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”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jewlery for the Wall and its Cosmic Connection

Back in the late 90’s I returned to my fascination with the circular format.  I had visited it before in a series of landscapes.  They were largely a romantic homage to Mother Earth,  usually with a surreal feeling.  These two I still own.  The first is “Cactus, Crystals & Cries” and the purple one is an “Homage to Mother Earth”.Cactus, Crystals & Cries e Homage to Mother Earth e But by the late 90’s the round paintings had morphed into round relief sculpture,  devoid of objects, but not devoid of subject matter.  Not for me anyway.  They looked like large brooches and thus the name Jewelry for the Wall was catchy for a web-site, despite the fact that in art world terms, jewelry is ordinarily purely ornamental (code for not fine art) and thus personally political.  Political in that it is a personal statement of who the wearer is.  It can reveal rank, personality, mood, identity, etc.

For myself, I saw these sculptures as symbolic designs and meditative icons. They spoke of cosmic awareness,  cosmic connection, sacred space, sacred ground.  All of this was revealed in the shapes and movements, and titles.  The circle inspires the concept of one.  We are one.  We are not separate, not really.  We are connected to each to each other and to everything else in the universe.  That is the basis for life and until that is understood and accepted, we continue to destroy everyone and everything.  So I started these pieces on a round format and then intersected it with lines and shapes and textures.  It was in my mind connecting the ideas of sacred space, sacred geometry and myth and science into a beautiful mandala of sorts.

Cosmic Lullaby

This piece, shown here on my kitchen wall before it was shipped to the patron, is a sculpture from my Cosmic Lullaby series.  The 4 pieces cartwheeling down the ladder are shapes that I repeated on many pieces and I called them nebula’s, a term describing an interstellar cloud of gas and dust.  The long straight bars form a ladder, another motif I’ve used often.  The crackle on the round backplate has a spiraling pattern like the galaxies in our universe.

 

 

 

Another motif I’ve returned to often is the horizon, which plays major importance in our vision of landscape,seascape and in our understanding of the theoretical boundary of a black hole in space.  It separates light and darkness.  Here it is on a piece called “Distance”

Distance

The circular orbit is another cosmic motif I’ve returned to time and again.  Here it is shown in a piece called “Lunar Orbit”.Lunar OrbitsI’ve also used the motif of the wave often.  The wave refers to the movement of energy whether it is sound, light, water or particles.  Here it can be seen on “Jazz Nights”.  On this piece and others as well, I combined symbols that evoke messages of rhythm, the cosmic round, the ladder to heaven and the cubes are a symbol of Earth.  Jazz Nights

I introduced a variety of cultural influences in this body of work also.  I refer to these loosely as the East Meets West series because they invariably have subtle shapes that evoke cross-cultural ideas such as eastern architecture with latin rhythms.  Examples shown below are “Window to the World” from the Samurai sub-series,  and “Flamenco” which combines an eastern roof-line feel with the nebulas and a hot Latin painting.

window to the worldFlamenco e

I was never good at communicating face to face with people about my work in anything other than how it was made, the materials and tools used, or the color.  Anything else and I always reverted to that childhood mindset that  I couldn’t make myself understood to those around me, or that they would disapprove.  The closest I came to explaining my relief sculpture was in the WSIU Expressions with Najar in which I told that The Queen of the Night was inspired by the book of photographs taken by Cosmonauts and Astronauts and that was true, but it was just a small part of the story.  Queen has those classic elements that I use to convey the spirit of the Universe.  That’s her meaning.  We are one with the Earth and the Earth is one with the Cosmos.  It’s our sacred duty to respect that.  Queen of the Night