Hello everyone, just a short post this time to say that my new exhibition, A Map & A Key, is up at BoxHeart Gallery! I talked a little bit about this collection in my past few posts, and in the future I will probably go into some more detail on individual pieces. For now, all I want to say is that I’d really love for you to go check it out! Hours and other info can be found here on the gallery website. Understandably, not everyone will be able to see it in person. But this show is built around a spirit of adventure, and so for anyone who can visit the gallery there will be a small token waiting for you, and a clue. For those willing to accept the call and embark on a small quest, treasure may just await. And to you, my friend, I’m okay giving the spoiler that the treasure will be in the form of a custom-designed and framed monoprint.
I do think that the work benefits from in-person viewing - there are a lot of intricate details and textures, as well as metallic details that are hard to capture in photos. So, please do that if you can. BUT, if you are not able to make it in person, BoxHeart Gallery has created a very good alternative in the form of a cool and easy to use virtual tour. Just go to this link: https://boxheart.myportfolio.com/cavalline-21.
The box in the upper right of that page will put you in the middle of the gallery, Google Earth-style. Just follow the little arrows and make your way around the gallery to see all forty-two pieces of A Map & A Key. Most of the show is in one big room in the first floor gallery, but be sure not to miss the four pieces in the front windows. You’ll be able to click on any of the art on the walls to see it closer, and then you can even click again on each piece to see multiple views, including close-up detail shots.
And, because I love a full experience and also because I’m a little bit extra, I’ve created a playlist to accompany the exhibition. I think it captures the tone of what I am putting forward with this work, but it might also just be a cool soundtrack to whatever adventures you might currently be on. You can listen at this link or by scanning the image below from the Spotify app.
Hi there, friends. In my last post I talked about my upcoming exhibition, A Map & A Key, which I am pleased to say I have now actually finished all of the artwork for. It’s not the last minute at all, it’s a good six whole days before I need to deliver it to the gallery. Way ahead of the game.
Included in this collection is a new series of monoprints, and I’m really excited to show them. I’ve been working on them for about a year, really. I started creating them at the beginning of lockdown last year and have been gradually designing, carving, and printing them since then in order to have the whole series ready for A Map & A Key in March. I’ve been calling them the Adventure series - a system of sigils based on fantastical archetypes of magic, battle, and lore.
These twelve designs represent… well, I suppose they can represent something different to everyone. To you adventurers out there, they might be a symbol of identity - maybe when you look at them you see one that represents you. Are you a raging warrior, a roguish trickster, a sage of knowledge, a hunter of the forest? Nerds like me love to create characters, and to me these are the symbols of heroes. Maybe they are to you too? ;) If not, that’s ok. They are also more than that. I love the idea of emblems whose full significance is lost to time. Maybe one of them symbolizes something only you know.
I’ve made them in the style of an ancient seal or crest, with weathered edges and nicked sides. And the really cool part is, every print made is unique. I suppose now would be a good time to explain a little bit about what a monoprint is. I’m gonna go ahead and offset this part, come join me for this very scholarly explanation:
In traditional printmaking, the goal is to make each print identical. There are different methods of creating the image, but when the prints are made, they are usually all done at the same time and they look exactly the same. They’re numbered according to a set amount of how many prints will be made (an “edition”) - so if it is in an edition of twenty, each one is numbered 1/20, 2/20, etc.
Monoprints are distinct from this because even though they are printed from the same block, each one is intentionally made to be one-of-a-kind. This can be through changing what kind of ink you are using, painting or drawing on the paper before you print, or adding details after printing (I use all of those methods). As with traditional prints, monoprints can still be made in an edition, but they’re often labeled with something like “VE” to show that the edition is “variable” - each one is at least slightly different. You'll see this kind of numbering on my prints.
Hopefully that explanation makes sense. There might be artists who would define some things a bit differently than I have, but with printmaking, I am really making my own way. There are some way serious printmakers out there who’ve spent years studying the craft and perfecting their technique, and that is not this kid. I started exploring the idea of monoprints because they really align with what I value in my own art practice - organic lines and textures, a hands-on approach, and a no-rules policy on what materials can be used.
So basically, they’re just a lot of fun. You start with the same base print block, but there’s tons of freedom to make each one a special work of art. Below are the first two prints of a few of the designs, showing how varied the final products can be:
You’ll see that they’re numbered - I’m doing these in editions of fifty. Which is exciting to me, because there’s so much room for evolving and experimentation as the printing progresses. I'm hoping to start doing some custom versions soon.
I’d really like to talk more about the process of making these, but I think I’ll save that for a future post. If any of you process nerds out there can’t wait, just message me, I’d love to chat about it.
