it goes.
There were major issues with the focus of this video, that annoyed me, but published it anyway. I was happy (in my way) with the content and the enthusiasm of this video. To then try to repeat all of my spontaneous responses to my own comments, in the same way, that would not happen. This focusing issue resulted in spending precious afternoon studio hours testing different solutions. Surprised, a setting change to my Canon 5D mark IV, and to my external microphone setup, resulted in good-to-go for now focus.
I do have this comment not mentioned in the video. The smaller than my normal sized canvas, mostly white painted, and the larger size of the music, along with my black colored staffs, is the reason that the music dominates this music box. The temporary off white support for this work also it blends too easily with the canvas. What is the obvious difference with works from this last year is that those canvases are larger and filled with more colors that contrast. For this project, white and muted grays were my options if I wanted to use the cover of The Beatles White Album as my template. Because of my history with photography I live to capture contrast in my photos and my artworks. I did so a little. So it is. So it is not.
Seeing this artwork in the studio only then can you grasp its three-dimensional effects. Since I am in the Studio, I see enough pieces of this never ending puzzle snapping together to confirm this is the way forward. The long path of this art genre, Interactive Constructive Sculpture, or to simply (MusicBoxArt (MBA)), is opening to a clearing of whatever-I-am-doing, wherever-it-is-going, it all appears good-to-go.
When I started this project, I took a ruler and open up the tailgate of our RAV 4 to measure what was the longest and widest artwork it could comfortably fit. That turned out to be an artwork 6 feet but no wider than two feet. I then returned to the studio to cut two feet off a 6 foot wide primed canvas roll for this Chopin project. Although the canvas was two shorter than I needed, I figured that was a problem I would eventual solve. I did. The length of this artwork (MBA) is eight feet, and the added two extra feet expanded the depth of the artwork, creating a dramatic effect. That is good. This music is dramatic.
Since the beginnings of this art I have tried different techniques to add movement and drama to these artworks. That was done in the effort to bring an artwork closer to the many emotional dimensions of the sound of a song. This latest music box is showing new promise.
Here is the all-done-but-the-signing studio image of the project, You were on My Mind. I completed it the day before it was to be hung in a local exhibition sponsored by the Valley Art Association, of which I am a board member. The next day I with the help of Jeff hung this artwork successfully at the Heyde Center for the Arts.
This other image is when I returned the day after to help to hang other artworks for the show. My caption I texted along with the image to Jeff (an art friend) reads, “Waiting to be seated.”
Jeff is an outstanding water colorist and art teacher. He is creative in his style, theme choices, and presentations. All that, along with his personality and motivational abilities, has contributed to his high level artistic respect among his peers and sales of his works. Luckily I have had a number of lunches with Jeff to discuss in my usual meandering way, what is art? its value, purpose, meaning, etc.
I have little else to add about this art project that is not in the following video. I do have some words about how this project has contributed to a change in this art.
In late 2018, I purchased my first cover license for Africa. That license was for 25 Music Boxes, which was the only option for a cover that made some logical sense for me. That project used a .5 watt sound system. Over the years, I have continued to purchase cover licenses for 25 music boxes when I have only ever used one copy of the music for every license. I am fine with that; I did not write the original music. Only recently have I sold my first piece made under a cover license. That buyer turned out to be a private company I once worked for, and who had purchased another work years earlier. To be honest, until my stuff sells for tens of hundreds of thousands of dollars, no one is going to pay me any attention. In the end, it is all about the value of the monies. No real money, no actual concern from the music industry. Their responses to this art so far have been pretty standard and generic, such as a dropped entry on Amazon, removed listing from Etsy, or a demonetization on YouTube. In money terms I have made little to cover my expenses in maintaining these promotional outlets. I used those three sites not for selling but more so to get the word out. Over many years, the results have been little to nothing. That matches my experiences with Art Fairs and Exhibitions, with the costs of exceeding the results. The only major benefits of my online promoting have been the hundred plus videos on YouTube and my 660 entries on this blog, which document this story.
That brings me to my first change that has come about because of this project. I am no longer calling what I do as Art (although the words art and artwork will still be used for description). Once, I added that push button to hear the music, I started to wonder what I should call what I am doing. My art genre title became Interactive Constructive sculpture (I made that up). After finishing this project I am now considering it is time to acknowledge the moving of my artistic needle to the center between performance art and visual art. Maybe, the genre term, Music Box, as a better description then artwork.
The fact that these music boxes are designed to hang on a wall instead sitting on an end table gives the impression to Art Jurors and Art aficionados the leeway to still call what I do as Art. That may keep me in the running for Group and eventually one person Art shows in the big towns. Think about it. For all the art venues out there that need to make monies calling a show of wall hangings of Interactive Constructive Sculptures is a mouth full. Easier to say come see and play the creative music boxes by Scott Von Holzen. That will certainly attract the ordinary gallery walker. As for the people with the monies, that may pert their interest for Art that they can easily afford and can actually have fun with.
