I just heard from Historic Albany Foundation that my three submitted artworks have been accepted into the annual art auction and charity event, BUILT: Albany’s Architecture Through Artists’ Eyes. And this year, in partnership with the Breathing Lights art project, BUILT will feature artwork and imagery inspired by the architecture of Albany, as well as of Troy and Schenectady.
Of the three pieces I submitted to BUILT, two of them are of Capital District architectural structures that no longer exist today; and the third submission is of a Capital District architectural structure that might fall down as we speak. All three of my artworks, as well as the art of over a hundred different Capital Region artisans, are available for bid and/or purchase on November 5, 2016, from 7:00 to 10:00 p.m. at the New York State Museum.
And my three entries are:
I took this picture of the Schenectady appliance store / apartment building in 2015. It was already scheduled for demolition, and a few days after I captured this image, the landowners razed the building. I’m glad that BUILT expanded their “call for art” to include images taken in Schenectady, which allows me to submit this piece to the show.
THE PEW OF HOLY INNOCENTS
The only one of the three submissions in which the original structure still exists today, this was essentially one of the few times I mustered enough courage to sneak into a condemned building and take some pictures inside. I don’t dare go in the building today; one good sneeze and the while structure will collapse into rubble.
I’ve submitted several Dream Windows to BUILT, and I’m pleased that my electrified tribute to Bob & Ron’s Fish Fry sign, Dream Window 17: Friday Night Fish Fry, will have a chance to be sold at BUILT. This is way cool.
So yeah, I’m looking forward to seeing the great art that my fellow Capital District artists have created for BUILT, and I’m also hoping that these three pieces can find new homes.
For the third year in a row, I’ve submitted my Saratoga-themed artworks to a special charity auction and art show. The Saratoga Springs Preservation Society’s “TRASK Art Show and Sale” takes place on September 29 at the Canfield Casino, with the proceeds from each item sold earmarked for the preservation of Saratoga Springs’ buildings and history.
The artworks submitted must embody Saratoga Springs’ spirit and history, and must show something about the beauty and imagery of Saratoga County.
Last year, all three of my donated pieces found new homes. I’m hoping that this year, three more of my artworks will hang on new walls.
DREAM WINDOW 17: AN ADIRONDACK REFLECTION
Oh man, this was a fun Dream Window to build. It was my first attempt to use mirrored glass and combine it with water-transfer decals of my photographs. The Dream Window captures the reflective beauty of the Adirondacks, and I’m seriously hoping this finds a new home at the Trask. This artwork was previously displayed at the 2016 Times Union Home Expo Art Show.
Yes, it’s the thoroughbred track. Yes, I used infrared film. Yes, I entered this at the New York State Fair this year. And yes, I’m hoping that it wins – or at least places – or at least shows. 😀
Yep, it’s my image-changing lenticular art piece, one of only two Chuck Miller artworks to earn acceptance into the Capital District Photo Regionals. This piece – taken over a period of twelve months in Saratoga County – has a chance to find a new home with someone who appreciates magic-motion artwork.
The art show will take place this Thursday, September 29, at the Canfield Casino in Congress Park, Saratoga Springs. It’s definitely a show worth attending, and I know you’ll have a good time.
And you might see an artwork or six that you just can’t leave the show without buying.
Two of my Dream Windows, #17 and #18 to be precise, made it to the walls of the Albany Center Gallery satellite art show at the Times Union Home Expo. And the AAA batteries that I installed to power the red arow in the artwork of Dream Window 18: Friday Night Fish Fry ran out of juice.
Thankfully, I brought a spare pack of AAA batteries, and within minutes the sign was illuminated once more.
But was it too late? I knew that although this would be a location where people could purchase artwork, I also knew that it was a juried show, with a possible “Best in Show” awarded. Oh man, if those batteries were drained when the judge walked through…
What, you don’t think I worry about such things?
