Making art is what I do to cope with life… to maintain balance. I’ve been an artist since I was a child, making music on the piano and organ and spending hours each week in the ballet studio. At the age of 22 I began painting in earnest and later finished a BFA in painting and drawing. While in art school I spent a year hand-building clay sculpture. They were organic, abstract raku pieces. I began my first series of clay torsos in 2009. They were all headless and obviously hollow. The viewer could peer inside their bodies through arm, leg and neck holes. I called these sculptures body vessels because the body is a vessel for our soul, our emotions, our hopes and desires but also because the term implies an inside and outside. Our body becomes the reflection of where we’ve been. At the time, I wrote that “The series had been birthed from a lifetime of both pain and ecstasy as a daughter, sister, lover, wife, mother and friend. All the roles I’ve lived are the source for these hand-built clay sculptures. My struggle is the struggle of ‘woman’….I understand that for some the contemplation of these forms is unpleasant, however I would say that they reflect the ephemeral nature of life, they call into question the importance we place on our bodily image and they are a powerful metaphor for the difficulty of the journey through life for each of us, body and spirit.”
All of those thoughts still apply to the latest sculpture I’m working on, however the latest one has grown a head. I’m thinking along the line of divisions. Divisions in society, family, country. Those divisions of family, race and economic status all inflict scars. Ones hands can hold you up or down and in her case she has no way of grasping or defending herself. Her shoulder caps lift upwards as though they are mini wings. She’s without lower legs and feet and so has lost her mobility. Unlike “Lady Liberty” who strides forth, undeterred.
Here’s a preview while she’s a work in progress.
For all of our adult lives, Robin and I have been interested in mythology, symbolism, nature and meditation. From the I Ching to the Tarot Cards, the poetry of Rumi, the way of the Samurai, Mother Earth Spirituality, and the teachings of Jesus we glean wisdom to live by. Our collaborative art has I suppose been more than anything else, about making meditative icons. We seek to make art of quiet contemplation to enhance living and working spaces. Our newest sculpture places Robin’s patina work on center stage. Making bentwood frames which he clads in copper or brass he’s been exploring wrapped patinas with hammered surfaces. The result has been remarkable. We’ve added found objects, enamel on copper and some painted wood elements to his designs. Our new work can be seen Sept 7-9th in Clayton, MO at the highly esteemed St. Louis Art Fair and the following weekend, Sept 15-16 in Naperville, Il at the Riverwalk Art Fair, as well as on our web-site http://www.WolfCreekStudio.com
A Study in Texture 24″ x 60″
Some sculptures have a history and one of our newest ones is a perfect example. We made “New Beginnings” and finished and signed it New Year’s Day 2014. I never quite felt satisfied with it. We rarely showed it in the several years since. But just recently we did and someone liked the concept, but in different colors and with the “waves” horizontally positioned. Se we removed the orb, the stainless, brass and copper. I’m using those elements on another backplate, in a different color palette for them. In the meantime, I’ve used this backplate and made a new square and added an enamel on copper orb. The old version is here and the new version is below it. The new one will be shown this weekend in Highland Park at the Port Clinton Art Fair. It’s called “New Beginnings/Solar Flare”.
Ask any artist and you’re likely to be told that they’re inspired by nature. It’s a given. Nature is full of wonder and for artists it provides an impetus to create. We see color, line, form and texture and it gets incorporated into our drawing, painting, and sculpting.
When Robin and I moved onto our 20 acres of woodlands, we immediately began sculpting the landscape by adding shrub borders, flowers and vines. We relied heavily, though not exclusively on native species in order to support an abundance of wildlife. Using the “architecture” of the rolling landscape and the tall trees we were blessed with, we’ve created habitat for more pollinators–bees, butterflies, moths, and birds. We’ve added water features for amphibians, reptiles, dragonflies and fish. Brush piles in various places in the deep woods provide habitat for mammals. It’s all good for the health of the environment.
