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:
Books are the physical embodiment of knowledge and enlightenment, the teller of stories, the keeper of secrets, and ultimately the record of our history. These sculptural icons are our interpretation of this important cultural symbol.
Our little copper books are fun to make and delightful to many patrons. Each book is a 12″square of wood, clad with copper and then hand-hammered or embossed with texture. On each we make little books with copper pages that are bound together with silver wire and have a colorful backing. The pages are hammered on the edges and then usually embossed with an elusive script to add mystery. In the case of our newest ones, the pages are embossed with readable messages. The first new set is a Cosmos Series and shown here is the first.Other little books that go with this one say Moon, Star, Sun, Venus, Comets.
Many years ago, I began making bentwood frames for sculpture. The process involves making a framework over which a specialty laminated wood can be bent over the frame, clamped together and left overnight for the glue to cure. Shown here are a couple of the bentwood sculptures I did in the past.
More recently we’ve made some bentwood sculptures like these:
With the sad news of the flooding in Houston, I’m reminded of the wonderful Texas patrons we have. Though we’ve never done a show in Houston, we’ve done several shows in Austin and the Dallas-Fort Worth area several times with my work, Robin’s and our collaborative work. Some of my most loyal patrons are from Austin, Richardson and the Fort Worth area.
Just this spring at the Northern VA Fine Art Festival in Reston, a couple walked into our booth and with a surprised look on their faces, inquired if we’d done the Fort Worth Art Fair 15 years ago. They recognized my surfaces, and coincidentally we have now returned to the boat shape, something we worked on many years ago. They told us how much they’ve enjoyed the sculpture they purchased then and informed us of their “canoes” voyage from Texas to St. Louis, Mo and then on to Reston, VA.
This is the sculpture they purchased in Texas, and much to our joy, they purchased a little gondola with calla lilies and a copper base on that spring day this year in Reston.
“Serenity” is finished and she turned out beautifully. She’s one of our new cargo vessels. The Cargo Vessel Series carry something symbolic on their deck–a gift, a boon a treasure in the form of a nest or flowers. “Serenity” has a recessed deck carved to simulate gentle ripples on the surface of the water. She has hand-painted clay flowers on a hull of carved basswood with a crackled and painted finish. The open flower has silver wire stamens and the boat rests on a walnut base.
While the symbolism of the water-lily varies from one culture to another, it is interesting to note that the scientific name for them is Nymphaea, from the Greek word for nymph referring to the feminine spirit inhabiting bodies of water. In this sculpture I’ve chosen the water-lily to represent the importance of nature on our journey. For me personally, it is also representative of my teenage daughter, the would-be marine biologist, whose life was lost in the water, during the bloom of the water-lilies.
We are also showing the first two sculptures from a concept by Robin, called “The Life Boat Series”. These boats will all have a box, sometimes hidden in the hull and others carrying it on the deck. The box is for the interment of a loved one’s ashes or mementos of a life. Shown here is “Reflections” which carries a hand-hammered and patinaed copper box with a clay scarab, symbol of eternity. This box may hold a portion of one’s ashes or wedding rings or other mementos.
“Voyager” has a hammered copper clad deck and a large hidden box within the hull. Resting on the lid, is a copper nest, home to a single golden rose, symbol of love. These sculptures and more will be exhibited in our booth Nov 10-13 at the Phil Convention Center, in the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Fine Craft Show.
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.
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. This 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.These 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.
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.