Anecdote. In 2011, I brought four pictures to the Altamont Fair for the art show. Mind you, this was during my “Altamont Curse” years, where I couldn’t get a ribbon close to any of my pieces. And as I brought in one of my artworks, Midnight at the Palace Theater, I noticed that the black lacquered wooden frame had a small nick in one corner. Maybe nobody would notice. But I could think of three who would – myself, God and the judge. And God’s not judging this show, but I have to treat the judge like God. Thankfully, I was able to find a Sharpie pen and, a few quick black scribbles later, even God wouldn’t have noticed the nick. You know … I still have the second place ribbon for that artwork. Yeah. I keep treasures like that.
But let’s get back to this weekend’s show. There were some absolutely amazing pieces in this show; and the Capital District’s artistic community never ceases to amaze in terms of creativity and vision.
By the way, if you get to the event this weekend, you must check out this show. And pay special attention to my friend Jennifer Jeffers’ two art pieces; she’s creating artwork with cyanotypes and photographs and I’m not even sure I’m describing it. Look for her “Yancy’s Dream” series. It’s amazing. Flat out.
And then, like a puff of smoke from Facebook’s Basilica, news came from the Albany Center Gallery.
Great day at the Times Union Home Expo. This year ACG focused on artists that reused, recycle, repurposed and reclaimed…
And there it is … one of the ten selected as the best of the show… bottom center… Dream Window 18: Friday Night Fish Fry!!
In the past four years, I’ve built nineteen Dream Windows. Several of them have sold privately; several others were donated for charitable auctions. Two of them were displayed at my 30th reunion at Hamilton College; one of my classmates bought a Dream Window, the College claimed the other for their art collection.
But now… after four years and nineteen constructs… Dream Window 18: Friday Night Fish Fry becomes my first-ever Dream Window to win an award in a juried competition.
Thirty-seven levels of wow.
And trust me, I’m humbled and awed by the amazing artworks in this show. There were at least twenty pieces that could have made the ten best list.
I guess the judge was okay with the batteries being drained on the Dream Window; I understood later that someone did explain that the arrow moves in an illuminated chase; so maybe that helped things out.
Oh, and one more thing.
Historic Albany Foundation hosted a little art show on Saturday, one where visitors could take salvaged materials and build their own art pieces. And right there… available for sale… was a nine-panel Queen Anne window. Don’t know where it came from. Don’t know which house it was salvaged from.
A few dollars later, that window is now on its way to becoming Dream Window 20: Whatever I Want It Call It or Want it To Be.
This feels amazing.
And somehow, among all this… I have a good feeling that there’s more to come for this little fish fry sign.
Maybe two more locations. Two more shows. Two more chances for this sign to shine.
Over the years, I’ve submitted my Dream Window art pieces in various competitions and charity events. Some of the pieces have sold to help raise money for animal rescue or for building restoration; for medical research or for other charitable functions.
And if you’d like to see two of the Dream Windows up close and personal…
Your chance is coming.
Dream Window 17: An Adirondack Reflection and Dream Window 18: Friday Night Fish Fry, two of my latest marriages of salvaged windows and imagination, will be on display at Albany Center Gallery’s “Re: Repurposed; Recycled; Reused; Reclaimed” show, as part of the Times Union Home Expo at the arena on February 19-21.
This is big for me. I’m extremely excited that, over the years, my Dream Window constructs have achieved as much love as they have. To take these old, forgotten windows and to turn them into new art… it’s a wonderful thing. It’s amazing, it feels absolutely fantastic. With these Dream Windows, I can pull the memories and imaginations out of the far reaches of my mind… and turn them into something tangible and tactile.
I am also looking forward to seeing the artworks of my fellow artists, including one artist in particular – Jennifer Jeffers. See, Jennifer Jeffers was a high school classmate of mine. Yep, she went to Street Academy High School, just like I did. And she’s been working with some amazing self-taught techniques for her art.
