Charles Wisseman, Mixed Media Artist

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Art showings

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Fall 2012

Posted on December 20, 2012 at 4:20 PM Comments comments (0)

After a trip to Germany and Czech Republic in September, I decided to make a box about the experience.

I was in Wittenburg, Germany, where Martin Luther posted the 95 theses, so I made a box to suggest the 

cathedral door, with sandstone on the outside, forged steel closure, walnut scorched and brushed to suggest age.

Inside is a stained glass window, a forged steel box cover to suggest a "poor box " I saw where poor people put their coins to purchase indulgences to shorten purgatory for their souls.  A coin-operated mechanism opens the box, showing leather shoe sole forms on springs, the quote "As soon as the coin in the box does ring, the soul

from purgatory does spring".  The rear shows eyes forms of bone (translucent to light) to suggest the evil in the 

indulgence box and to reference the bone chapel at Kutna Hora near Prague.(totally mindblowing and creepy 

human bone art from plague victim remains.)  One left inside door are images of Martin Luther and copy of the 95 theses  (wax on the images to age them) .  On right inside door is a post card of a painting I saw in Berlin 

art museum of foot of a worker, which appealed to me in my foot-sore tourist condition.  Quote of Martin Luther

"Hier stehe ich, ich kann nicht anders" about how here could only stand on his principles.  The soles in the poor box also relate to this quote.  Bottom compartment has an old German Methodist song boox from one of my 

strict Southern Methodist  Texas ancestors.  Small leather coin pouch to suggest medieval purse.  Fragment of 

Berlin wall given to me by a friend who was there when the wall came down. (finally found in my basement after

photo was taken.  We saw the Berlin Wall remnants -- my piece has a bit of the surface grafitti).  Music box on right plays Luther's "A Mighty Fortress is our God".  Music box on left plays theme from Beethoven's 9th symphony, which we sang with University of Illinois Oratorio after we returned.  Sarah is helping to edit our choir

director's scholarly work on Beethoven's sketchbook music notebooks, so this has been a German and Beethoven fall.


The Bat cave box is a repackaging of handmade flax eyes forms from a wall piece, which did not seem to work well.  I thought it could work better as a surprise , like turning on the light in a cave.  The central large eye form

moves when a cord is pulled, giving it a little corny interactive element.  The box was made for a series which

was not completed.  Hand-forged steel hinges.  I cut it down and repainted the sides and interior for this 

project.  I am trying to clean out the excess of materials and old projects filling up my house, so I am looking

to use these old boxes in new projects.  The hinges are too nice to waste.

Amara yoga gallery show 9/22- Thanksgiving 2012

Posted on September 23, 2012 at 3:55 PM Comments comments (0)

There was a three man show at the yoga gallery-- Steve Kostell at U of I with cast and pulp-painted paper,

Bob Chapman (full time local artist) with cast paper and painted pieces of his personal work, and my seven pieces.  The work complemented each other and looked good.

The cast walnut-stained I ching and cyanotype leaves looked good in the main yoga sudio-- they will give the 

yoga students something to meditate on.  Ian Wang, a local art collector, bought my paper, ceramic, and chain

"Gradient Face".  He had seen it before, and finally bought it after I put on a red dot on the forehead.

Summer 2012

Posted on August 31, 2012 at 5:10 PM Comments comments (0)

I got busy in August, after doing a lot around the house (building a Murphy bed in the guest room, casting 

concrete bench for the yard, tree trimming, housepainting)

I found an intact deer spine on the beach near where my sone lives in upper Michigan.  There was some

connective tissue and chalky fat left, but some boiling, scraping and bleaching gave a beautiful articulated spine.

