Wednesday, November 19, 2014


Well, it's that time again. Time for the hours of work, reflection, "aha" moments, "ah shit" moments, and all the other things that come along with making some artwork culminate into a few words. As usual, I've explored a realm of a material in which I find something that has either been discarded or wasted. Up until this last series, the materials have mainly been focused on items with a building or solid element. This time, it's the fluidity of the material I was after; coffee became my friend in a new(ish) way.

Floater, coffee and ink on paper, 7"x9", 2014
This is one of those cases where the material in question didn't start out as meaningful beyond its function. After some time and understanding, though, I would find that using the coffee was no different than my relationship with it since graduate school- needing it to get my work done. Thus the arguably obvious title for this series of drawings, Fuel

The Man is a Puddle, coffee and ink on paper, 7"x9", 2014
 Just for a little bit of context, these works came at a time when I was being ruled by the pushing and pulling of the day to day. Anxiety was at an all time high- jitters, sleeplessness, and the constant feeling that there just aren't enough hours in the day. It was almost too appropriate that these drawings would be soaked in caffeine. I started off by using these drawings as an exercise in calming these things down- not unlike how a dog is taken out for a run around the block when it's got too much restlessness, so as to avoid chewed shoes and jumping up on company. 

Collapsed Roof, ink and coffee on paper, 6"x8", 2014
As the project progressed, I allowed myself to be unencumbered by subject matter and let the pen, brush, and my subconscious do all the work. What emerged was a back and forth, from images of contemplative characters (familiar to those of my past works) floating in the coffee-filled ether, with age on their faces, against the intense and mutilated figures that seem to be more rubber than flesh. As the series moved forward, the intensity of the contrast continued to increase. With the increase of polarization came an increase in production, until finally- like the caffeine crash- it just stopped.

Blow Top, ink and coffee on paper, 9.5"x13.5", 2014
Emerge, ink and coffee on paper, 5"x4", 2014

Fragmented Fellow, ink and coffee on paper, 6.5"x9.5"
Curled, ink and coffee on paper, 9.5"x13.5", 2014

Old Man River, ink and coffee on paper, 9.5"x13.5"
Like a Stone, ink and coffee on paper, 6.5"x9.5", 2014

Sail, ink and coffee on paper, 6.5"x6", 2014
Rawr, ink and coffee on paper, 3.5"x4", 2014

For more, you can find me on:
Instagram: @aaronschraeter
Twitter: @aaronschraeter

and, of course:

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Circular Diaries

Let me start this off by saying it's very rare that I start writing about a body of newer work immediately after completing the whole set- let alone in the beginning stages. That said, The Circular Diaries is one of those projects that has been jumping up and screaming at me since the first completed study- a work on paper titled The Kneeling Man. 
The Kneeling Man, mixed media on paper, 9.5"x13", 2014
The last month or so has been an interesting ride with some life changes attached to it- some of those changes coming as feelings of rejection, being lost, and questioning the direction of movement. Let's call them growing pains- and these are things we all feel at some point in our lives (if we're fortunate). When the chips came down, I did what I always do- my own version of retail therapy, in the form of scouring the streets for things to make art with, or at least some inspiration. Ironically, on a day I needed it most, I came up with nothing. Zilch. For the first time in a long time I simply lost it. I started walking down the street, house to house, and yanking circulars out of the posts of neighbors' fences and tearing them up. As a friend and mentor pointed out, the experience became research. I picked the scraps up off the ground, gathered some more of the coupon-filled paper, and got to work.
The Leaning Man, mixed media on paper, 9.5"x13", 2014
Slouch,  mixed media on paper, 13"x9.5", 2014
Ever since I started working in found objects, I aimed to comb through the mud and the muck to find a jewel-  a diamond in the rough that I could show the world they'd been fools for throwing out. Granted, I still love this idea, and it will continue to work it's way into my works as a medium of choice, but picking up the circulars this way gave me an insight from the opposite side of the spectrum of tossed goods. What about the things no one is sorry about throwing out? The things that are mass-produced that you can't even give away- so common that no one even notices when someone walks up to your home and steals it. In an unexpected twist of fate, this "found object" material became the star of the show, essentially representing the subject at hand, rather than being a stage for an already existing topic to dance on.
Suit in Recline, mixed media on paper, 13"x9.5", 2014

It might sound strange, but at this point I was beginning to relate to the material more than usual. And how could I not relate to an item that there is so much of that seeing it doesn't stir so much as a batted eyelash. It reminds me of the adage I was told coming out of college, which essentially boiled down to "Good luck out there. There aren't any jobs, so start shopping for stripper clothes." This of course was followed by a similar message delivered towards the end of graduate school which sounded a little more like "throw a rock in any direction and you'll hit an artist with dreams of landing a gallery. That same rock will also hit anyone vying for a job teaching college art. Have fun out there." At the end of the day, it's hard not to succumb to the empty and demoralizing feeling (and in most cases the reality) of being another face in an already vast and constantly growing crowd.  