The gallery show runs from February 19-21 as part of the Times Union Home Expo.
With my latest Dream Window … man, look at this … I took an old window that contained half a diamond frame, replaced the old busted glass with new fresh mirror glass and a photo of the solitary tree atop the Helderberg Escarpment in Thacher Park.
Okay, I know you’re scratching your head about this. Something’s missing. Something’s not here. Where’s all the pre-construction dialogue? How come there aren’t any paragraphs about what it took to build this piece?
What gives? And why, in the name of William Randolph Hearst, did this window get named for a departed and withered TU blog whose authors treated me as if the world was better off if I didn’t exist in it?
Man, I gotta explain everything… okay.
In constructing this Dream Window, I realized that I’ve built enough of these little treasures that I didn’t need to have someone else cut the glass for me. Or install the glass. And especially considering that the center piece looks like a narrow home plate in a baseball stadium.
See, in past Dream Window constructs, I’ve talked about getting the glass cut to specific measurements by either Lowe’s or Hobby Lobby or someone else. I wasn’t comfortable enough to do it. I was afraid that I would either ruin the glass with an inaccurate cut, or slash my fingers with an inaccurate cut.
You know – like the first time you ride a bicycle. You fall down. You scrape something. But after a while, you understand your center of gravity and the gyroscopic nature of same. And your parents remove the training wheels from the back of the bike. And you’re off exploring in your brand new Schwinn or Huffy or whatever bike was your first.
And I think, as I’ve progressed on these Dream Window projects and other art projects, I’ve become more comfortable with cutting art glass and stained glass, to the point where I don’t have to schlep my pieces to someone else and ask them to do it.
Case in point – for the glass in Dream Window 19: On the Edge, I actually went to Lowe’s and bought – right off the racks – a big pane of glass. And just for good measure, I also bought a big pane of mirrored glass. A few cuts here and there, and installation was a breeze.
And the Thacher Park tree? Of course it looks great when you consider that I flipped the window 180° to get the better angle for the window itself.
I suppose that’s why I named the piece “On The Edge.” The tree is on the edge of the escarpment. And the creation process for this Dream Window brought me to the edge of my comfort zone, without completely tumbling over. It was an increase in confidence, in commitment, in determination. To never give up. To never settle for “just good enough.” To see a dream in your mind, and realize it as substance.
Plus, this is a functional Dream Window. You can use the mirrors to check yourself – not only as a grooming reflection, but also as a reflection on your own life. You are here in this moment. You have traveled a journey of miles and years, and the journey is not complete. But in that journey, you have taken a stand – like the tree on the cliff – and your existence in this world has been proven and is undisputed.
You are here. You are important. Let nobody tell you otherwise.
I’ve previously built Dream Windows that featured the Capital District’s iconographic artwork and architecture. Dream Window #5: The Thirst Quencher captured the Coca-Cola advertisement in Schenectady, for example.
Now comes a new challenge – to build a Dream Window based on a disappearing Capital District advertising sign… and to make that sign dance once more, in the same pattern and rhythm as it did for generations.
Background. Over the past few years, I’ve seen some iconic Capital District architecture disappear over time. The business shuts down, the sign gets removed. Maybe it ends up somewhere else, maybe the sign is sold for scrap. The building is torn down and the ghost sign disappears. The new building owner’s first duty is to take a coat of white opaque paint over the 100-year-old advert. The mortar holding the bricks of the church together is crumbling and rotted, a stiff wind could knock the building down in a heartbeat.
So it’s time for me to chronicle one recently departed Capital District advertising treasure. Here we go.
It’s the weekend after Christmas. The temperature? 60° above zero. Yeah, jingle bells yuras. Yet, if I wanted to get a good shot of the Bob & Ron’s Fish Fry sign before it was dismantled and taken away, truly my opportunities were limited in that respect. Get the photo or forever feel regret. And so, after a few tries and a few angles, I chose this image for the center of the Dream Window.