For now, I’d like to wrap this up with an enticement and maybe a little bit of a teaser. I’ll be posting more monoprint images from this series on Instagram in the coming days, and I hope if you’re able to you will come see them in person at my upcoming show A Map & A Key at BoxHeart Gallery in March (or at least take in the virtual show experience on BoxHeart’s website).
For those who stop by the gallery during the show’s run, there’s a small bit of adventure that I have planned, waiting just for you - along with some big giveaways. More on that in the next two weeks.
Hey, blog post number four! Look at me go here. I’m totally not that person who started a LiveJournal and only made three posts, because now I’ve made four.
I’m very happy this week to invite you to my upcoming exhibition, A Map & A Key, and give a few details about it. It will take place at Boxheart Gallery from March 3 through April 2 of this year. Due to the pandemic conditions, there will not be an opening event for this show, but the gallery will still be open for in-person visits! Masks are required of course, and there is plenty of room in the gallery to be socially distanced while you view the artwork, so I am hoping that you, my friend, will be able to stop by. If you want to be extra safe, you’re even able to book a free private appointment right on their website.
If you haven’t been to Boxheart before, you’re in for a treat. It’s a super awesome gallery that features really interesting and thought-provoking work. They exhibit many emerging artists (like me) and mixed media artists (also like me) and I’m honored to be a part of their artist family.
To describe my show, I’ll start with the blurb that is included in the press release and promotional materials, because I think it describes the intent of the collection pretty nicely:
In A Map & A Key, Cavalline offers a fragmented landscape of lost adventure and faint longing, pieced together from boyish ideas of an arcane and extraordinary world, softened and worn by years of misremembering. Using a rich combination of expressive mark-making, textural painting, and idiosyncratic collage, his compositions seek to capture memory as a moving cascade of fiction and recollection. Embedded with insignia that hint at the esoteric symbols of a forgotten culture, A Map & A Key recalls a sensitive boy’s pure and desperate creation of a personal mythology and speaks to a quiet and insistent longing for magic amid the devastating loss that comes with growing up.
So, to build off of that very swanky and impressive mass of art-speak, this is a collection about adventure. About things that are secret and special. Quests. It’s about maps, magic, hidden doors. You know, that kind of thing.
As I’ve mentioned previously in a blog post, describing my artwork doesn’t always come easily to me. And it’s even a little tougher for this exhibition, because this artwork is about stories you figure out as you go along. Symbols and histories that no one else knows. Treasures that you don’t understand, yet. Things that are found, and then forgotten, and then remembered.
It’s about the lost languages and secret lore of a kid who climbed a tree and made a kingdom there.
If you’re someone who ever found an old key right where an old key had no place to be, and put it in your pocket, and carried it around, because it could’ve been left there just for you, and there might be a door somewhere, that you’ll probably find someday, and that door could very well be magic… then I have a story to tell you. And if you never did anything along those lines… well, I guess I have a hard time believing that. But you should come along too.
I’m really excited to share this work. I’ll be showing thirty new mixed media panels, and I will also be introducing a new series of hand-detailed monoprints.
I really hope you can come and see! If you want to, please sign up for email updates (at the very bottom of this page) and follow me on Instagram (@t.cavalline).
I’ll be posting more details in the weeks to come... including a quite adventurous giveaway.
I don’t think it’s too bold of a generalization to say that every artist that is putting their work out into the world wants people to engage with it in some way. Well, I suppose it’s possible there are very talented artists posting amazing pictures on private Instagram accounts with no followers, but unfortunately there’s no way to know. Most of the time, visual artists like me want people to look at our work. If they like it enough and are in a position to, they might buy it, and that’s great! We really love that. But we also really just love people looking at it. First and foremost, we want people to simply experience it with their senses.
Secondmost, we want people to react to it, with their minds or feelings. Maybe it reminds them of something they love, and makes them a little bit sad, in a good way. Maybe it makes them think about things that are unfair, and makes them a little bit mad, in a bad way. Or maybe they just use what they know to make some mental connections about what they see.
And third: if you experience it, and react to it, we want you to talk to us about it.
Making art, for a lot of people, means revealing real pieces of who we are inside, and that’s hard. We want people to explore that with us, to ask questions. Seeing our art is
seeing us. We want to be seen. Don’t ever think an artist doesn’t want to talk to you about their art! They do. Unless there’s a reason, like they’re having a bad day, that happens. Or maybe they’re kind of an a-hole. But you can usually feel confident approaching an artist to talk about their work, because this is what we want.
And I feel like that is kind of an open secret. Even though we want people to talk to us about our work, a lot of the time we are conflicted about that. We don’t want you to know that we want you to talk to us. Because we want you to think we’re cool, and we’re doing just fine, thank you much. Also because we are awkward, weird, and insecure. Wait, I am doing a lot of generalizing, I should probably stop speaking for other people here. I am awkward, weird, and insecure, and all of that above only applies to me. (But I’m pretty sure it applies to other people, too.)