Before you envision me as a depressed artist having a realization of hopelessness, descending down to the end of my pitiful rope, the fun part comes in dealing with the material. The real magic came in discovering how much I can actually do with this material that seems so hopelessly one-note. When molded, painted, and placed correctly, the results can be beautiful, unique, and worth the double take it wouldn't have earned previously. 

Unlike in most of the previous posts, this investigation will continue. Thus far, I've only made one piece that is a wood-based work, but there will be more soon. In the mean time....

Bust Portrait of a Nobody, mixed media on wood, 24"x24", 2014
Bust Portrait with a Hole, mixed media on paper, 14"x13", 2014
For more, you can find me on:
Instagram: @aaronschraeter
Twitter: @aaronschraeter

and, of course:

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

I Am the Egg, Man.

Soft Boiled

As usual, this group of works had it’s birth in one place, and it’s realization somewhere else. I Am the Egg, Man, visually, was a fairly seamless transition from Flesh,Bone, and Full of Nasty. White and grey Chiclet-esque forms that came together to make a ghostly mouth full of teeth- all of the sudden, they come apart as if to grow legs and step right out of the “gums.” The flat tops that used to chomp have now inflated slightly to make an elliptical egg form. The legs remain, as if they were there all along. I quickly realized what these forms were, and assigned a label quickly, as I scribbled on a piece of paper in my large sketch book- “Humpty Dumpty is a Motherfucker.” I didn’t really know what that meant at the time, but I also didn’t care. I just knew that it was the change I was making, and that it had to start immediately. Ironically, it wouldn’t be until later that this group of works would have a lot more in common with The Packrat’s Dynasty than the previously mentioned body of works.
Here & There
            At the beginning, when I would try to explain these paintings, I could only describe them as their most obvious function- a retelling of what I’d called the most underwhelming tragedy in the history of Western story telling, Humpty Dumpty. For me, this was a bit of a change of pace. The last time I had used any real comedic violence or mutilation in a group of works was during my MFA thesis, How to Kill Your Imaginary Friends. The main difference, in my view: I’d gone from creating new characters that I would torture and destroy myself, to now almost trying to catch the destruction in the act; the peak of Humpty’s worst moment. The moment before “all the king’s horses and all the king’s” just kind of cut their losses and called it quits without even a shred of evidence that they would try to fix the poor bastard. When it was all said and done, though, I had the “what” all figured out, but not the “why.” As usual, I had to become emotionally detached and away from the paintings to figure out what they really meant to me.

As time passed, and I put more of my creative efforts into The #GeppettoProject, I forgot about the egg paintings. And then, all of the sudden, while going through some old sketches, the truth dawned on me. As I’ve said in the past, my artwork has always been reflective (and response to) of my surroundings, and the changes of the scape to my day-to-day. These paintings came at a time when my paternal grandfather began to quickly deteriorate in health, and ultimately passed away. Don’t get me wrong- this was not a group of paintings that were an attempt to cling on to the man, wondering why he was taken away from us so soon. The man was nothing, if not a hardened survivor. To boot, he also nearly made it to his 96th birthday; hardly an issue of “not enough time” on this Earth. That said, I’m not going to tell a lie and say that this wasn’t about mourning. It was just a different kind. My grandfather was a difficult man. His story, while entertaining and funny coming from the mouths of my father and his cousins, is one filled with tragedy, drama, and spiritual difficulty. Of all of the stories of his antics, the negative things he’d done, the fights he had with my father, and even the heroics he performed during the war (which all read like a great piece of fiction, by the way), one strange detail always stuck out in my mind. His sister (who died not too long before he did) once told me “The thing about your grandfather is that he’s not who he was. He changed when he came back from the war. He brought back something dark with him.”  It was remembering this conversation that I realized, my relationship with my grandfather had a lot more in common with Humpty Dumpty than I’d known.
As I mentioned before, this was not a group of paintings mourning the death of this man. As it turned out, they were mourning the life of a man that I never got to know; a man he never had much of a chance to be. There may not have been a way to put the man I knew back together. Even so, I can’t help but keep thinking that broken as he may have gotten, and fragmented as he could be, it wasn’t the end to his story. There was no waiting for “all the king’s horses and all the king’s men”- just the will to keep trying to stand up on one’s own two feet. Damaged isn’t dead. Mean isn’t evil. Hard isn’t impossible. These paintings, which started as symbols and pictures of death, have grown to become a reminder to push on, even if things feel like they’re at their worst. If you’ve got some breaking eggs, try the best you can to have an omelet. 

By the Sum of It's Parts 

Swept Up