Not bad, not bad at all. A week later, the sign was in the process of disassembly. Grr. Another one bites the dust.
I’ve had this perimeter-panel window frame for a couple of years now; I bought it at Silver Fox Salvage in Albany’s Warehouse District without any consideration of what it would contain.
Since that purchase, the window has rested patiently in my apartment, waiting for its time to shine.
After completing my customary window-bashing and giving the frame a good wipe-down to remove flakes and chips and musty old putty… I decided on a simple approach for the glass; blue-green wavy glass from Hobby Lobby, a 12×12 square of this glass could provide me with four 5×5 panels, plus some leftovers for any future mosaic projects. I also used some wavy mirrored glass for the corner panes, just for accent purposes. And yes, the glass looks swank.
So now what do I do with this Bob & Ron’s photo of mine? Just plop it in the center of the Dream Window and leave it at that? Would that be just good enough?
Come on now, you’ve read my blog for years, you know I don’t settle for “just good enough.”
I have an idea on that front. And that idea came out of inspiration from two previous photo projects of mine.
In 2013, I created a lenticular print called Re-Lighting L-Ken’s, where I used various computerized art programs to re-illuminate the lights of L-Ken’s bit neon sign. Certainly I could create another lenticular print, recreating that illumination pattern again… hmm…
I wanted something more – how shall we say it – analogue for this project.
In 2014, I took a photograph of the Olympic Bar sign on South Pearl Street. The photo was nice enough, but I felt inspired to re-illuminate the sign with some electro-luminescent “EL” wire. It actually did quite well when it was exhibited at Historic Albany Foundation’s BUILT charity auction a couple of years ago … hmm…
I wanted something more – how shall we say it – vibrant for this project.
Come on, Chuck, you got this. If you can combine the L-Ken’s sign with the Olympic Bar sign… you’d have an L-Kenslympic Bar. Thank you, I’m here all week, try the veal and don’t forget to tip your waitress Doris.
A phone call to an electro-luminescent wire and sequencer supplier, CoolNeon.com, and a few days later my supplies – several strands of EL wire and two power sequencers – arrived at the Town and Village. Along with a little note inside the box lid.
And to keep me motivated, I would often drive back to the Central Avenue location of Bob and Ron’s Fish Fry and stare at the sign, as it went through various stages of disassemblage. Seeing the distressed advertising sign fading away, bit by bit and piece by piece, was like watching childhood memories get tossed in the dumpster. But yeah, I knew there was no way that the past would remain in the present. I had to look toward the future.
Meanwhile, I had the fish fry sign printed and foam-boarded (did you know that the FedEx Office on Wolf Road is open 24 hours a day? You can go there at 2:00 a.m. if your insomnia demands it…), and trimmed the borders to fit the center panel of the Dream Window frame.
Now here’s where memory comes into play. The fish fry sign had red flashing neon that followed the pattern of the red arrow. And once it hit the arrowhead, the light pattern seemed to slow down. That’s because the arrowstem had a larger pattern of neon lights than did the arrowhead.
Yes. I need that aesthetic. That’s the pattern people remember.
Examining the picture carefully, I estimated that the original sign had twelve components to the arrow, and that the neon in the arrows moved in a four-spot sequence, from the base of the sign, around the top, to the arrowpoint.
I found the locations of the original neon conduits in my photo, and threaded the plastic EL wire through the conduit connectors. A thin fishing filament to hold the EL wire in place, a test with the batteries to confirm everything is running properly… lather, rinse, repeat times twelve.
Another drive to Central Avenue. Another view of the fish fry sign. Another burst of motivation.
Christ. The red arrow is completely gone. The glass tubes are gone. Hell, the back side of the sign itself is gone. Keep going, Miller. You’re going to save this memory one way or another.
Can I share a story with you? As a child, I spent summers living with my Grandma Betty in West Roxbury, Massachusetts (it was essentially the three months out of the year where I didn’t have to deal with my toxic parents).