There’s a sort of mythology built around artists not caring what anyone thinks of their work. It’s like a force from inside them or something and they just have to get it out, man, and who cares what anyone thinks about it, they do it for them, and if you don’t like it that just reinforces how original they are. I guess the mythology persists because those artists do exist, and even though they don’t care what you think they are posting their art and tagging it #paintingoftheday and checking on how many likes they get. When you think about artists, let these be outliers.
Artists want people to experience, react, ask questions.
But then people do those things. And sometimes what they ask is this, often with an inquisitive head tilt:
“What does it mean?”
And then I freeze. Because I don’t know how to answer that. That doesn’t make it a bad question. For a lot of artists, this is a very fine and easy question. Maybe their art is message-based. What does it mean? It means that they’d like you to think about how important birds are to a healthy ecosystem. Maybe there’s symbolism they want you to unpack: What does it mean? Well, the river represents technology and the sun is capitalism and that bird over there means hope. Maybe it’s just a nice picture of a bird, and the meaning is a story: There Are Birds And Here Is One.
But then there’s other kinds of work. No message, no storyline, nothing you need to walk away with. The artist would love for you to experience something, but it’s kind of up to you what that is. I think I'm in this vague category of artists. Describing the meaning of an artwork I've made is hard for me, because I'm not sure there really is one, actually. It's about things, yes. It has ideas sort of circling around in it, absolutely. It may put concepts forward, make possible connections between them, hint at a story, show a small part of a huge world. And that all feels very complex and important to me. But none of that seems like it’s Meaning. At least not a meaning I can easily summarize.
And that’s ok.
I think a lot of people have been made to think that art is something that you get or you don’t. When that’s the case, they want it to have a Meaning, so then they have Understood it and are part of the group of people that “get” art. Checkmark, mission complete, where’s that waiter with my martini. But! What I would like to tell you, my friend who is a real life person and has read this entire post thus far, is this Very Important Thing: You don’t have to “get” everything. Every piece of art is not out there to be Understood. That's not to say you shouldn't look at art with an inquisitive, critical, exploring eye. You should! It's fun. And it's way more fun when you know that there’s not a right answer you have to figure out.
I've been tempted to turn the 'what does it mean' question around. 'Well, you tell me what it means.' I don't do that though, yikes, that'd be pretentious. And the thing is, what is mostly being asked is what this piece means to me. Which is a very good question to ask an artist, and which I'm both excited and self-conscious to talk about. And it might sound something like:
"Well, it's kind of about being young, and how the world is smaller then but with more secret places, and also it's about my grandma, and this one tree that isn’t there anymore, and also kind of about libraries? Well, like bookshelves I guess. And the idea that there are things written in books that no one has read in years, and the inside of a book might be a secret place no one has seen in a lifetime, and things can disappear without anyone ever knowing, and also there's a bird."
It's in the form of memory and thought, the ideas just kind of swirling around, so it’s different from a message or a story. Stories have a meaning, or at least we usually give them one when we tell them, but memories are collections of disordered pieces that you gather and interpret as you go, in a way that changes as the world around you changes. So meaning works differently.
It can’t mean something, not exactly, because then it doesn’t mean other things.
Happy New Year, you guys. This new year seemed like a good time to think a little bit more about a motif that I’ve used a lot over the last few years - walls. Whatever else they are, walls are boundaries. They mark one side as different from the other, and that’s what a new year feels like it should be about. I’m not sure if everyone necessarily celebrates the idea of the new year, but it’s probably pretty hard to avoid at least acknowledging it. For me, I love the delineation between one era and another - anything can happen in the new one because it’s not colored by any of the awkward stuff that came before. A fresh blank page is relieving but it’s also dangerous, because obviously it can’t stay that way. It has to get colored eventually, and that’s risky, because the colors aren’t always what you pictured. I’m not a big fan of new year’s resolutions, for the same reason I always get a lot of anxiety over a new sketchbook. It’s a lot of pressure. You want it to be this perfect thing, a volume full of lovely and cleverly executed drawings, and the first time you mess up and doodle something wonky it’s like you want to give up and start a whole new book. And then you’ve got this stack of old sketchbooks that each stop on page four.
Walls, yes, this was supposed to be about walls. But the point there (I think) was that delineation between different things feels important, and meaningful, but it’s packed with complications. Walls always separate one area from another. The interesting and complicated bit comes when you think about what the distinction is between the areas that are separated. A wall can be about protection, it can keep danger out (or in). It can create a border around the things you care about, it can tell anyone who sees it that those things within it are yours. It can create a barrier, marking two kinds of people - those that got over it and those that didn’t. You probably see where I’m heading. When art is viewed as being an integral part of the world it was created in, there are so many implications that you can start to think about when you look at something like a wall.