I decided to make this the spine of a book-- originally to be lashed in, but structural compromises led to a 

suspended form that allows the spine to be admired without attachment except at the ends (plastic tubing and 

threaded rod run through the spinal canal).  I had an old spinal needle left over from my medical days, so I made 

a locking mechanism for the inner compartment of the box which requires inserting the needle between the two lowest vertebrae ( essentially a "spinal tap").  I made bookcloth for the cover out of camoflage fabric, created a closure from a steel hinge I had forged for another project, used an empty bullet for a closure.  Shot-out 

targets mounted on magnets ( to allow them to be traded out for newer target samples, and old topographical

 map from hiking in Vermont while a camp counsellor in the early 1970's. sheet lead insert to hold the needle in the inside cover.  The inner comparment contains a rawhid-wrapped paperback copy of Zane Grey's "Deer Stalker" 

novel, on old military-style compass.  The native american section has an image of a Zuni petroglyph of a deer

or elk, a spearpoint (kiowa or comanche that I found in Texas as a kid on an old family property), whitetail deer

taxidermy eyes bought on-line ( embedded in natural brown wool to give the impression of animal face).

I had fun making this.


Cast paper pieces-- cast cotton mandala forms over coiled rope and linoleum cuts with red cord and black

button trim, flax and abaca labyrinth forms cast over a rubber stamp and colored with walnut husk dye and fabric dyes  ( a grouping of four went as auction item to the Morgan Conservancy-- I forgot to photograph this) 

the labyrinth form in the gallery is a linear grouping of 12 with a more-or less rainbow of muted colors, 

a cyanotype piece with skeletonized bodhi leaf prints on cotton fabric, some with tea toning, mounted on black canvas with iron-on mesh, mounted as a wall piece.

 These last three pieces will go into a show at the Amara Yoga studio at Lincoln Square mall in Urbana--

opening September 22 and open about 6 weeks.. Also works by Steve Kostell and Robert Chapman, 

two local artists who use handmade paper in their work.

spring 2012

Posted on June 19, 2012 at 3:20 PM Comments comments (0)

Most of my energy this last year went into the ABC project-- an evolutionary exploration of letter forms in many material, starting with wire forms, which were forge-welded to steel plate.  From these, there are branches

for photo (35 mm and pinhole), digital scan, casting, direct pressing.  About 93 separate types of letter were

derived, giving rise to a taxonomy of forms with divergent and convergent evolution, degradation, genetic drift,

phenotypic variation due to process variation, etc.  I used up lots of old material, used all the tools in my house,

learned some new materials (like silicone rubber molds), renewed my love of black and white photography

and darkroom processes, kept myself busy during the dark days of winter, reassured myself that I can still

put out a big effort  ( but I don't need to do this scale of repetitive process again--  this was my version of an

editioned artist book, and from now on I will go back to one-of-a kind book/boxes and wall pieces)


Other events--  Exhibited some hand-made paper at a show at Indigo gallery on artists books and papers,

    sponsored by U of I Rare book library and Soybean press in March.

                           Showed two artist books in a show at Bradley University in Peoria (March- April)

  The nautilis box and the Iching kozo book were displayed.

                           Went to PBI in Oxbow (Saugatauck, Michigan) in May .  Took paper sculpture with Lee Running,

photo album structures with Betsy Palmer Eldridge, and boxes in book form with Mindy Dubansky.

A really good, but exhausting time.


Lots of paper-making planned for this summer. 

Figure One Exhibit 9/2011

Posted on September 20, 2011 at 6:15 PM Comments comments (0)

U of I students are putting on an exhibit based around handmade paper and pulp at the U of I gallery in 

downtown Champaign  (Figure One).  They have done a nice job both informationally and visually.

There are some papermaking workshops in the evening.  Several artists have some handmade paper

works --  Mary Hark, porridgepapers -- Christopher James, and local artist Robert Chapman with his

complex molds for cast paper , which is then painted to give low-relief images.  I liked the variety of

materials used in the mold, which gave a wide range of textures and surfaces in the cast piece.

The students borrowed some molds and deckles from me.  They also borrowed a box full of paper

experiments I have done over the last 15 years to show what can be done with paper.  These  made 

as colorful and textural wall display.  Exhibit is up until early October.

Alaska July 2011

Posted on September 18, 2011 at 5:45 PM Comments comments (0)

I went on an Alaska trip with the local OLLI group in July.

