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.  

 

 

The Magic of Texture and Color

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″

Where Ideas Come From

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.

Hot From the Kiln

The newest bentwood set of three are finished.  This tryptich titled “Fractured I, II and III” incorporate enamel on copper, hammered and patinated brass and paint on wood.  Enameling is a process of firing ground glass onto a metal surface, in this case copper.  The glass is fired at 1480 degrees for approximately 4 minutes.  It goes in looking like fine colored sand and comes out glowing red.  As it cools the colors develop.  Robin has achieved beautiful patterns of colors on these.  For details on this series, including sizes, materials, prices, etc., see our link Jewelry for the Wall on our webpage http://www.WolfCreekStudio.com

 

New Bentwoods

Robin and I are continuing our progression of the bentwoods, only now the surfaces are partially or completely clad with copper.  The contrast of the metal surface with the painted crackled wood surface is very pleasing.  This set also includes stainless steel chain, enamel on copper and hammered brass square rods with chemical patina

 

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”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another August Passing

Debra's pondAnother 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.