Another August is passing. This one has been very productive in that I’ve designed a two new series of boats, The Hanging Boats and The Flying Boats. I expect to have three Hanging Boats completed to show at The Philadelphia Museum Show in November. One of them is an ode to youth lost too soon. It will hang by silk threads and butterflies. An artist doesn’t escape from their life experience. Our lives get intertwined with our art making and so our art, our personal life and our business is forged together.
I’ve a penchant for symbolism and “The Crow’s Nest” is full of it. Aside from the boat being a symbol of the journey of the soul and the nest symbolizing the home and security, this sculpture has a more personal story. Robin is fond of telling the story of how I proposed to him on our first date when I found out he had a 17′ Old Town canoe. We’re also very aware of the significance in the adage “don’t miss the boat”. This sculpture is a marriage of our lives. The shape of this boat is entirely Robin’s design and I love the sleek lines. He carved it and gave it to me to texture and paint. Together we designed the pedestal upon which the boat rests. It’s structure is a pleasing arc but massive enough to create a stable foundation. On the boat rests a copper crow’s nest–a metaphor for not only a sailing ship’s lookout, but the home for Robin’s old crow, namely me. And when the nest came to rest there, is when the boat became a vessel.
If you’ve followed our pursuits in the past year, you know about the fast transition we made to the making of boats and books this year. We have a working process of experimenting with materials and techniques on our art for the wall, and then these new ideas are incorporated into the boats. With Robin taking time once again to experiment on hammering, embossing and patina work lately, I can see already such grand statement pieces utilizing the approach in this new 12″ square. These are hot!
Artists can’t afford to miss the boat. A lost opportunity means a harder journey. In order to grow, which is the ultimate aim of the artist, one has to take risks. You have to experiment and many of those turn out badly. You have to take chances to evolve. Not just any risk, but one that sets sail with good intention.
The boat is the symbol for the spiritual journey and as such it is the perfect icon for Robin and I to explore. The first date we had, he revealed to me that he owned a 17 foot red, yes I said red, Old Town canoe. Without missing a stroke, I asked him to marry me. I was kidding of course, or so I thought. One’s subconscious knows infinitely more than the conscious and so maybe she already knew his soul and knew he was who I was looking for. She probably already knew he had similar goals and philosophy. A year after that we began a 24/7 relationship that is going strong and can survive which ever boat life presents.
By the way, later that first evening, I told him that I was an artist and that as a matter of fact that very afternoon I had bought a new table saw. He said, “Oh, really! Will you marry me?”
We’ve spent the majority of our studio time the past few years in a disciplined discovery of incorporating textures and color on a variety of media working within a geometric format, namely the square and rectangle. It was a way of getting back to the basics and learning to recombine our skills to create relief sculpture that is dramatic, focused, and beautiful. Though we still find this challenging, we’re breaking loose now. Rather than concentrate only on formal issues of design it’s time to introduce iconic images.
Throughout our years together, Robin and I have often referred to the tale of missing the boat, the boat being a symbol of opportunity. In cultures throughout the world, the boat has represented the spiritual journey, exploration of the world, and a vehicle for acquiring food. As culture evolved and people gained more free time, the boat became a vehicle for recreation.
We’ve latched onto this powerful symbol at this time because we’re re-inventing ourselves once again. Our situation is ripe for it. The boat is carrying us forward in our quest.
Our latest boat is the largest so far, 5′ in length. It’s sleek lines are an elegant statement, but this boat has cargo. It carries another icon, a bird’s nest, symbol of protection, of security, of birth and home. Where will this take us?
“The Crow’s Nest” 59.5″W x 24″T x 11″D Polychromed wood, hickory deck with copper nails, pedestal of hammered copper with chemical patina, nest of brazed re-cycled copper $9800
When we bought our 20 acres of woodlands it was bare of man-made features. Robin and I cut down what trees were necessary to make room for the building of our home, studios, storage building and eventually barn. Other than making art, our real passion has been the landscaping of the site. Though we had professional help in the building of two ponds, the rest of the labor has been largely our own. We’ve made use of most of the existing native hardwood trees (oaks, maples, hickory, walnut, ash, tulip poplar, ironwood, hackberry, cherry, sycamore, black locust, sweet gum) while encouraging along native volunteers also such as the dogwoods, redbuds, 2 varieties of sumac, creeping charley, trumpet vine, violets, woodland and prairie wildflowers, honeysuckle, red cedars, witch hazel, sassafras, etc. In addition we’ve added white pines, chocolate mimosa, hemlock, golden raintree, Japanese maple. We’ve created many different themed gardens. Each is a unique creation using the varying elevations of the land, additions of stone, sculpture, shrubs and flowers to provide the space with its own privacy and feel.
We always have several projects on-going, some of which take years to complete. It’s just amazing to watch it grown and evolve. And some of it is not what we hoped for, nor expected, but you learn to accept it and move on, preferably finding an unseen benefit in the making. Like when an ice storm took out our most prized dogwood. We mourned the loss and then moved on to a chocolate mimosa for the same site—a delightful choice for its color, exotic nature and dappled shade in the heat of the summer. Though it’s not a particularly long-lived choice we enjoy the drama of it. We’re in the market currently for an old brass bed, preferably with the steel springs for one of the gardens. We are particularly captivated with the use of sculpture in the garden that allows the plantings to become part of the story as seen here with Sharon’s clay sculpture, “The Old Dancer”, that stays out year around, allowing the Cardinal vine to grow up around and actually through her open vessel.