A walk through the “yard” area (approximately 3.5 acres) surrounding the house and studios will give you glimpses of countless species of birds, lizards, amphibians, fish and mammals. The sights, sounds and smells provide a soothing experience of nature at its best. We can not help but be inspired to create work that embodies the balance, texture, colors and forms of Mother Nature. Our collaborative work is all about these things. It is a discipline based on meditation. From the crackled surface of the pond mud to the bark on the trees:
One of the most frequent questions I’m asked by visitors to our booth is how we come up with our ideas. I can tell you they aren’t forced. When an artist sits down to create something new, it doesn’t come out of thin air and it cannot be forcibly willed into being. Rather, several things must come together simultaneously and that creates the magic. For success, the groundwork must be laid and that means many hours and years of simply making—making work, utilizing tools, experimenting with mediums, drawing, painting, sculpting endlessly. Whether the end result each time is good or poor or great doesn’t matter as much as putting in the time. With that experience comes priceless abilities, obtainable in no other way. It is a growth that builds upon itself endlessly. In that process the artist develops the mental and physical tools necessary to bring ideas into the physical realm. It makes possible the transfer of something ethereal in the mind into an object in the “real” world.
Secondly, every person is a result of their own unique physiology and life experience. As an artist, everything you produce is a result of these two entities. All of your life experiences come together to produce the current you. There is no way around that, for good or bad. Every decision, every occurrence changes the person that you are. And your own unique physiology reacts to every decision and experience further evolving your mind and body. Therefore the art you create is a direct result of that life experience. And it is a reflection of your philosophy, whether you consciously realize it or not.
All of that process is necessary, but it’s not enough. Creating is not copying an idea you’ve already executed, or copying someone else’s idea. Creating is stirring the pot and dipping out something fresh. Of course you’re influenced by other artists. That’s not only inevitable, but actually a good thing. The key is to keep it as an influence not a replication.
There is a wellspring that is bottomless and it is within every person’s reach. Tapping into it is necessary for creative growth, but the connection can be fugitive. When it happens its magic. This is what I mean when I say it cannot be forced. It flows into your thoughts when you prepare the mind. You have to allow it to come forth into the “light”. This usually occurs in a relaxed state of mind—often when the eyes are closed and you allow unimpeded wandering. Day dreaming is not a waste of time as some would have you think. And often images come into my mind just before falling asleep. Sometimes it’s erratic, with a quick flash and then it’s gone. Other times when conditions are more perfect one can tap into a flowing stream of images and ideas. Getting those down afterwards in sketches and notes is crucial to remembering the gist of the idea as well as the specifics. And then you have the start of a series and more ideas will flow from that, if you return to that elusive universal flow of energy. We are blessed and it is important to remind ourselves of that.
I spent a lot of time thinking up names for our business blog. In the end I settled on A Paradox: Art-Life-Business. Perhaps poorly stated, it was meant to show that for an artist, there really is no separation of our art making, our personal life and the inevitable struggle to make a living from our art, so we can keep making more art. It’s difficult to be creative when you’re bogged down in worries. This past week is a perfect example of how wrapped up our personal lives are with our business.
Wednesday morning we left home for Reston, VA to participate in the Northern Virginia Art Fair, one of the A-list shows in America. We’ve been juried into it a number of times, most recently the past two years. Sales are usually solid at this high quality show, and last year was very good. Just after passing Louisville, Kentucky our van broke down. As we approached a weigh station (we have a box van to transport our sculpture and therefore are regulated by the federal department of transportation) we suspected trouble—at first it was only a slight noise coming from under the hood. Robin parked, went inside and the officer gave him a printout of local tow truck operators, and he recommended the nearest one. It was a quick diagnosis, the vacuum pump seized up, shredding the serpentine belt, causing the loss of our power brakes and power steering. The driver recommended two shops in the area that could possibly work on it right away. One declined but the other said they could get to it the following morning. After a night in a hotel, the van wasn’t ready to go until 2PM on Thursday. Had we not run into trouble, we would be nearly finished setting up our booth at the show. What to do?
Had it been a dozen or so years earlier, we would have driven on east to arrive by 1 AM, get a few short hours of sleep, be on the street by 6 AM setting up in a rush before the show opened at 10 AM. But we’ve learned that we don’t have that kind of stamina anymore. Heck, anymore we can’t even entertain or go out two nights in a row! I know I wouldn’t have had the energy or presence of mind to smile at potential buyers and carry on a sensible discussion about our work. That’s difficult enough for me under the best of circumstances. Having grown up nearly always alone, my verbal communication skills are extremely poor.
So we made the decision to cancel our participation in the show. We sacrificed our $750 corner booth fee. The Hyatt at the show charged us for the first night ($120) as their policy is a three-day cancellation period before this show. The tow was $228 and the repair bill was $891. Losing potential for sales, is a real hardship. The only good that came of it is that we got home to spend a few more days with our beloved Bull Mastiff, Harley. Read about that gut-wrencher on my personal blog, http://www.HeadingforAndromeda.wordpress.com