With those thoughts I want to mention something interesting with these so called artistic music boxes of mine. Since the very first art that showed up on cave wall, to Van Eyck, Vermeer, Rembrandt, Monet, Van Gogh, Picasso and beyond most visitors spend only seconds looking at art. This latest project has music that is about one minute twenty seconds in length. Since this art is fairly unknown add that time to another ten to fifteen seconds looking at the artwork. That brings the total viewing time to easily one minute and thirty seconds a visitor could spend looking and listening. That puts this artwork in an exclusive category. That is amazing considering I am and this art is still and unknown, unknown.
Finally, this is the grip I have. What is the deal with Jurored (the art deciders) Art Shows and their rewarding of honors and monies to at best is high end craftsmanship. What I am referring to is that all Art shows I have been apart of, from my first exhibition way back in the 1970’s to the Pablo show this early October, have been strangely captivated by the finely made, untouchable, buttery smooth looking, and exquisitely crafted objects that easily get a one-up on the competition? Throw in a shallow social or environmentally connection and you got a winner, or at less an honorable mention. It is absurd, and I will explain.
On an ordinary 7 day working week I spend 10 hours a day in my Studio. Around 60 hours of that time a week I use for project time. The rest of my time is being used for maintenance of everything else art and music related. This project’s worksheet has a start date of September 8th. I finished on October 7th, with the signing. I spend four weeks on this artwork for a guess total of 240 hours spent in the planning, figuring out, solving problems, correcting mistakes, and the constructing of the artwork out of wood, aluminum, canvas and paints. Then there is the writing of the music followed by the creating of the performance and the building of the stereo system along with speaker boxes needed to hear the artwork’s music. All this effort requires a high level of learned skill, or craft, which is a process that I have taught myself. I use this process to put together all the items I created with the end goal being a work of art.All art starts as craft, and end only as art when the final object represents something greater then the sum of its physical parts. Recently I have found a simpler way to expressed that idea of something greater with the words ennobling an object (from the french writer Guillaume Apollinaire concerning the rejection of Marcel Duchamp’s infamous Fountain by a 1917 jurored exhibition he help organize). His three words separate Art from Craft and I am sure the art deciders of this world would understand that. But instead they have convinced themselves that high Craft, a level of skill, is itself art. It is not. Artisans who take ordinary objects and combine them together in a presentations that are buttery smooth, with a meticulously finish, that screams do-not-touch, your fingers will mar the shine, and that intimidate the viewer with absurd amounts of attention to detail create nothing more then high craft which is lovely to look at and expensive to own. Those considerations has caused jurored art exhibitions, and the art deciders to raise high craft in stature to their art comfort level. They keep awarding an art process as the artwork itself. In reality I see highcraft as the putting separate parts together to create an overall high finished object that substitutes for everyday ordinary. It is the high finishing that the art deciders see that raises craft to art. They are rewarding the ennobling of the process not the objects. They know not what they do.
I started Play that Song on May 17th. The artwork was finished in early July. The artwork project was completed with the adding of the music and the signing and dating on August 25th. This is the only artwork project that was completed in 2021. The only other artwork I have finished was After the Gold Rush, at the end of February in Minnesota. Although I completed the music for this artwork, I never built the framed or created the sound system. All that never happened because we were getting ready to leave. On March 1st we returned home back to Wisconsin.
Here is my YouTube video discussing this artwork. The music still sounds “catchy” to this day. That convinces me that after all these months spent on this project the choice of music holds well.
To add to the video review of Play that Song, here are some of the technical improvements that were made. My aluminum frame for this artwork now using one inch angle instead of three-quarter used previously. That makes for a stronger, stiffer frame for the artwork. Moving the speakers out from behind the artwork to in front allows the artwork to sit closer to the wall. The pastel colors I chose for the canvas framed speakers and the controller box, I have used before in early artworks. The pastels were used on small pieces of the artwork. I never had the concern if the pastel colors actually work with the overall color scheme of the artwork. Being an old school photographer, I was always looking for interesting contrasts, so that is where the pastels come in. Besides, the music having its own color scheme and its outside placement on this work allows displays its independence from the artwork.
The challenge remains: how do I, or don’t I, connect the art, the music, and the artist. That mystery still lies deep, only partially uncovered. The last improvement is the first time use of magnets instead of glue to connect the wooden music pieces to the canvas frame. Although the magnets can cause damage to the top coat of paint, their easy removal releases the wood pieces, which better protects the canvas when being moved. The idea of gluing rigid wood pieces to a foldable piece of canvas, and then trying to handle that canvas without having the wood tear loose, is absurd. Especially when I am still using an experimental layering of top paint that needs to be easily scraped off, and takes time to harden.
On September 2nd we will take this artwork to be exhibited in the important fall art exhibition at the Pablo Annual. In 2019, to my surprise, The Blue Danube took third place. Surprisingly not, nothing came from that moment in the light event. Now, two years later and the payment of a twenty-dollar exhibition fee, we will give it another try. I hate pay-to-display events, but I want to convince the Pablo that it is time to schedule this art for a one person show. That means I need to keep myself in their face while working to convince them that my combination of art and music fits well with the Pablo’s overall approach to the arts. I am going to make this happen, knowing that the squeaky wheelgets the grease. What grease and this art have in common I am not aware of, but that metaphor pops up from memory like “Once there was this little old ant who thought he could move a rubber tree plant.” From the time I first heard this song to today I have considered myself to be one of those stubborn son-of-a-bitch ants. So it is. So it goes. So goes I.