Shown is a collage of small artworks, found objects, and on of my wirfe's sketches.

We particularly like the Inuit whalebone carving of transformation-- the small face is the

inner spirit emerging, and it looks a bit painful.

Paper and Book Intensive

Posted on July 2, 2011 at 6:35 PM Comments comments (0)

I went to Paper and Book intensive in Oxbow in Saugatuck , Michigan in late May.

We and cold, but very energizing.  I took pop-up fundamentals from Carol Barton, imagery on

hand-made paper from Bridgette O'Malley of Cave paper, and Japanese wood block printing from

Martin Vinaver of Veracruz, Mexico.  The printing was a real meditation--  cutting  deeper and deeper

at Martin's request.  He also taught Tai chi every morning.    We sang silly version of Let the Circle be unbroken

in honor of the Rapture, which did not come.  I took stitches from Steve Miller's arm-- his house was

destroyed in the tornado, and it felt good to be able to help in a small way.  I came back reaffirmed that

book arts will be my continuing focus--  this is like a family to me now.  I have more time now that my duties

as executor of my mother's estate are don-- don't ever say yes to such a duty lightly -- it is a part time job, but

needs to be done in a timely and correct manner.   I have made some  paper for a new series of book forms--

I am thinking of an encyclopedia format , volumes A-Z with letters and objects in as many materials as I can,

to get back to my mixed media roots. 

Indigo show photos--April10,2011

Posted on April 10, 2011 at 7:24 PM Comments comments (0)

Indigo show -- April 5-9, 2011

Posted on April 10, 2011 at 6:05 PM Comments comments (0)

Deborah Fell invited me to join her at the Indigo Show in downtown Champaign.

She does colorful art quilts, and we both felt that my sculptural mixed media work complemented her

textile work to make a strong show.  The opening went well, with a string quartet of students providing

a touch of class. Friday was the Champaign day for the Boneyard arts festival, with Amasong choir doing 

a concert and having a good party for their 20th anniversity. Lots of friends came during the week, so I had 

a good time.  Very tired now, though, and I think I need a new body of work to show locally again.

Coming up is a redesign of my woodshop, soybean paper making for Soybean Press, Paper and Book Intensive

workshop in Michigan, then deciding on new directions for work. I think I will do more book/box forms and work

on content generation.  That should keep me interested and learning new techniques for years to come.

March 26, 2011

Posted on March 26, 2011 at 4:55 PM Comments comments (0)

I just finished two pieces, motivated by the upcoming show at Indigo Gallery in Champaign over Boneyard

art festival April 5-9.  The new wall piece is "Streetlady", made from a large fragment of rusted sheet metal I 

found while walking in Champaign last winter.  There is some crushed embossed writing and nice frilly rusted edges.  I thought it looked like a torso with a scarf thrown over one shoulder.  I added a head made from a 

ceramic piece I made a few years ago with multiple orifices of red clay in a white clay background, with an 

oxide wash.  The feet are deer joint bones left over from the bone folder workshop I did a couple of years ago.

Some beads and cheap jewelry complete the head.  The belly button is a wood ring with red glass marble behind.

I think it works quite well-- my wife found it amusing.

The book is made from two panels of cross-sections of  plastic, PVC pipe, dowels, pencils, gut embedded in 

epoxy/graphite mixture for a black background, and given a smooth polish.  I made them at different times, and 

wasn't sure what to do with them.  I decided they could be life cycles of viruses or parasites as show in diagram

form in medical textbooks.  I constructed wooden pages around them to give a diptych on opening.

The cover includes a biohazard label in orange and black.

I have a lot of miscellaneous bits of art that I made in the past and lost interest in, or were not enough to 

stand alone.  As my house fills, up, I need to either use some of this stuff, or get rid of it.  My kids are not

going to want to deal with it--  I certainly did not enjoy cleaning out my parents house.  On the other hand,

keeping a lot of this material is a statement of hope that I will be around long enough to do something

with it.


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