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.
So my concept began with the idea of using the female torso sculpted in clay to express the nature of our relationship to the rest of the planet. Historically, humans have related to the creative force of the universe anthropomorphically. It’s a concept that makes sense to us on several levels. And in the 20th Century there was a theory put forth by the chemist James Lovelock and the microbiologist Lynn Margulis in the 1970’s. On its most basic level it is the idea that the Earth is a living organism, of which we are a part. It’s a theory that’s never garnered much appreciation, however it had a big and positive impact on my world view.
Loosely interpreted, the theory can support the image of Earth as our mother, a goddess, that provides us with an idyllic world in which to thrive. Now that we humans have the capability to destroy that world, it begs the question what are we going to do with that power?
And so for this first sculpture I chose to start in a very straightforward manner, marrying the image of the goddess’ body with a garden. And so early last month I started hand-building the earthenware. I use a grey clay, that fires white–the perfect base for later finish work with colored pigments. It’s been 2 years since I last worked in clay, and I am anxious, impatient and rusty. The result is I built the slabs a little too quickly at first, resulting in some slumping. My philosophy is that what I lack in skill, I have to make up in creative adaptation. What began like this,
ended up looking much more voluptuous like the Venus of Willendorf, which appealed to me anyway, so I moved on to the making of the garden.
I’ve been chomping at the bit to get back into the clay studio and the news of winning the inside back cover of Art & Beyond Magazine with
“Lady Liberty” (left) and also selling “This World Becomes That” (right)
has given me just the encouragement I need. Last week I started a new goddess piece. She’s going to be an Earth Goddess, standing on a globe, title to be determined later. I’ve gotten to the upper calf on her right leg so far. It’s going slow since I haven’t practiced this craft enough to build easily and quickly–late starter and all that. I did my first clay handbuilding in the early 80’s and just loved it. I did these abstract organic creations with spikes growing out of openings and raku’d them. Here’s one of them.
After a couple of years I left raku’ behind and didn’t return to clay building until several years ago. This time around it’s earthenware. I’m loving the challenge and the feel of working the clay with my hands. It takes me back to my roots–making mud pies as a child! I was in a world all my own then, living in the country without playmates (no neighbor kids and my older sisters didn’t want to spend time with “the baby”). I had a great time with my dog and my mud! That’s when talking to myself became habitual.
I started another piece yesterday. This one is quite different. It’s called “Seeding the Earth” and it’s going to be a clay relief sculpture, a 24″ round disc. I started the center section today and it’s going well. I’m looking at this piece as a prototype to test out some of my design ideas and feeling free to do whatever I want. It’s exciting! I’m considering whether to place this symbolic shield in between the thighs of an outrageous goddess. Who????? Do I want to incorporate the bugs? I think I do. We’ll see how it feels as I build. Got a good start.