Divisions, Invisible Wounds/Visible Scars

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.  

 

 

Robin’s New Work & My Retreat

The Other Side

After a 6 year hiatus, Robin will be showing his incredible patinated metal art next year!  We’ve been collaborating since 2012, a decision that was made after breaking my elbow, having shoulder surgery, a torn bicep tendon and 2 dislocated fingers.  I couldn’t help Robin hang his work at the shows, because at that time, all of his work was very heavy, being made from a heavy gauge copper or brass with bronze angle framework on the back.  During the past 6 years he’s learned more skills and come up with ideas for making his work much lighter weight.  Some of the metal will be clad onto bentwood frames to give added dimension and all will feature his extraordinary patina work that is very painterly in approach and feel.  I’m so excited for him.  During the eight years he showed his work he did it all—got into the nations’ top shows, sold well and won many prestigious awards, including Best of Metal at the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Fine Craft Show.

I will be taking a much-needed retreat from the art shows.  I’m getting burnt out from the relentless pushing of a theme for the past 25 years.  Not many people outside the profession understand the hoops an artist must jump through just to get into the shows.  The part that is holding me back just now is that it can be a whole year or more from the time you finish a piece, photograph it, apply to shows with 5 or 6 other pieces that all visually make sense together and then actually do the show.  This makes it very difficult to explore different avenues, as the work you have in your booth must be like the images you juried in with.

I’ve got a persistent urge to work in clay, probably stemming from my pre-school years spent making mud pies!  Several years ago I did a series of clay torsos which was a very emotional response to my family situation.  Having moved on past that, the clay work I’ve done the past couple of years making flowers for our wooden boats, isn’t enough for me.  So while Robin shows his metalwork next year, I’ll be on a self-proclaimed sabbatical, exploring new themes.  I will accept commission work during this time, for anyone that wants a boat or Jewelry for the Wall sculpture.

“Serenity”

The water-lily boat already has a name–“Serenity”.  Robin snapped this photo as I’m refining the arrangement pattern for the 3 flowers and 2 proposed lilypads.  The flowers are unfired–the clay I use is gray while wet and fires to a snow-white.  Since this photo was taken the hull of the boat has been  crackled and awaits the painting process after several days curing and 2 lilypads, shown here are cardboard patterns I’ve made,  have been sculpted in clay also.

serenity-arrangement

The Latest Progress

Amazing what new glasses can do for you! I recently greatly increased the power of my readers and wow, that with a closer light source  has made all the difference in the world on the detail and surface work in my clay building.  Consequently, I’m discarding most of the flowers I had made and fired before the July Ann Arbor Show.  The amount of time required for each flower is three to fourfold what it was, but it is worth it.  The ability to see so much more detail has allowed my forms and the surfaces to become more refined.   I’ve slowed down and  I’m loving every minute of it.

Images here are of two water-lily buds in the drying process.   There were many hours in experimenting on how best to form the petals and then how best to construct the flower.    I’m pleased with the result, pre-firing.  water-lily-budsThis is the water-lily that will be fully open when finished.  After this photo was taken, the outer petals were propped up over night before adding more petals.  The addition of the flowers to some of the boats is both an aesthetic and symbolic choice.  I’ll have more to say about the symbolism of each flower as I write about each finished boat.water-lily-in-progressThese water lilies are designed to go on a sleek wooden boat that Robin has recently finished carving.  He decided to gouge carve the bottom of the inset deck, requiring an additional three days to sand it after the carving was finished.  img_0862

More in the next posts on the chrysanthemums, Robin’s “Life Boat Series” and my “Hanging Boat Series” which will be introduced at the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Fine Craft Show this November.

Boats: Symbols of Life’s Journey

A boat once tragically altered my life and later a canoe signaled the beginning of my life with Robin, my best friend, my husband, my collaborator.  One of the important interests that Robin and I have shared from the beginning is our love of mythology, legend and symbolism.  It’s no wonder then that the boat has come front and center of our work.

We first employed the boat shape back in the 90’s, making relief sculpture for the wall.  Some of the best of these experiments was the Goddess of the Grove series which used the boat shape as a “cocoon” to house a goddess.  There were originally five of these 4′ sculptures, two of which are shown here:

We also made a sixth one which is larger and is in our personal collection and can be seen on our web-site under collaborative work.

The boats we began designing two years ago are quite different however.  The new ones are a celebration of the many varied journeys taken by humans.  As such, the shape of the boat, the materials used, the presentation and the objects accompanying it will vary.

Our preparations are in full swing now for our participation in this November’s prestigious Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Fine Craft Show.  In the past, all of our boats have been carved of wood.  Because together, we have skills in woodworking, painting, enameling, metalworking, metal patination and hand-building clay, we highly value the ability to utilize the materials we know and understand to produce the effect we’re after.  Because of this, we’ve been able to add clay flowers to the boat.  On one level that is just a wonderful aesthetic choice.  But on a deeper level, it symbolizes the importance of sheltering and caring for nature on one’s journey through life.  Saving the planet from man-made destruction to our environment is of the utmost importance.

Just as we’ve added clay objects to the wooden boats, we are now making some boats of clay.  The choice of whether to use wood or clay is made depending on what qualities we want the structure to have.  I’m using clay, when a more complex shape and surface is desired.  Wood is still our choice for the larger vessels and those with sleek shapes, such as this one, “Calla Lily Boat”.  People often mistake our wooden boats with their crackled finish for clay.  One artist commented recently that one of the most interesting aspects of our work is the air of mystery of how we do what we do and what we’re doing it with!calla-lily-vessel-detaileDetail of “Calla Lily Boat”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roses Adrift on the Sea

Trying out titles for one of the two new boats we will show at the Ann Arbor Original Art Fair in less than two weeks.  I’ve had to put aside my clay Earth Goddess work for a while–since it is not a collaborative piece we can’t show it in the shows we’ve juried into this year.  A previous blog tells more about her and she is half painted and waiting.  In the meantime I’ve been making clay roses to be placed in a long, sleek boat.  Here are some drying before firing.IMG_1606

After making 30-some roses, they must be left to dry for a considerable time–I error on the side of caution and left mine for about 3 weeks.

Loaded into the kiln along with some calla lilies and ready for firing at cone 05 (approx. 1885 degrees)IMG_1989[1]

It’s a 48 hour wait for the firing and complete cool down.  Opening the kiln before it is cooled completely can cause thermal shock, cracking and spoiling the sculpture.  In the meantime, I’ve crackled the boat that Robin carved into which I will arrange these roses after they’re painted.  Here’s the boat before I began painting it.

IMG_1991And, now that the roses and boat are painted, the double pedestal made and everything assembled, the finished sculpture is spectacular!

Roses Adrift on the Seae

Opening the Kiln

Working in clay has its own mystery and nothing about it is more exhilarating than opening the kiln.  The kiln gods have always smiled upon me thus far.  Sometimes a ceramist opens the kiln to find that something has blown up from having a trapped air bubble somewhere in the clay, or the sculpture or pottery has been fired while it was still green, a term for describing clay before it has dried out sufficiently.  I fired the ‘garden goddess’ this week along with a ceramic boat and a bunch of calla lily flowers I made for some of our wooden boats as well as the centerpiece of her garden which I’m keeping secret for the moment.  It was with much anticipation that we opened the kiln this morning to find this:

Success!  I’m anxious to begin the finishing of this goddess with acrylic paint, oil glazes and possibly prismacolor to create a reminder  of the Earth Mother Goddess, the symbol of The Gaia Theory.