It didn’t start that way. Well, what I mean is, when I started using the motif of a wall, I had something fairly specific in mind: the Labyrinth. Not just a labyrinth, THE Labyrinth, capital L, the one with the Minotaur in it. I’m a little bit obsessed with that story, and I’ve pulled a lot of different elements from it to explore in art. (I don’t want to set expectations too high for a future post, but sometime maybe we can have a nice long conversation about balls of thread.) In thinking about the Labyrinth, I kept thinking about walls. Walls that enclose the Labyrinth, and separate it as a space. Walls that make up the endless paths and tunnels within it. The Labyrinth is a maze, and a maze is walls.
(If anyone is revving up right now to tell me the difference between labyrinths and mazes, that is a conversation I am ready for, my friend. But it’s for another day.)
The thing about a maze though, is that it’s meant to be a puzzle that can be solved. The walls are absolute, you have to find your way through them along a path, you have to play by their rules. The answer is usually in the center. But to me, that isn’t the point of the Labyrinth. There isn’t one right path. There’s just a ton of winding ways that intersect and meander and make shadows and hiding places. And the Minotaur? He might not be in the center. This is his home. He can be wherever he wants.
What the walls of the Labyrinth do isn’t create a puzzle. They create a space where there are two shifting roles: hunter and hunted. The difference is that one of the two is an explorer there, figuring out their path... and the other one knows every turn and corner by heart. This is how I picture it, at least. I love to imagine the suggestions of that story, and play with the ideas in it.
And that’s when the ideas get bigger, and not so specific. The Labyrinth turns into a labyrinth, lowercase, and now it’s a metaphor. The roles between hero and monster become blurred. And in a world that values division and categories, walls can mean a lot more things. And they can take anything, and separate it into two groups. In and out. Ours and theirs. Home and everywhere else.
My current favorite way to imagine a wall? With a rope to help you over, and a waiting world on the other side.
So there ya go. That's a small, rambling, and hopefully only a bit disjointed look into a favorite motif of mine.
And hey! Bonus if you read this far: a fun wall-related word that I picked up along the way, for all you vocab nerds. Cyclopean (adj) - denoting a type of ancient masonry marked by the use of large irregular blocks without mortar.
“If there is no love in the world, we will make a new world, and we will give it walls...”
If you don’t know me, I am a mixed media artist from Pittsburgh. Welcome, you. Who are you? How on earth did you get here? No matter. You’re reading this now, and so I suppose we’re a little closer to being friends than we were a minute ago. The artist statement on my website gives the fancy, more conceptual version of what my art is about. Please read it, if you care to - it’s written in lovely turns of phrase that I spent days editing. But here, if you couldn’t tell, my tone is “conversational”, and I’m trying to just write things like I think them.
So, as an introduction: I’m into forests, fantasy, old secret things, and the idea that the world looks very different in your head. And I make mixed media paintings, which are like regular paintings, but with a bunch of other stuff in them.
If you do know me (and now that we’re on the second paragraph and we’re all friends let’s just say that counts everybody), you will know that putting my thoughts and feelings out into the world is not something I have generally been comfortable with. I put a lot of my soul into my artwork, and just showing that to people feels raw enough sometimes. Let alone actually putting the emotions and inspirations behind it into words. And let even aloner (?) just airing out my thoughts on art in general, or on life, or on, I don’t know, pancakes or something.
So why, you didn’t ask, am I writing this? I’m not completely sure but hopefully as we go along we’ll find out. Maybe it’s to give some context to me and my art practice, which is a smart and businessy thing to do. Maybe it’s to work on focusing my thoughts coherently (someone, probably not my therapist, may have said that understanding what I’m trying to say can be like trying to catch water in your hand). Maybe it’s to start conversations. Maybe it’s for me, maybe it’s for you. Either way:
I’m going to be making a post every two weeks in 2021, a year which we will all soon refer to as The Best Year Yet. I’ll be posting info on shows, sales, and updates on new works. I’ll be highlighting some older work and telling the stories behind it. I’ll be talking a little bit about some of the technical and conceptual considerations of art-making. And I’ll be doing it all in this effortless, conversational tone that you already picked up on because I pointed it out earlier.
And all that is to say: this is a thing I’m doing, and it felt odd to just start it without some kind of prologue. And it ISN’T some kind of New Years resolution thing, because I’m posting this in December. So.
I feel so vulnerable already. Thank god no one’s reading this. Well, you are. Okay, it’s just you. You’re fine.