During the Festival Art Show at Spring Bank Arts Centre throughout The Big Weekend at New Mills Festival 2017 I will be running a drop-in workshop for all ages. You can build your own section of a Wild West street with cardboard and lollipop sticks. Please come and join us and make your own contribution to the street, such as a saloon, hotel, livery stable, whatever you wish. All sections will be added to a new unique street for the weekend. It would be great to see you all there.
If you would ever like to make a simple Buffalo, follow these simple steps. You will need, balls of string, classic clothes pegs, cork bottle stoppers. Fur in two tones of brown (dark and light). Scissors to cut both the fur and the string, skewers, a hand-saw and PVA glue.
- Find a classic round chunky clothes peg and a cork bottle-stop. Saw the beyond the ball end leaving about 1omm minimum.
- Find a ball of string (you may need a big ball depending on how many you want to make. Tie the bottle stopper, to the flat end, making use of the clip to hold the piece tight.
- Cut lengths of skewers to a two lengths (two for the front and two for the rear legs)
- Tie these to the body of the peg, longer at the front, shorter at the back. Use a figure of eight knot to hold them in place before tying them off around the clip.
- Making sure your skeletal Buffalo stands up you can move onto the fur, cutting an inch wide strip. Before you glue it around the body of the Buffalo, do a practice wrap to ensure you know where the it will fall to get a good coverage of the body.
- Once you have decided how to wrap it around you can glue a small section (in between two legs on one side. Wrap around and cut to size, gluing it down. Check all over to ensure you glue down any patches still showing.
- Turning the head (cork bottle stopper) cut a inch wide strip of the other fur to size, ( you can use this for a few Buffalo. Cut to size a section that will cover half (top or bottom) of the head. Once you’ve decided, glue down and cut in places to wrap around to cover the flat sides.
- Nearly done now, cut a two short length (25mm or less) for the horn at the pointed end. Then work these into either side of the head.
- And there you have your first Buffalo.
When I first heard about The Homesman (2014) I was actually excited about it, then the more I heard I became more cautious towards this western (or not if you ask Tommy Lee Jones) as I read the reviews hoping that it could be better. Rare as it is to find a solid Western that’s not a quasi something-or-other instead. We are getting a few this year but it’s not like the 1950’s when you couldn’t move for them. With this latest outing into 19th century America we have a feminist focus to the film, which is quite rare, which I can see where the Unforgiven (1992) comparisons made and finished. The DVD tries to sell it to me this is the best film since Eastwood’s last Western masterpiece and he made a few of them. This is not a masterpiece. I can find a number of flaws with this film which does have good intentions.
As Western lore would have it the male takes the lead out on the frontier, it’s just how the dime-novels and cinema have written it. There have been strong women out there, one being Mrs Jorgensen (Olive Carey from The Searchers (1956), however they are hard to come by and usually there as a thorn in the side of the men. We also have Meek’s Cutoff (2010) where the women have to take charge as they survive out on the trail. Progress is being made but very slowly after 120 years of male dominance we now have Mary Bee Cuddy (Hilary Swank) living the life alone on the frontier. Youth is not on her side, society is looking down upon her. A spinster is the life she has assumed as we find out early on as she tries to get married. You feel sorry for her, after all the effort she goes to, in the hopes of getting her a man. She just doesn’t know how to, which lets her down. Played with great strength by Swank who bring a lot to the role. Assuming the male duties in life, she has to be a strong Christian character.
Which leads into the tone of the film which is quite strong for the most part, similar to that of True Grit (2010) using a richer language of the time. You are more immersed in the world for it. It’s a shame the set-design lets it down, all the buildings a well crafted and made, however they look just that well made, there’s no sense of time or ageing to them. As if they opening up a flat-pack box, assembled them before the finishing touches (or lack of) which for me is distracting against the landscape that really shimmers. You really are out there in the mid-west.
I mentioned earlier about the feminist leanings of the film which are refreshing, taking on both mental illness and the social position that a woman must or chooses to take in society. It doesn’t even have to be just about America, more the western world. The idea of knowing your place in the worlds being blurred and questioned. Should a woman be a stay at home mum, or out there in the workplace being a success among the men. Should they be judged for that, all encompassed in Bee Cuddy living alone on her homestead and farm, She is more than a match for most women and is respected by men alike, not feared. Maybe part of that is down to the source material by Glendon Swarthout who allegories these ideas. Whilst mental illness is not treated as burden but as an illness that needs proper treatment, radical thinking for the 19th century. Seen in three women who are plagued with various disorders. Although these women Arabella Sours (Grace Gummer), Theoline Belknap (Miranda Otto) and Gro Svendsen (Sonja Richter) are secondary characters they do have ample screen time. We get to understand their suffering whilst the main relationship is going on.