During those summers, Grandma Betty and I made several trips on U.S. 1 to nearby Dedham, and we often passed a banquet hall named Fontaine’s. Fontaine’s outdoor sign was a neon chicken leaning against a lamp post; the chicken would wave at you as you drove by. I thought that was the coolest thing.
Unfortunately, the restaurant closed down in 2007; the sign was later purchased by a neon sign collector. At least the sign wasn’t sold for scrap. I know I took a picture of the sign years ago… but for some reason, some unknown reason, that photo of the waving chicken has disappeared from my archive. Dang it…
And thankfully, that fate won’t befall the Bob & Ron’s Fish Fry sign. Last winter, the sign was purchased by a New Jersey-based neon sign collector, who carefully dismantled the advertising treasure and hauled it away. Hopefully some day the sign will be fully restored and repaired, maybe to advertise some other fish fry restaurant owned by some other Bob or Ron.
Okay, back to my fish fry project. Sorry for the bit of reminiscence. Must remain focused on the goal.
I remembered that the letters “FISH FRY” on the original sign stayed solid throughout. So that required a second power sequencer and a different set of wires. Luckily for me, the original neon photo conduits were clear and visible in the photo; all I needed to do was slide the wire from the back of the picture to the front, trace the outline of the original neon, thread the wire back through the picture, repeat for all seven letters.
Oh, and one other thing. The last time I worked with EL wire, I used a battery-operated power sequencer from RadioShack. CoolNeon’s sequencers take either AAA batteries, 9-Volt batteries, or wall plugs. Yep. I ordered two wall plugs – one for the arrow, one for the lettering.
So here’s what the my latest Dream Window looks like.
Yeah, you see it there. And it’s impressive. But wouldn’t you like to see it moving? Take a gander at this.
This has to make you smile.
That’s it, people… Dream Window 18: Friday Night Fish Fry, complete with EL wire and art glass and lots of creativity.
You know this is earmarked for some big events this year. I promise you that.
Now I gotta clean up the floor of my apartment – you know, putty chips and glass chunks and leftover clippings of EL wire… man, what a mess…
I still love finding salvageable Queen Anne windows and Tudor windows and ultra-long transom windows, and I still love turning them into something artistically amazing.
And when I saw a church window available as part of a five-pane set on eBay, I could not resist. Four of the five windows at auction went through some nasty bidding wars in previous shows, and I needed to use all my sniping skills to get this final pane.
Bang. Snipe bids activated. With thirty seconds to go, you set two bids. One is the bid you’re willing to pay, one is the “insane” bid – if anybody surpasses your “insane” bid, they’re probably descended from Crazy Eddie, and you’re slightly smiling in that they overspent just to get that prize from you.
One of the bidding warriors tried to jump my price. He didn’t bet enough.
The second tried tried to jump my price. But he was too late. Insane price from Chuck Miller won.
Window pane is mine. Hands rubbed together in glee. Grabbing a cigar and doing my best George Peppard imitation – man, I love it when a plan comes together. Okay, now I have to pay for shipping from –
Oh. Forgot to read the fine print. Local pick-up only, from Pennsylvania.
I checked my online maps. Five and a half hour road trip to Pennsylvania. I’ll be driving through South Central Pennsylvania… as long as I don’t see Lebanon Levi, I’ll be in good shape. #amishmafia #yesIusedahashtaginmyblogpost #dontgivemegrieforiwilldoitagain
I made arrangements with the eBay seller. They might not be home on my driving day, but if that were the case, the window would be on their front porch for me to claim.
Okay. Road trip in the Blackbird.
And when I got to Pennsylvania – there it was, on the porch, just as advertised. The church-style window. Oh my this thing is beautiful. Elegant. Sanctified.
And the weird thing about this window is… I bought it without any idea of what type of artwork I would insert; what kind of Dream Window imagery I could create.
But honestly … do you really think there’s any way I could pass this up?
Yeah, you agree with me. This is amazing. Twenty-two panes; twelve rectangles and ten curved shapes. This will definitely take some crafting. And I’d like to keep those sash ropes attached, if at all possible.
But saying all that… it’s time to start the best part of working on a Dream Window.
FETCH MY HAMMERS, BOYS, IT’S WINDOW BASHING TIME!
Yep, break out the chisels and the hammers and the glass cutters and the big bucket. I should probably break out a respirator mask, because I’m suspecting that this paint probably shows up as “Pb” on the Periodic Table of Elements, but there’s enough people out there who say I’m brain damaged anyways, so what’s a few lead paint flakes among friends? 🙂
I tried to save the curved panes, but to no avail. I’ll need to re-cut new glass for this project.
Okay, the glass is bashed, and the panels are cleaned. But I still don’t have a good idea of what to put in this frame. Argh.
And then it occurred to me. I have to look at this Dream Window concept from a different angle.
Or, in this case… a 180° angle.
I rotated the window so that the curved part was at the bottom.
Now for more thinking. An Adirondack foliage scene would be swank – maybe with some lakewater or pond water in the curved lower section.
So here’s my idea. I can put a picture in the window and –
Hey… let’s go one step farther. What if I wanted a blue reflective sky in the picture? And maybe some silver rippled mirror glass to replicate the flow of water?
Dang it. None of my stained glass suppliers have smooth blue mirror glass available. No freakin’ fair. And after ordering what I thought would be the perfect antique mirror that I could slice and insert into the panes… the glass arrived improperly shipped and irretrievably broken. Nertz.
But thanks to one last Google search, I found a glass dealer named “Mosaics By Maria,” and through that retailer, I purchased several panes of blue mirrored glass. And you know what? The glass arrived properly packed and unbroken. Props to Mosaics by Maria.
Now it’s time to trim, cut and assemble. Four mirrored blue glass pieces for the top. And I picked up some 1/8″ thick mirror glass from Lowe’s, and trimmed that glass for the eight remaining rectangular panels.
And now comes the curved glass panels. The previous sixteen Dream Windows have all involved either straight cuts or angled cuts. Curves? Never tried it before. And I’m nervous.
Well, guess what. First time for everything.
I traced cardboard outlines for the twelve curved panes, trimmed the cardboard, and dry-fitted everything in place. I then used the twelve cardboard templates to trace outlines on the stained glass. Dry-fit time. Works.
Now here comes the fun part. Rather than have the individual window pane artworks professionally printed, I decided to print each pane artwork on water-transfer decal paper. Then I could apply the transfer decals to the mirrored glass, to provide a nice translucence on the artwork. Also, since I was using rippled mirror glass for the lower panels, I decided to print the lower panel transfer paper with a gradient effect, so that the artwork would appear to dissolve into the reflection of the mirrored water.
The window came with two sash cords, ropes that help in raising or lowering the window inside a wall. Even though this artwork is “hanging” on a wall, rather than installed inside one, I kept the sash cords as part of the artwork. A little duct tape to patch any splits in the cords; I also sliced off the frayed cord ends, and applied duct tape to the ends – so that the cords look almost like shoelaces. Smile.
Everything took patience and time. I had to cut the glass at the proper angles and curves. I had to properly caulk everything. The transfer papers and decals had to fit just so.
And then Saturday… once the caulk had dried to a consistent level – I took the Dream Window over to Hobby Lobby to get a hanging wire and a neat brown paper backing.
Here it is. Dream Window #17: An Adirondack Reflection.
Oh I’ve got a few places where I could display this artwork. Definitely the 2016 Thacher Nature Center art show. Maybe in 2016 or 2017 for the Trask in Saratoga Springs.
Or – dare I say it – you think this would look good for a few days in August, at a zip code of, oh, I don’t know, 12009?