I’ve not even mentioned Tommy Lee Jones yet the director, screenwriter, produces and stars as George Briggs a man who we find being run out of his home and left for dead, seems pretty standard out in the Wild West. Saved by Bee Cuddy who takes pity on him, asking in return he helps on her journey across the Missouri River with 3 women who have “lost their minds” in hopes that they can be properly looked after. So this is a wagon trip, a lone trip with a man and 4 women. This is his way of saying thank you for being saved (or pushed into it). Briggs is a curmudgeonly guy who reluctantly takes up the job, faced with a tattered reputation. He is the brain of the outfit in terms of survival, he knows the wilderness better than Bee Cuddy who is more focused on the caring, her Christian duty to the suffering women.
It’s a real learning curve for Bee Cuddy who becomes more worldly, there’s a scene where we hear screaming from the wagon, she stops to go around to the back to shout at one of the women to stop screaming. One of the symptoms of certain conditions that she or no-one else fully understands. Her limits are being pushed, her faiths questioned on this journey. And then we hit a bump in the road, when we go back to her loneliness, asking for Briggs to marry her, which you don’t really see coming (well kind of). We see she wants a man in her life, even going further yo be with him. It’s handled sensitively until out of nowhere she’s written out. Leaving me with frustration, asking why did you do that. Why can’t we see her reach the end of the journey that she took up, it as her choice. Now its left up to Briggs (reluctantly again) to complete the journey. Not before a pointless stop at a hotel where we find owner Aloysius Duffy (James Spader) unwelcoming. It’s a real tangent that serves little purpose, unless its to say that not all of society is welcoming/understanding to mental illness. I would accept this if there were more random scenes, more offbeat like The Missouri Breaks (1976). It’s not though, and after the death of Bee Cuddy which I’m still trying to understand.
We do return on course (just about) to see the ladies into the care of Altha Carter (Meryl Streep) who is turning up in everything at the moment. Theres time for reflection now as Briggs comes to terms with what has just happened. It feels a bit wishy-washy for me, as he tries to mythologise Bee Cuddy to a girl who cares less. He does become more caring after the journey, so he has grown, yet remains the same as we leave him on a river barge. Left wondering why, why, why did that final act happen as it did. Is this a western, yes and no, it has the language, but not the real form to be a solid western? It does take place in that era, there is moment but not enough as we Jones is using the genre more as a period in history to explore two ideas both from the female perspective, which is rare today.
These are incredible, I had to share these amazing paintings!
“Frederic Sackrider Remington
(October 4, 1861 – December 26, 1909)
Wikipedia says: “was an American painter, illustrator, sculptor, and writer who specialized in depictions of the Old American West, specifically concentrating on the last quarter of the 19th-century American West and images of cowboys, American Indians, and the U. S. Cavalry.”
Some of My Favorite Remingtons:
So many, many images I could put here …
Does this look like a Great Western Artist?:
OK … how about this?:
That’s more like it !
I’m not usually one to watch things on BBC4, unless it’s a classic film. My dad told me a new series about the how the United States was won. How the Wild West was Won with Ray Mears, Mears who knows a thing or two about surviving outdoors. The first episode aired last night, which I caught up with today on iPlayer today. My expectations weren’t that high, thinking there would be more about living in the landscape.
Instead it was an informed 60 minutes, breaking up the country starting with the Mountains this week before looking at the plains and desert landscape. Focusing on the 1800’s as settlers started to move westward from Washington and the 13 colonies. I now understand why so many people in Westerns always travelled to Oregon which was a major trail to the west before going north or south. An eye-opener for someone who is usually bogged down in the films that depict that era. A welcome addition to my exploration of the Western, always wanting to find the fact in the fiction that romanticized this era which was anything but easy.
The first episode looks at the gold miners, living alongside Cherokee Native Americans, to the fateful Donner party settlers in 1834 who suffered that winter whilst moving west. It really shakes the myths that surround that era. I was reminded of a few films, most notably The Big Trees (1952) and The Big Trail (1939) to name but two. Giving us the landscapes we know and love from the big screen, I can remember a few shots taken by early photographers too. Also looking at the reliance on wood for the settlers to move and live. I look forward to the upcoming episodes.
My work was shown alongside work by these artists Suhani Parek, Natalie Depledge, Laura Ghany, Chloe Rood, Abigail Booth, Phyl Parker, Saara Karppinen, Bronwyn + Marina, Isobel Jones, Charmaine Dresser, Charlotte Whitman, Charlotte Smith, Christopher Jarret, Leslie Deerer, Constance Whitman, Olivia Gilman, , Oscar, Adam David, Stephanie Davies, Alice Astbury, Natasha Bird and Sidney Lim. Check out how this piece was made by reading the diary of my time at this link.
A series of photographs using a limited number of props to create a larger image on the camera.
Currently Exhibited in One Church Street Gallery, Open Drawing Exhibition (2012) – Great Missenden
The responses from the New Mills Art Trail (2012) residency. Cinematic is the second of the three series of photographic works produced in response, shot during the last few days of the trail/residency.